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CMN2160 (25)

Laughey Ch 8 (Information Society)

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Patrick Mc Curdy

Laughey Chapter 8: Postmodernity  and the information society • Postmodernity refers to social, economic, political and technological developments that have characterized the transition from modern to newly- organized, postmodern ways of life o Emergence and proliferation of new media, information and communications technologies that trigger social change and are particularly indicative of globalization o Rise of consumer culture and simultaneous demise of certain forms of production • Transition from the elitist values of modernity – espoused by a capitalist ruling elite and manifested in ‘high culture’ – to a postmodern ‘flattening of hierarchies’ • Postmodern critics such as Zygmunt Bauman consider postmodern relationships to be fragmentary, shallow, driven by consumer- ism, and lacking moral responsibility to others – especially disadvantaged groups unable to reap the rewards of this so-called progress • Dominic Strinati (1995) refers to five key features of postmodernism: 1. Breakdown of the distinction between culture and society a. ‘The importance and power of the mass media and popular culture mean that they govern and shape all other forms of social relation- ships’ b. Our perceptions of the social environment in which we live are largely informed by mediated cultural representations such as news images. 2. An emphasis on style over substance a. We consume images and spectacles, as opposed to forms of communication such as the written word that encourage us to ponder and reflect 3. Breakdown of the distinction between high art and popular culture a. Modernist distinction that is now threatened by postmodern media culture that embraces both ‘art’ and ‘the popular’ (pop music, Hollywood, and so on). 4. Confusions over time and space a. The globalizing tendencies of communications technologies, economics and politics are distorting traditional conceptions of time and space dimensions 5. Decline of metanarratives a. Grand theories such as Marxism, Christianity and, of course, modernism have lost their currency for modern societies. Baudrillard: hyperreality and simulation • First-order and second-order simulation maintain a relationship between reality and representations (signs) of reality • Third-order simulation amounts to a system of signs that bear no relation to reality or its representations, but function to conceal this absence of genuinely real things o Disneyland is the realAmerica, because the realAmerica is actually a hyperreal phenomenon divorced from the once genuinely real place called America that has now vanished from human experience. • Hyperreality is the outcome of simulated imagery – what Baudrillard calls simulacra • The omnipresence of mediated advertising ‘invades everything, as public space (the street, monument, market, scene) disappears . . . Not a public scene or true public space but gigantic spaces of circulation, ventilation and ephemeral connections’ o This media power to saturate public and private spaces or scenes by harassing us with obscene simulations – what he refers to as ‘a whole pornography of information and communication’  What Baudrillard calls ‘the ecstasy of communication • All secrets, spaces and scenes abolished in a single dimension of information’ • Television, telephone and radio are just three media technologies that partake in this ecstasy of communication o They invade our lives and confuse our sense of knowing what we want. • Baudrillard’s theory of media-saturated simulation ▯ McLuhan’s “the medium is the message” o “There is not only an implosion of the message in the medium, there is, in the same movement, the implosion of the medium itself in the real, the implosion of the medium and of the real in a sort of hyperreal nebula, in which even the definition and distinct action of the medium can no longer be determined” o Medium (technology) and message (content) are no longer real because they saturate any genuine sense of reality that distinguishes between them  The semiotic transformation of signs and symbols (that no longer refer to real things) is not determined by technology but by human perception of – and participation in – the ecstasy of communication. • Technology is secondary to the implosion of the message (and the medium) into simulation o Baudrillard’s claim that media power abolishes social relations and transforms individuals into networked terminals is far less optimistic than McLuhan’s global village Boorstin and Debord: the image and the spectacle • ‘Pseudo-events’, rife in news media and not dissimilar to Baudrillard’s media- simulated ‘non-events’ • Boorstin: The omnipresence of images, which are so easy to produce and distribute via multimedia channels in the late twentieth century, are indicative of a Graphic Revolution • News media do not usually report ‘real’, truthful events but instead deal in a currency of false, pseudo-events o Apseudo-event is ‘not spontaneous, but comes about because someone has planned, planted, or incited it o Ex: Press conference • Debord: ‘the spectacle’ which ‘is both the outcome and the goal of the dominant mode of production’, ‘the world we see is the world of the commodity’ • Not limited to mass media images, but is more centrally to do with modern capitalist economies that produce a form of spectacle which isolates and alienates those who are forced to consume it • The spectacle is therefore not primarily a collection of images but ‘a social relationship between people that is mediated by images’ o This relationship is entirely based on appearances and images – a false reality – that conceals a real world of capitalist exploitation and class division. o Echoing Baudrillard, Debord states that ‘the spectacle’s job is to cause a world that is no longer directly perceptible to be seen via different specialized mediations’ • Debord’s work has since been closely associated with the postmodernist emphasis on style over substance; image over reality o Concentrated form of spectacle, which is associated with bureaucratic ownership and restriction of choice in the capitalist realms of production and labour • Diffuse form of spectacle, which is associated with the abundance of commodities in the capitalist mode of consumption • While Boorstin ridicules the emptiness of the image-conscious media celebrity, Debord conceives them as spectacular representations of ordinary people who turn their spectacle into ‘images of possible roles’ for us to identify with so as ‘to compensate for the crumbling of directly experienced diversifications of productive activity’ o Celebrities provide us with false representations of life, which reinforces Debord’s argument that the spectacle they produce – via media – is not perceptible to direct experience and is predominantly experienced as a series of appearances. o This spectacle becomes the reality of our everyday lives to the extent that social life becomes an alienating scenario grounded entirely in appearances (first impressions) • Real class inequalities, poverty and social exclusion – created by the capitalist mode of production and its uneven distribution of wealth – are concealed by the spectacle in order to protect the dominant order of power from the proletariat uprising predicted by Marx. Jameson: pastiche and intertextuality • Jameson argues that we have entered a stage of late capitalism associated with post-industrial, consumer societies and globalization in the shape of multinational economics. • Postmodern culture ‘replicates or reproduces – reinforces – the logic of consumer capitalism’ by embracing all things ‘popular’ and rejecting the modernist values of non-commercial, ‘high art’. • Modernist art and literature cherish the value of individuality and the ‘first- person’ voice in stark contrast to the hostility of an outside world marked by rampant modernity – industrialization, scientific and technological advance, rationalization, and so on • James Joyce’s ‘stream of consciousness’ technique – in which an author’s thoughts and feelings are directly translated into a rambling written style – typifies the individual style of modernism. • Postmodernist culture, from Jameson’s point of view, dismisses the possibility that an individual style can still exist in a late capitalist era where all new styles are immediately incorporated to serve the intentions of global, consumer capitalism. • Pastiche vs. Parody: postmodernist perspective on the disappearance of individuality and originality • Parody is a general technique of mimicry, not peculiar to postmodernism, which has the comic intention to ‘produce an imitation which mocks the original’ o Parody mocks but does not threaten the existence of original meanings (language). • Pastiche is a technique peculiar to postmodernism because it denies the existence of – refuses to acknowledge – the original form it appears to be imitating o Less about comedy and more about plagiarism o Has no satirical purpose and does not distinguish its own mimic from an original form • Intertextuality o Adeliberate, built-in feature of the aesthetic effect, and as the operator of a new connotation of ‘‘pastness’’and pseudo-historical depth, in which the history of aesthetic styles displaces ‘‘real’’history o Not about an overt acknowledgement of the original text (or texts) from which it is borrowing certain features but rather about an insistence on the disappearing sense of anything original or historical that has gone before • Postmodern culture has lost its sense of the past because the past has become romanticized by artistic representations of history that are clouded by nostalgia • Certain forms of popular music, for example, ‘sample’ or draw from previous sounds and tracks (pastiche), and these forms can be distinguished from overt ‘covers’ that – like parody – acknowledge an original version • Critique: o Is originality really impossible today? o By referring to the disappearance of our sense of history, he also appears conveniently to neglect a long history of pastiche-like intertextuality Lyotard: the decline of metanarratives • Lyotard’s postmodern theory of knowledge is grounded in the decline of two types of metanarrative (or grand narrative): the narrative of emancipation and the narrative of speculation o Both sough to legitimize their claims about the virtues of science and knowledge against the sings of ignorance, religion, and superstition characteristic of pre-modern societies • The narrative of emancipation or freedom is a political narrative, oft
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