From Television to the Internet: Postmodern Visions of American Media Culture in the Twentieth Century

From Television to the Internet: Postmodern Visions of American Media Culture in the Twentieth Century

From Television to the Internet: Postmodern Visions of American Media Culture in the Twentieth Century

From Television to the Internet: Postmodern Visions of American Media Culture in the Twentieth Century

Synopsis

In covering the years from the late 1940s through 2000, this book's sociocultural focus is on the visual impact of momentous developments in postmodern media culture in America, particularly as they have reflected a narrowing of the divide between the elite and mass culture, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, and the social fragmentation of American life. As such, this book complements and expands on the commentary and conclusions of the author's initial inquiry into the modern era of media-made culture in The Visual Focus of American Media Culture in the Twentieth Century (FDUP, 2004).

From the 1890s to the 1920s and the depression and World War II years, society's pervasively communal focus demanded idealized images and romanticized interpretations of life. But the communal imperative, as evolving social change impacted it, harbored the seeds of its own disintegration. The sociocultural uprooting of another World War, the anxieties attendant to the Atomic Age, and two later sociopolitically divisive military conflicts culminated in the societal upheavals of the 1960s and an increasingly problematic and socially fragmented nation.

Like the first book, the second also relies on the collective metaphor of the mediated vision to show how the visually oriented communication forms of the media culture have influenced and contributed to the origin of varied subcultural sectors in the postmodern era, extending from the appearance of television in the late 1940s to the advent of the Internet near the end of the century. As early as the prosperous postwar years, where this narrative begins, the mass media forms of the culture began to display the characteristics of postmodernism in the undermining of traditional values and the breakdown of the hierarchical division between the elite and mass culture - a major theme of this book.

Excerpt

Within the first postwar decade television will be firmly
planted as a billion-dollar U.S. industry. Its impact on U.S.
civilization is beyond present prediction. Television is
more than the addition of sight to the sound of radio. It has
a power to annihilate time and space that will unite every
one here in the immediate experience of events in contem
porary life and history.

Life, 4 September 1944

IN HER PERCEPTIVE ANALYSIS OF TELEVISION’S CULTURAL IMPACT on life in the 1950s, Karal Ann Marling observes how the things and events of the decade were “tailored to the visual sensibility,” concluding that because of television’s influence on them, “seeing is absolutely central to the meaning of the 1950s.” Yet when limited network programming first appeared in 1947, not many could have foreseen the extent of sociocultural impact that the medium would have on its viewers in the years ahead. By the 1950s both adults and children were devoting a great deal of time to watching television, and the popularity of its kind of escapist entertainment was attested to by the astronomical number of TV sets purchased by this time.

THE RISE OF TELEVISION AS A SOCIOCULTURAL FORCE

Initially, TV programming paralleled radio’s formatted way of presenting entertainment, some of it even harking back to vaudeville. The variety shows of Milton Berle, Ed Sullivan, and Sid Caesar contained elements of both, while from the late ‘40s into the early ‘50s, situation comedies such as . . .

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