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Collective Memory and the Historical Past$
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Jeffrey Andrew Barash

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226399157

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226399294.001.0001

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Virtual Experience, the Mass Media, and the Configuration of the Public Sphere

Virtual Experience, the Mass Media, and the Configuration of the Public Sphere

(p.114) Chapter 5 Virtual Experience, the Mass Media, and the Configuration of the Public Sphere
Collective Memory and the Historical Past

Jeffrey Andrew Barash

University of Chicago Press

The public realm has undergone fundamental transformations over the course of the past century. These changes correspond to essential modifications in the mass media as the principal source of public communication. The televisual image, Internet, the world wide web and accompanying digital technologies, in their ubiquity and familiarity, lend pattern to the contemporary public sphere. This chapter argues that the ways in which the mass media select, articulate and transmit reported events and thus endow them with public significance conforms to spatio-temporal patterns and a logic that are not simple replicas of the order of everyday experience, since they impose upon the information they disseminate an autonomous symbolic format through which public awareness is channeled and sedimented in collective memory. According to this chapter, this autonomous symbolic order draws its potency from an uncanny ability to simulate direct experience while dissimulating the gap which separates it from the immediate life world in which it originates. In this framework, the format of mass communications has become a principle contemporary source of public visibility, indeed of an iconic status which, as it is publicly conveyed and remembered, is readily translated into mass celebrity and novel contemporary forms of public influence.

Keywords:   mass media, hypermediation, Balkan wars, Romanian revolution, Kurt Schwitters, Robert Rauschenberg, Amselfeld, public sphere, breaking news, video

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