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The Democratic Surround: Multimedia and American Liberalism from World War II to the Psychedelic Sixties Hardcover – December 4, 2013


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The Democratic Surround: Multimedia and American Liberalism from World War II to the Psychedelic Sixties + From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 376 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (December 4, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226817466
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226817460
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #126,809 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"a smart and fascinating new history"
- Reason Magazine

"From Bauhaus to your mouse: Fred Turner's brilliant new book on the origins and politics of interactive media....does for the 1960s avant-garde and counterculture what Turner's previous book, From Counterculture to Cyberculture did for the net culture of the 1990s and 2000s.  It locates a richer and more interesting antecedent for a moment in time that we thought we already undestood....[an] excellent and thought-provoking book."
- Tropics of Meta

“Turner’s book offers an important look at how our technologies might, or might not, resonate with the democratic politics many of us hope to better exercise.”
(Los Angeles Review of Books)

The Democratic Surround is a dazzling cultural history that demonstrates how American intellectuals, artists, and designers from the 1930s to the 1960s imagined new kinds of collective events—different from fascism’s crowds—that were intended to promote a powerful experience of American democracy in action. Drawing parallels across a wide set of venues—from MoMA’s Road to Victory and Family of Man shows of the mid-century period to the 1959 National Exhibition in Moscow to the Happenings of the sixties counterculture, Turner challenges us to think about the lines between information, entertainment, art, and propaganda. Along the way he shows how important the media have become to the design of collective experiences and forms of democratic citizenship. A brilliant argument from a gifted writer, this book not only informs but also surprises!”
(Lynn Spigel, author of TV by Design: Modern Art and the Rise of Network Televisi)

“This is the true story of how a small group of artists and anthropologists set out to create an alternative to fascism during World War II—and ended up setting the stage for the consumer-driven, media-saturated world we inhabit today. A gripping, well-balanced, and surprising history.”

(Douglas Rushkoff, author of Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now.)

“The photographic wartime propaganda of Road to Victory or the post-war humanism of The Family of Man usually don't come to mind when accounting for Happenings, Be-Ins, expanded cinema, or Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable, but they are tightly woven in the social fabric of Fred Turner’s The Democratic Surround. In what will surely be a controversial revision, Turner maps the attempts of social scientists, industrial designers, European expats, and others to mold democratic personalities as a bulwark against authoritarianism, forming a civil foundation upon which arose spatial media experiments of the arts and counterculture of the 1960s. From an Americana more associated with Aaron Copland comes the radical surround sound of John Cage; from image management of psyches, psychedelic media environments.”
(Douglas Kahn, author of Noise, Water, Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts)

“The history of ideas is intellectual archeology, and Stanford professor Turner is a man with a well-whetted pickaxe and an arsenal of delicate brushes.”
(Arts Fuse)

“The creators of 1960s happenings claimed that they were using sights and music to undermine the fascist American state. However, as Turner demonstrates here, the legacy of happenings dates back to WWII, and they enjoyed significant governmental support. Looking at American concerns with the abuse of media by fascist leaders like Adolf Hitler, the author makes a convincing argument that leftist artists and social scientist developed a theory of multimedia installations what would use mass communication techniques to further the cause of democracy rather than undermine it. . . . This book represents a significant contribution to literature on mass media and its uses in the 20th century. Highly recommended.”
(Choice)

“What makes the book so fascinating as both an intellectual and cultural history is Turner’s ability to juggle multiple disciplines and schools of thought, all the while showing how a diverse lot of thinkers were grappling with the same questions about democracy, personality, and technology.  . . . [An] excellent and thought-provoking book.”
(Tropics of Meta)

About the Author

Fred Turner is associate professor of communication at Stanford University. He is the author of Echoes of Combat: The Vietnam War in American Memory and From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism, also published by the University of Chicago Press. He lives in California.
 


More About the Author

I'm an Associate Professor of Communication at Stanford University (http://fredturner.stanford.edu) who writes mostly about media technology and cultural change. I'm especially interested in the ways that emerging media have transformed American life since World War II.

I've written three books and a bushel full of essays. What connects them is my fascination with communities of belief. How is it that large groups of people who have never met face to face can nevertheless agree that the world works one way and not another? How is it that these beliefs can change as radically as they do from one lifetime to the next, or from one country to another? And what do media and media technologies have to do with these processes?

You can find my essays and much more at http://fredturner.stanford.edu.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Laura H. Marshall on April 4, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Yes, it's written by an eminent scholar; yes, it's well-documented and -footnoted; yes, it could have been dry, dull, and overly verbose.
This book is, instead, refreshingly engaging and visceral--there are pictures!--and illuminates an idealism from the era of World War II that may well have inspired the hippies of the 60's. If you were at Woodstock, or the Summer of Love, there's a good chance the vision you had of a world where art, creativity, and equality would flourish together came from a group of people who thought the same thing back when Hitler was terrorizing Europe and the U.S.
Turner uses a chronological narrative to tell this story, making you see and feel the "surround" even as you learn. This reader found herself seeing the "surround" in the world we live in every day; the noisy, clanging environment of a busy airport...the dozens of TV screens you can't avoid watching in a sports bar. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Turner's beautifully written scholarship on the protean media moments of the mid-Cold War (from Stewart Brand to the current book) puts its finger on something important both historically and for understanding our own time, namely the constructed nature - often intentionally constructued nature - of the master narratives which permeate our culture
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Andreas K on January 20, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is worth reading -- it offers new insights, and explains in unexpected ways, the reasons why we live in a world infused by technologies that offer us infinite choices.
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