Television and Common Knowledge

Television and Common Knowledge

Television and Common Knowledge

Television and Common Knowledge

Synopsis

Television and Common Knowledge considers how television can facilitate well-informed citizenship in a fragmented modern society. The contributors examine how common knowledge is assumed and produced across the huge social, cultural and geographical gulfs that characterise the contemporary social context. They also investigate the role of television as the primary medium for the production and dissemination of knowledge, examining specific TV genres in order to consider the changing ways in which they attempt to inform audiences, and how they are actually made meaningful by viewers.

Excerpt

One of the most seductive themes running through debates around postmodernity is the story of the collapse of grand narratives and their totalizing projects. This tale finds its most dramatic moment in the dynamiting of the Pruitt-Igoe housing development in St Louis in 1972. This demolition is widely presented as marking the moment when modern architecture ‘died’ (Jencks 1984:9) and the clean, austere machines for living in gave way to the plural, personalized styles of suburbia and the playfulness and excess of Las Vegas. the prisoners in modernity’s Bastilles of the imagination are freed from their incarceration. the general yields to the local, the standardized to the customized. Identities proliferate. the repressed return. As Jean-François Lyotard argued in 1985, ‘the grand narratives that characterise western modernity… [were] concerned precisely with the overstepping/ surpassing of particular cultural identity towards a universal civic identity’ (quoted in Kahn 1995:8). Now there is only the endless play of difference.

It is narrative set in a landscape of affluence. If he had looked ‘beyond the confines of the prosperous European Union’ to societies about to enter a period of dissolution and reconstitution he would have seen questions of civic identity being pushed to the centre of debate (Bulmer and Rees 1996:281)—by the crowds that tore down the Berlin Wall, by the solitary student who stood in front of a row of tanks on their way to crush the pro-democracy movement in central Beijing and by Nelson Mandela on the day of his release from prison, walking alone down the road that led away from apartheid towards the new democracy in South Africa. They were laying claim to the Enlightenment’s most potent political legacy—the ideal of full and equal citizenship and its extension to the general notion of human rights.

The claim to citizenship found enduring expression in the French Revolution’s militant demand for liberty, equality and fraternity, but because the relations

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