“Just for the taste of it…”
“Double your flavor…”
“Reach out and…”
“To boldly go…”
“May the Force…”
“Be all that you…”
“Melts in your mouth…”
Hello, my name is Tom, and I am a mediated person. And if you can finish at least some of the phrases and slogans above, then so are you.
What does it mean to be “mediated”? Well, it’s complicated, but on a basic level it means that almost everything you think, and everything you do, is to some degree filtered through a lifetime of sounds and images from TV, music, radio, books, magazines, movies, the internet, news media, and pop culture at large. This inescapable screen of “representation” makes us feel as though everything in life has already been done before, in one medium or another (frequently in some B-movie you saw on cable once). And according to cultural critic and university professor Thomas de Zengotita, this morass of multimedia conditioning has turned all of us (to varying degrees) into “method actors”: hyper-self-conscious performers who enact the drama of our daily lives within the ever-shifting hall of mirrors that is our own narcissism. Of course, the process of mediation has really been happening forever—at least since human beings first represented their activities through primitive finger-paintings on the walls of caves—but these days, the force of mediation is bathing each of us in what de Zengotita calls a “psychic sauna” of self-selected, self-defining sensory stimulation like never before (have you meticulously fine-tuned self-portraits in Instagram or shared a Spotify playlist lately?).
In fact, de Zengotita’s analysis of our current climate of hyper-individualism—particularly as evidenced in his groundbreaking book, Mediated—masterfully conveys just how and why so many of us in the Western world find ourselves adrift in a moral, philosophical, and spiritual desert, and why we desperately need to find some way to transcend it. Isolated in a psychological bubble sustained by multifarious imagery and soundbites—endless representations of reality (e.g., “Reality TV”)—the typical postmodern self leads a detached, abstracted life. In this hazy state of mediated mentality, many of the traditional distinctions between good and evil, truth and falsehood, depth and surface, and pretense and authenticity tend to blur into an out-of-focus array of vaguely equal “options” like so many neon advertisements in Times Square.
In the following video clip, Thomas de Zengotita explains why a mediated, “fabricated” world like ours needs individuals to embrace good old-fashioned values like authenticity, integrity, and transparency now more than ever. The only problem, he says, is that we can’t go back to the way things used to be in simpler times. The only solution is going to be found by going forward—but the path isn’t entirely clear.
[video via CarterPhipps.com]