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Mediated: How the Media Shapes Your World and the Way You Live in It Paperback – February 21, 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
He does a good job of showing how television gives us a God's-eye view of everything so that we have a delusion of omniscience and this false power fuels our delusions of grandeur. Additionally, this God's-eye view spoils us so that we can't live in stillness and see life in the here and now but only media's cheap, hyped representations of life.
This unhealthy quest for god-hood, he shows, has taken shape in the popularity of Reality TV shows, which feed our sense of entitlement, self-pity, and our narcissistic wish to be recognized over others.
By showing how our inability to embrace true heroes connects to our obsession with making ourselves into pseudo heroes, Zengotita has found an original, sometimes funny, and always profound way to make us look at the way the media is shaping our psyches and our souls.
De Zengotita is an anthropologist by training, but a cultural critic/philosopher by trade-and a damn good one who covers his ground with authority. As a teacher at the Dalton School, he enjoys deep exposure to the trends of teenagers, and as a professor at NYU's Graduate School of Arts & Science, he has his finger on the more absurd developments in the highbrow stuff, too. Both modes of being are beautifully fused in this book, enabling him to tackle his subject from both directions.
The gist of his argument is this: The ultimate (and often intentionally secret) goal of modernity is to get God out of the equation so man can finally become the author of his own being. The terror of arbitrariness-the accident of your race and gender-and the universal pain of anonymity, are cured, superficially, by the freedom to make choices. Mediation steps in to give you "options"-to give you the freedom to choose this or that and pave the way to selfhood. Everything, including the ground and the sky, can be thought of, presented, packaged, and (sometimes) sold in ways that are flattering to You and only You. Forget heroes and idols. You are the center of it all. And celebrities? They need You to buy into their brand, too.
(Two examples Me-centeredness I've noticed since reading the book: The "Welcome- Your Name Here" bit on the opening page of this very site, and Citibank's ATMs way of addressing you like an old friend: "Hold on, I'm working on it" as if a computer that can't speak can somehow have a casual, friendly tone.)
In Mediated, you'll learn why storms now have names. You'll learn why people describe 9/11 as a "surreal" event. You'll learn why George Bush assumes the postures of Texas manliness. You'll learn why it has become normal to implant fish genes in strawberries. And, of course, you'll learn why we feel compelled to put words in "quotes."
All of this is placed in its historical context without being dry and academic. In the same, casual tone, de Zengotita explains the philosophical underpinnings of the Simpsons and Harry Potter, and how Nietzsche, Descartes, and Locke, relate to the prospect of human cloning. In the process, we learn what we have gained from mediation and what we have lost. And we've gained and lost a lot.
The book is deeply funny, and delivered with a modesty rare in such lofty pursuits. A must read for anyone who wants to talk with depth and seriousness about the cultural issues that define our era.
But the beauty part is it's all that AND a breeze to read. And covers not just the usual political-media topics, but how media pervades how we live our lives in all the day-to-day banality.
So, great beach reading AND you'll impress your summer dinner guests afterwards with your insights from this book...
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It had some good ideas but ruined by many unnecessary examples.
The writer had no plan for this book and just wrote anything crossed his mind without...Read more