In this utterly original look at our modern "culture of performance," de Zengotita shows how media are creating self-reflective environments, custom made for each of us. From Princess Diana's funeral to the prospect of mass terror, from oral sex in the Oval Office to cowboy politics in distant lands, from high school cliques to marital therapy, from blogs to reality TV to the Weather Channel, Mediated takes us on an original and astonishing tour of every department of our media-saturated society. The implications are personal and far-reaching at the same time.
Thomas de Zengotita is a contributing editor at Harper's Magazine and holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University. He teaches at the Dalton School and at the Draper Graduate Program at New York University.
"Reading Thomas de Zengotita's Mediated is like spending time with a wild, wired friend-the kind who keeps you up late and lures you outside of your comfort zone with a speed rap full of brilliant notions."-O magazine
"A fine roar of a lecture about how the American mind is shaped by (too much) media...."-Washington Post
"Deceptively colloquial, intellectually dense...This provocative, extreme and compelling work is a must-read for philosophers of every stripe."-Publishers Weekly
In a deceptively colloquial, intellectually dense style, de Zengotita posits that since the 1960s, Americans have belonged to a culture of reflexivity, and the media in all their forms have put us there. We're bombarded from childhood with so many images putting "us" the individual person at the center of the universe that we cannot help thinking that this is where we belong. We live in a Times Square world, says the Harper's contributing editor, and thus we become the ultimate Descartesians: media think only of us, therefore we think only of ourselves. The result of this self-centeredness is that we become increasingly numbed by the bombardment of images and, in a variation on the "if a tree falls in the woods" query, we can no longer imagine our premediated lives. Media imagery has given us an omniscient perspective we can be on the grassy knoll, by the Twin Towers, on the beach as the tsunami hits while never having to incur the horrors of being there. "Mediation" inevitably closes us off to the unmediated world, home of those victims of the tsunami whose lives are hideously hard and where no media put them front and center. This provocative, extreme and compelling work is a must-read for philosophers of every stripe.