Understanding media, exploring the power of media, and improving our critical and creative exploration of our media, is our most important overarching interest in the new world of digital media.
For all the talk of education, modern societies neglect to examine by far the most influential means by which our populations are educated. The news is the single most significant force setting the tone of public life and shaping our impressions of the community beyond our walls. It is the prime creator of political and social reality. Modern societies are still at the dawn of understanding what kind of news we need in order to flourish.
The unique problem we face today is that misinformation has proliferated; it is devilishly entwined on the Internet with real information, making the two difficult to separate. And misinformation is promiscuous; – it consorts with people of all social and educational classes, and turns up in places you don’t expect it to. It propagates as one person passes it on to another, and another, as Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and other social media grab hold of it and spread it around the world; the misinformation can take hold and become well-known, and suddenly a whole lot of people are believing things that aren’t so.
As we age and plasticity declines, it becomes increasingly difficult for us to change in response to the world, even if we want to. We find familiar types of stimulation pleasurable; we seek out like-minded individuals to associate with, and research shows we tend to ignore or forget, or attempt to discredit, information that does not match our beliefs, or perception of the world, because it is very distressing and difficult to think and perceive in unfamiliar ways. Increasingly, the aging individual acts to preserve the structures within, and when there is a mismatch between his internal neurocognitive structures and the world, he seeks to change the world. In small ways he begins to micromanage his environment, to control it and make it familiar. But this process, writ large, often leads whole cultural groups to try to impose their view of the world on other cultures, and they often become violent, especially in the modern world, where globalization has brought different cultures together, exacerbating the problem.
On a given day, at least three hundred, and as many as six thousand marketing messages are lobbed your way. Statistics suggest that people spend more time exposed to advertising than they spend eating, reading, cooking, praying, cleaning, and making love combined. Marketing has transformed childhood games into multi-billion dollar sports empires, manufacturing heroes and sculpting our history. Does great advertising win elections? No one can say, though few doubt that bad advertising can certainly lose them. The better you understand the ad messages you receive every day, the better you’ll comprehend exactly how advertising has come to drive art, culture, and communications.
We live in a culture that is full of excess. We live in a time when candidates running for office at the local, city, state, and national level spend 100% of their money in television seeking to diminish and destroy the other candidate at any cost and this violence that kids cannot grow up in our culture having any heroes in the area of civic responsibility.
If I could change one area of excessive violence in the media it would be the way the local news is handled across the country. If there are stories that have to deal with murders and beatings and rapes or even if they are last week’s, they will be at the top of the news and some of the most important things that are going on in the culture and in the world are relegated to later stories.
We have our moment now for action. We have a planet threatened by a climate crisis and a politics in dangerous disarray. But we do a disservice to ourselves and our ancestors to succumb to cynicism or hopelessness. We feel this moment. We are living it. It is what we know. Some day, our descendants will read about it. What will they go on to next in the textbook? That is up to us to write.
We create our media and our media creates us.
My Point of View