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Down the Tube: Symbolic Form and the Failure of Reason in the Marketplace of Ideas

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The growth of an American television culture has been slowly poisoning free-market capitalism by eroding the very logic on which capitalism depends. Consumerism is creeping into place as the primary American economic system. The transition from a typographic era to a televised one, and the subsequent reduction in propositionally structured information, has capitalism in its death throes. The presentationally structured symbolic form of television's message is self-perpetuating, recruiting and retaining consumers unable to make rational judgments of value or utility. The universally beneficial survival of the fittest effect is adversely affected by television's dumbing-down effect. Techniques of television advertising, offensive to the rational mind, are emotionally soothing and reassuring. Consumers from a young age are gently cajoled, using presentationally structured techniques, to consume. Television has effectively replaced capitalism with a similar-looking but fundamentally different phenomenon, irrational consumerism driven by emotion. The promise of the mutually beneficial transaction may soon be mere artifacts of a typographic golden age.
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Keywords: capitalism; consumption; information; rationality; television; typography

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-02-02

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  • EME explores the relationships between media, technology, symbolic form, communication, consciousness, and culture. Its scope is interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary. Media ecology provides a rich philosophical, historical and practical context for studying our increasingly technological and mediated society and culture with an emphasis on historical context.
    Media ecology scholarship emphasizes a humanistic approach to understanding media, communication, and technology, with special emphasis on the ways in which we have been and continue to be shaped and influenced by our inventions and innovation. The Media ecology approach is predicated on understanding that media, symbols, and technologies play a leading role in human affairs, and function as largely invisible environments affecting the way we think, feel, act, and organize ourselves collectively.
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