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Social anthropologist Thomas De Zengotita takes on the difficult task in this book of examining and explaining how the media shapes our view of ourselves and society. Divided into 7 chapters, it looks at such areas as the cult of childhood and the trend to nostalgia, the interaction between media and politics (and why scandal is more interesting than policy), and the interaction between home and family life. A coda at the end tackles 9/11 and the obsession with WMD, but as it was written in 2003/2004 it would be interesting to see the section updated to take on board subsequent developments.

It's a fairly accessible read for people who (like me) are completely unfamiliar with the subject, with Zengotita using a lot of examples from contemporary media and events to illustrate his arguments - including 9/11, Harry Potter, the death of Diana, Princess of Wales and the Monica Lewinski scandal - which helps the reader to keep track of his arguments. However there are also times when he brings in elements of media and anthropological theory and philosophy or references the arguments of such figures as Locke and Heidegger with the assumption that the reader will be familiar with the same when this is not the case. To this end it might have been useful to have a further reading list for people interested in pursuing the subject further.

There's a surprising amount of humour in the book and Zengotita uses examples from his own life to help get his points across - my favourite being his account of a drama class he was attending on the day of JFK's assassination, when he and the other students thought that the news of the president's death was a method acting assignment.

Originally published in 2005 and republished in 2007 the book does feel a little dated in terms of some of its examples (which is almost inevitable, given the subject matter) and it would be fascinating to know what Zengotita makes of more recent events - such as the internet campaign used to such great effect by President Obama.

All in all, it's an interesting read and one that does make you re-evaluate how you see the world around you and the extent to which this has been shaped by the media you consume.
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on 22 September 2005
Having just finished reading this explosive book, I am about to do something I have never done with any other - immediately start it again. After what is at heart a pessimistic and rather fatalistic vision of our present and future, I feel strangely uplifted and inspired. Maybe it is the feeling that a crucial truth is being unmasked about the direction man, and the West in particular, is heading. The author makes a persuasive case for why people want what they want and why cultural and media organisations respond to us in the way they do. Perhaps it is the rare exhilaration of reading something that feels like agenda-free speech, someone seeking only to find a pattern in it all. Or maybe it is the excitement of receiving such a persuasive authoritative perspective - the writer uses history, anthropology and philosophy to support acutely sensitive powers of observation about the present in its highest and lowest cultural forms. He clearly enjoys people's strengths and their foibles but fears for us. He would be the first to admit he is not a god, but it feels very important to listen to what he's saying.
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When you look at old black and white photographs of town centres, women with prams stand in the middle of the road chatting to other mums and the men also stand in the road having conversations! They all stand in the road chatting without a care. Today, this is unthinkable, for the obvious reasons.

With the introduction of the automobile, humans walk forward like machines. We would never had know how robotic we've become if we didn't have the evidence of old photography.

I've read that in Ancient Rome, people congregated in the streets to socialise. Those old photographs resemble how humans behaved in ancient times.

So we are 'meidiated'. This is evidence that the media is the thing moulding human nature and not genetics.
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on 15 November 2006
This is a fascinating, well written book. It starts with a mediatation on how genuine grief is impossible in a culture where every gesture has been reharshed and performed to the point of instant cliche and continues on a tour of contemporary culture - lightly intwining his profound points into to superb discriptions of phenomena such as High School Cliques. However! I think the author perhaps suffers from perhaps the disease of the soundbite media age - overuse of the word "random" to describe things! He uses this far too much - perhaps as a result of hanging with the myspace kids. This is a serious point! Both Marcuse and the Situationists always go on about how the most profound changes in perception can come about by tweaking the meaning of seemingly innocuous words. Well...I'm NOT RANDOM I'm the writer of this review.
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on 27 August 2015
Excellent quality
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on 1 March 2013
Tired of this book. I would rather be mediated than finish this book. Feels like the writer is trying so hard to explain a concept but goes around in circles. Also, i noticed the use of irrelevant words to explain simple sentences. The unnecessary use of complex words, why oh why Mr writer man.
After reading half way I gave up. I just couldn't take it anymore. If you are expecting to find out how the media shapes the world around you, you will not find it in this book. My opinion.
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