Please reach into the gray matter that functions as the human hard drive toÂ recall theÂ Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov who discovered that he could condition dogs to droolÂ with just the littleÂ ring-a-ding ding of a bell.
Now consider point, click and drag media; the mediaÂ we scan at our desks between tasks;Â the music we pipe into our ears; the magazines and newspapers we flip through while waiting. We;re hungry for media, hungry as hounds. WeÂ want itÂ strong!Â We want itÂ raw!Â We want it now!
Melodramatic? Perhaps. But consider thatÂ media are not simply enjoyable experiences.Â Media are an industry that packages thoughts andÂ emotions.Â Words embody of ideas. Sounds, pictures and images provokeÂ emotionalÂ responses. Media products feedÂ human aspirations and desires justÂ as surely as food fill our bellies.
And thatÂ makes me wonder: are we conditioning ourselves toÂ be drooling idiots,Â hooked on shortÂ but continuousÂ fixes of profit-making pre-packagedÂ thought or emotion?
This idea is not entirely my own. Rather in myÂ typically hyperbolic fashionÂ I’ve tried to capture the essence aÂ 22-page essay titled “The Age of Egocasting.” It was written by Christine Rosen for a journal called The New Atlantis. Both Rosen and the journal are favorites that I’ve blogged about before.
Egocasting isÂ a particularly brilliant pieceÂ that I urge you to read. In it RosenÂ writes:
“TiVo, iPod, and other technologies of personalization are conditioning us to be the kind of consumers who are, as Joseph Wood Krutch warned long ago, â€œincapable of anything except habit and prejudice,â€ with our needs always preemptively satisfied.”
Ah, consumers. My new least-favorite word. It conjures up images of people sitting on couches with their head back on the cushions, a funnel over their mouths as stuff gets poured into it. Remember that media is tied to advertising.Â And advertisingÂ is the bread and butter and mother’s milk of media. AdsÂ drive consumption. Does anyone elseÂ hear a bell?
Rosen’sÂ essay is a year old. I’ve been carrying it around in my to-blog folder all that time, and take it out today for a variety of reasons: becauseÂ it’s the Christmas seasonÂ and I feel bulliedÂ by the culture to buy things I can’t afford for people who don’t need them; because theÂ situation Rosen articulates has not changed; andÂ most importantly because I imagine — and if you read this blog, you know my imagination to be large — that there is a solution to thisÂ media-enabled trained-seal syndrome that Rosen describes.
I believeÂ the solutionÂ is media creation. Taking media into our own hands. Making it and shaping it to amuse ourselves and our circle of friends; to have some impact on whatever small portion of the world we can affect; to simply see our own thoughts and lives expressed in words or pictures; to talk back to the mass-production system.
The alternative? ToÂ continue being theÂ couch creatures of consumer culture,Â filling our headsÂ with manufactured dreams, sitting there like so many ducks on the pate-production line, until our brainsÂ or, more likely, ourÂ checkbooks explode.