Saturday, September 10, 2005

Mediated Reality

Prof. Nokes over at Unlocked has a cool post on mediated reality. Responses elsewhere in the blogosphere here and here. Excerpt:

...several members of my family were involved in an event that received national television coverage, particularly on CNN (I'm not omitting description of the event here to be evasive; it's just irrelevant to the argument). When they learned the event would be covered on the national news, they were excited about their 15 minutes of fame. Once the actual reports were aired, however, they were terribly dismayed. CNN's version of events bore little resemblance to what they had actually experienced. The events had been caught on video, which the network misleadingly edited and from which they removed the sound, since the dialogue caught on tape would have contradicted CNN's reports. They shot footage of an area miles away, and aired that footage as if it were where the events had taken place.

For a couple of days, the reaction from home was one of cynicism. Suddenly, they felt they couldn't trust news reports. Suddenly, they understood the power of editing to twist the truth into a beautiful lie. Then, over a few days, I noticed their attitudes and comments changing, and within two weeks, those in my family involved had changed their version of events to agree with CNN's version, which just days early they had denounced as total falsehood, and of which they had actual physical evidence (the location of the events and the videotape) contradicting. Nevertheless, their experiential knowledge was rejected and replaced by a television-mediated story. Their experience was unreal, and the television was the reality.

Part of this discussion is hampered by the fact that in we only have one word for "know" in the English language, whereas most of the Romance languages have two. In Spanish, for example, "saber" is the infinitive of "to know" in the sense of knowing a fact or knowing how to do something. "Conocer" is the infinitve of "to know" in the sense of having familiarity with a person or a place or a thing. So, I know (saber) that Boise is the capital of Idaho, but I do not know (conocer) Boise, because I have never been there.

I comment on all this partly because it's only a few days until Survivor: Guatemala begins. I am an unashamed Survivor fan; I think the group dynamics are fascinating, and you all can look forward to weekly Survivor analysis on these pages.

"I'm mad as hell that Boston Rob won the million bucks!"


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