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Media Unlimited: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives Hardcover – 2001

3.4 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

From Inside Prime Time to too much media: NYU professor Gitlin argues that the Information Age has us marooned emotionally and may threaten democracy.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Gitlin, a professor of journalism and culture, examines why and how it has come about that so much of our time is spent being bombarded by communications, information, and entertainment from a variety of media. Gitlin wants to avoid the typical analysis of the effects of the media on society and, instead, looks at the media as an experience in itself, with no definitive meaning necessarily attached, analyzing the feelings elicited by a stream of information. He concedes that his objective is a gamble, but it pays off. Citing observations by Marx, de Tocqueville, Orwell, and a stream of others, Gitlin offers a short, dizzying history of how we got to the point where we are supersaturated with a torrent of information coming at us at incredible speed. The author explores how we manage and have even begun to resist media saturation, as we step back, take a breath, and consider "what we want to do about it besides change channels." Readers interested in contemporary media and culture will enjoy this absorbing book. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; 1 edition (2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805048987
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805048988
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,002,212 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Gitlin's MEDIA UNLIMITED starts out with a memorable joke / parable that informs much of his diagnois of the effects of media upon us: A border guard every week for twenty years stops a suspiciouis man who drives a truck across the boundary. He tears the truck apart each time and never finds anything. On the day of his retirement, the guard, promising not to turn in the "smuggler" says "I know you've been smuggling something across this border for the last 20 years. But what?" "Trucks," the smuggler tells him.
Starting with a brief survey of 19th century sociogists who might provide guidance through the media "torrent," he rejects Marx (for being too trapped in the productivist mode of economic thought of his time), Weber (for not really understanding that alongside the iron cage of rationalism, the iron cage of consumer desire was being forged), and finally settles on Georg Simmel whose "grand paradox" of rationalistic money culture Gitlin summarizes this way: "a society of calculation is inhabited by people who need to feel to distract themselves from precisely the rational discpiline on which their practical lives rely," and that they "come to crave particular kinds of feelings -- disposable ones."
So how do we defend ourselves against the torrent?
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Professor Gitlin's work is interesting, but he uses his introduction to distance his thoughts from McLuhan's, the rest of "Media Unlimited" reads like a Cliff's Notes version of "Understanding Media" and "The Medium is the Massage."
I thought "Media Unlimited" was fascinating at times (as all his books are), but it failed to deliver on the promises of the introduction. After saying that "the medium is the message" means almost nothing, the next 200 pages go on to explain in great detail how the torrent of media is, in the McLuhan sense, the message. It's not what is being said but how it is constantly washing over us that's important. Nothing new here.
His explanation of the word "speed" is fascinating, as is his hypothesis that the media torrent dictates a tendancy toward conservative values (an idea Chomsky kicked around years ago with his realization that in the television medium he must sound like he's from Neptune). There are gold coins to be found if the reader persists. Perhaps you'll love it if you skip the intro.
PS--If you're curious about why we're reading and writing these reviews as though they matter, pick up Gitlin's book. Great material on exactly this topic.
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Format: Hardcover
I bought Media Unlimited yesterday. And in line with its emphasis on speed, I read it in two sittings. It's impressive.
It seems that Todd Gitlin once again has released a book written without bombast, without alarm. There are no sirens in it. There are no skies falling. The book presents a new way of thinking about our new way of living. If we aren't "Amusing Ourselves to Death," then we are only amusing ourselves to fleeting passions. And the costs are therefore subtle, hard to measure, and potentially debilitating in unexpected ways.
Media Unlimited takes a reasoned, complex look at the phenomena of torrential media and presents it all in a fresh and lucid way. The book makes us consider the ways in which we swim among images and sounds, the ways we construct our desires and interests in response to what Gitlin argues is a major shift in the experience of being human after the 20th century.

Gitlin's reading of media flows is -- dare I say -- hip. When he writes about hackers or Eminem, I don't get the feeling that he has only read about them in the Times.
I appreciate that the book is respectful of fandom, aware of the value of passions (even fleeting, meta, hyper-mediated passions ... this morning I found myself nostalgically singing along with a song from my college days, ABC's "When Smokey Sings," an homage to Smokey Robinson, when the video came on VH1 Classic ... that's passion thrice removed), and willing to grant acknowledgement to potential progressive influence where it's due.
I hope the book catches a wave. Gitlin was able to place the book in the context of the terrorst attacks in September 2001. So the book seems very fresh. Yet I expect it has legs as well.
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Format: Hardcover
Gitlin clearly has spent many years thinking about the media and their impact on society and this shines through in places, but much of the book feels like a catalog of various phenomena without new or punchy conclusions. He also throws in the occasional sweeping generalization without much back-up. Media will drift to conservatism as it is "more Manichean" and therefore lends itself better to sound bites. Gitlin clearly has a political orientation and drifts in and out of the academic observer role during the book. I enjoyed the personal anecdotes such as his experiences with a TV interview during the Gulf War more.
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