Culture Jamming Reading Assignment

I have to say that Dery’s Culture Jamming_:_Hacking, Slashing and Sniping in the Empire of Signs is one of the better reading assignments I’ve had in a while. While it’s slightly dated (written in 1993), I feel a lot of the points he brings up are still valid today, if not more so, as our culture is so “connected” that the 7 hours a day of television exposure he mentions is a drop in the bucket with our current level of access.

‘Dwindling funds for public schools and libraries, counterpointed by the skyrocketing sales of VCRs and electronic games, have given rise to a culture of “aliteracy,” defined by Roger Cohen as “the rejection of books by children and young adults who know who to read but choose not to.”‘

While the reference to VCRs is totally dated (there is a whole generation of youth who don’t know what a VCR is or what a VHS tape looks like), I think that “aliteracy” is the perfect term for what is going on. Everything is fed to us via some form of media. I fucking HATE infographics, video and sound bites. At some point, being fed information in these forms is going to create such bias, that people are going to stop questioning what is being said to them. I can’t tell you how many times I see people passing along information on Facebook or something that is completely absurd and if they took a moment to research, they would find that it is not true. But someone made a video or someone knows a thing or two about Photoshop and made a legit looking infographic so it must be true.

If Dery thought it was bad in 1993 when he said “The effects of television are most deleterious in the realms of journalism and politics; in both spheres, TV has reduced discourse to photo ops and sound bites, asserting the hegemony of image over language, emotion over intellect.”, he’d be hard pressed to say that there have been any changes for the better in the intervening 20 years. News is no longer objective, it is completely opinion these days. God forbid if you don’t agree with someone else’s opinion – we must declare war upon those seditious traitors, God damnit.

We were just at the beginning of the true 24 hour news cycle when this piece was written and it’s only become worse. Dery states “The conversion of American society into a virtual reality was lamentably evident in the Persian Gulf War…” and posits “…the American people demanded the right not to know.” later in the same paragraph. We have become a vapid society that keeps it’s head buried in the sand and only want to know what porn star Kim Kardashian is wearing or what absurd name the celebrity of the moment has given their offspring (Hell, I admit I occasionally fall into the trap because it’s not worrisome and has absolutely no bearing on the world).

I’ll be honest, insert internet for television throughout the article, and it would still be completely and totally relevant and as though it was written last week, not 2 decades ago. I could write for days about this topic and how I feel about it.

By the way, this was also the ONLY time I’ve ever had any part of Buadrillard’s Precession of Simulacra feel like it related to the material and topic at hand. (If you haven’t read it, I don’t necessarily recommend it – You will want to rip your hair out) but the analogy of the hall of mirrors really applies to our current reality. It can be impossible to tell what is real, what is fake, how to interpret experience and the like.

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