Archives For Media

 

“An Ambling Dinner  Conversation

A review of
Making is Connecting

by David Gauntlett
.

Review by Josh Mayo.

MAKING IS CONNECTING - David GauntlettMaking is Connecting
David Gauntlett
.
Paperback: Polity, 2011.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Most readers understand (unconsciously, if not consciously) the dual-nature of sociological studies like Making is Connecting: simply put, this kind of writer is always preoccupied with both informing and evaluating cultural trends. Occasionally, an author will reach at both goals; often, most do not.

David Gauntlett is an odd duck for media studies. Most notably, he is fun to read. His droll and accessible style makes him the curious foil to other heavier, field-related notables like Marshall McLuhan and Jacques Ellul. This is, however, both an attractive and regrettable quality to the book. In exchange for “fun,” the project trades argument, and the result is that Making is Connecting reads much like a dinner conversation: an amble though the author’s semi-collected thoughts on favorite hobbies and intellectuals.

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“The Church and the Influences of Media”

A Review of
The Medium and the Light:
Reflections on Religion.
By Marshall McLuhan
.

Reviewed by Adam Newton.


The Medium and the Light:
Reflections on Religion.
Marshall McLuhan
.
Paperback: Wipf and Stock, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

THE MEDIUM AND THE LIGHT - Marshall McLuhanI would assert that more people are generally familiar with the phrase, “The medium is the message,” than they are with the name of the man who originally coined the concept. Marshall McLuhan, the late University Of Toronto professor and thinker, renowned in his time for his ground-breaking insights into media and communications theory, has developed since his passing a rather feverish cult following, mostly due to the writings of his protégés, most notably those of Neil Postman –  especially his seminal Amusing Ourselves To Death. What most people, including myself until recently, never understood about McLuhan was how he was able to reconcile his theoretical musings on how humanity absorbs media with his Roman Catholicism.

Enter The Medium And The Light, a collection of articles, letters, essays, and speeches from McLuhan’s archives that have been brought together and edited by Eric McLuhan and Jacek Szklarek. This cross-section of correspondence and conversations readily and aptly illuminates how McLuhan was able to balance his theology with his educational training and scholarly work. In fact, we learn early on in that he converted to Roman Catholicism as a result of reading and dissecting key medieval tomes while studying for and writing his doctoral thesis on the history of the trivium (rhetoric, dialectic, and grammar).  Split into four distinct parts – “Conversion,” “The Church’s Understanding Of Media,” “Vatican II, Liturgy, And The Media,” and “Tomorrow’s Church” – the book makes the case for how McLuhan unapologetically allowed his spiritual beliefs to infiltrate his media studies and vice versa.

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A Brief Review of

Reality TV: Theology in the Video Era.
Stephen Faller.

Paperback:  Chalice Press, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed By Brent Aldrich.

I was intrigued to see Stephen Faller’s book Reality TV: Theology in the Video Era, as I am invested in both theology and video art, and was hoping to see a critical theological consideration of video/film. Instead, rather than looking at the underlying representational structures of television or video as mediums, or questioning the extent to which these media are formative processes, Faller instead picks apart isolated fragments of reality TV shows and moralizes about them, in pithy references to the parables of Jesus. And I have heard this done often before – cultural references to movies, TV shows, or pop songs that can be ‘sermonized’ by ignoring broader contexts, namely the medium itself. The reasoning runs as follows: “We relate to each other. We relate to our beloved…We relate to ourselves. We relate to God. We have a lot of relationships, and, maybe more than anything else, we use those relationships to define ourselves. So it makes perfect sense that the mirror of Reality TV reflects our preoccupation with relationship” (26). It is as simple as finding a ‘topic’ to moralize about (relationships, in this example), then find a popular reference you enjoy that tangentially has to do with said topic (Reality TV), and then use the reference regardless of its broader social implications.
We have been citing this book for weeks around here, but Chris Hedges’ Empire of Illusion is instructive by coming to the opposite conclusions of Reality TV: “The moral nihilism of celebrity culture is played out on reality television shows, most of which encourage a dark voyeurism into other people’s humiliation, pain, weakness, and betrayal. Education, building community, honesty, transparency, and sharing are qualities that you will see, in a gross perversion of democracy and morality, voted off a reality show” (Hedges 30). Compare this to Faller’s disregard of the ramifications of celebrity culture:
“Obviously, people are tuning in to Reality TV for a reason. Reality TV is filling a void and touching a nerve that would otherwise be ignored. A demand is being met. Just by being on television, people are seeing something that they want to see and thinking about things they want to be dreaming about – and that’s a good thing…Maybe the show has been edited and produced to heighten the dramatic effect, but these are not fictional characters bumbling around a make-believe world. Real lives are changing” (100).
We absolutely need critical engagements of theology with the embodied world; but they must be aware of a much more nuanced and complete vision of culture. Read Empire of Illusion paired with Jamie Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom for a telos of the church and culture that is more substantial than this topical moralizing.

I was intrigued to see Stephen Faller’s book Reality TV: Theology in the Video Era, as I am invested in both theology and video forms of art, and was hoping to see a critical theological consideration of video/film. Instead, rather than looking at the underlying representational structures of television or video as mediums, or questioning the extent to which these media are formative processes, Faller instead picks apart isolated fragments of reality TV shows and moralizes about them, in pithy references to the parables of Jesus. And I have heard this done often before – cultural references to movies, TV shows, or pop songs that can be ‘sermonized’ by ignoring broader contexts, namely the medium itself. The reasoning runs as follows: “We relate to each other. We relate to our beloved…We relate to ourselves. We relate to God. We have a lot of relationships, and, maybe more than anything else, we use those relationships to define ourselves. So it makes perfect sense that the mirror of Reality TV reflects our preoccupation with relationship” (26). It is as simple as finding a ‘topic’ to moralize about (relationships, in this example), then find a popular reference you enjoy that tangentially has to do with said topic (Reality TV), and then use the reference regardless of its broader social implications.

We have been citing this book for weeks around here, but Chris Hedges’ Empire of Illusion is instructive by coming to the opposite conclusions of Reality TV: “The moral nihilism of celebrity culture is played out on reality television shows, most of which encourage a dark voyeurism into other people’s humiliation, pain, weakness, and betrayal. Education, building community, honesty, transparency, and sharing are qualities that you will see, in a gross perversion of democracy and morality, voted off a reality show” (Hedges 30). Compare this to Faller’s disregard of the ramifications of celebrity culture:

Obviously, people are tuning in to Reality TV for a reason. Reality TV is filling a void and touching a nerve that would otherwise be ignored. A demand is being met. Just by being on television, people are seeing something that they want to see and thinking about things they want to be dreaming about – and that’s a good thing…Maybe the show has been edited and produced to heighten the dramatic effect, but these are not fictional characters bumbling around a make-believe world.  Real lives are changing (100).

We absolutely need critical engagements of theology with the embodied world; but they must be aware of a much more nuanced and complete vision of culture. Read Empire of Illusion paired with Jamie Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom for a telos of the church and culture that is more substantial than the topical moralizing in Faller’s Reality TV.