Monday, March 30, 2015

A World Full of Mirrors

It has often been asked, “Do the media shape society, or merely reflect it?” 

What the media do every day.

But it seems to me that behaviour is influenced most particularly in the presence of a mirror – as evident when someone catches sight of his own reflection. The person will usually at least pause, and usually more so fuss over hair, clothes and general appearance (I use the male pronoun for simplicity, but it goes for women too). 

Thus, if mass-media did truly reflect society, it would also shape it completely. 

However, since the term “media” is a plural, modern communications technology such as television, movies, newspapers and magazines, and especially the Internet are not but a single “mirror.” 

They instead interact with society, in the same way a visitor perceives a House of Mirrors at an amusement park. The attraction of such places is how they distort ordinary perception, in so far as one looking-glass will reflect upon another, and that reflection will appear in yet another mirror, and that one in another, and so on… 

Just for fun, too, the reflective panes in the House of Mirror are slightly or more so bent concave or convex, so as to distort the image being reflected and re-reflected all the more. Communications media do exactly the same thing, I think. 

Not particularly on topic.  But Hendrix was just so darn cool.

They reflect reality, as does a mirror; but since the media are so omnipresent, so too do they also – and mainly – reflect not society but each other, with the image conveyed therein growing more distorted the more so it reflects a reflection, rather than the real thing. 

On the other hand, human beings crave psychological coherence and continuity.  The psyche cannot be satisfied with the fragmentary vision that is as inevitable in the mass-media as in the House of Mirrors. 

In response, the individual when faced with the mass-media landscape, will take the fragments, being they reflections on the real thing, or reflections of reflections (reflections of reflections of reflections) and try to make it whole, a pastiche of the substantive and the counterfeit. 

This is “reality” as we know it now. But like the House of Mirrors, for most people the “media-scape” is so much fun that they don’t both to look for the exits. They couldn't find them even if they tried.

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