Academic journal article et Cetera

Media Virus! Hidden Agendas in Popular Culture

Academic journal article et Cetera

Media Virus! Hidden Agendas in Popular Culture

Article excerpt

Douglas Rushkoff. Media Virus! Hidden Agendas in Popular Culture. New York: Ballantine, 1996.

According to the author, media events provoking social change (the O.J. Simpson trial, presidential campaigns, rap music, etc.) can become "media viruses" that enter the "datastream" and affect the way we perceive reality and interact with each other. They spread rapidly if they provoke our interest, and their success depends on the strengths and weaknesses of the host organism -- popular culture. The more provocative an image, like a videotaped police beating or a music video, the further and faster it will travel through the datastream. Our interest and fascination are signs that we are not culturally "immune" to the virus. Furthermore, if our attitudes toward things like racism, police brutality, and free speech are ambiguous (meaning our "societal DNA" is faulty) the invading virus will have little trouble infiltrating our social body.

Rushkoff also holds forth on "mediaspace" (otherwise known as the datasphere), "the new frontier for human interaction, economic expansion, and especially social and political machination." As you travel with the author through the datasphere you learn that no one takes the mainstream media any more seriously than you do; that Ross Perot was a master of media virus in the 1992 presidential campaign (he announced his candidacy on a TV talk show) but Bill Clinton was the most effective media manipulator (he appealed to new audiences through appearances on the "Arsenio Hall" TV show, wearing dark shades and playing the saxophone, and by conducting a forum with teenagers on MTV); that the group known as Generation X (born after 1960) bring irony and irreverence to their views of media; that the alternative media known as "zines" (low-circulation magazines which are produced by zealots) are offering new explanations of the "mind-numbing mainstream media deluge that has replaced reality"; and that the plethora of media has actually empowered average Americans to chart and control the course of their culture. …

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