medialized society

The Center for Literate Values ~ Defending the Western tradition of responsible individualism, disciplined freedom, tasteful creativity, common sense, and faith in a supreme moral being.



A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis

10.4 (Fall 2010)




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A Mediatized Society: Exemplars

Mark Wegierski

        Noted below are some paradigmatic examples of the most “savvy” media phenomena. As is pointed out below, there is a tendency in media to create ONE exemplar (or, at most, two or three) within every format or genre that virtually defines the format or genre. There seems to be an almost invariable tendency towards “oligopoly” within the media. Once a given brand or franchise is successfully launched, it strives in an almost irrepressible surge to become coterminous with the entire genre. For example, most of popular science fiction nowadays is defined by a handful of huge franchises, notably Star Wars and Star Trek. One can notice a similar tendency in the development of the formats of the technology that delivers the multifarious content. That technological formats are practically uniform should be of less concern than this uniformity of content. 

       The list below, of course, could be far, far longer if various formats and genres were added and/or subdivided into various subcategories. One may credibly conjecture, in any case, that there would usually be ONE defining exemplar within a given format or subgenre, even if the list were extended to hundreds or thousands of formats and subgenres. The question presents itself: is this drive to uniformity because of the massive corporate structures of so-called “late capitalism” which are able to bring enormous advertising and other resources in support of various “brands” and franchises? Or not are some of the success stories below sometimes mostly the result of simply being the “first-in” under a given category or subcategory? Or have such successes happened to fill a perceived public need, or somehow caught the wave of an often rather nebulous popular mood or opinion?

        What is especially striking is how all these mediatized phenomena have come to prominence within a few years (or, at most, a few decades), without any kind of real tradition behind them. This is in strong contrast to long-lived institutions, such as various religious denominations that developed over hundreds or thousands of years. The incredible power of attraction among quite large numbers of people to something so apparently ephemeral as these media phenomena could be recknoned quite alarming. It appears that more genuine collectivities such as religion and nation have been largely replaced by various “consumer tribes” and “gadget-cults”.

All three of the following incubated in “hot-house”, artificial, megapolitan, “downtown” environments:

TV Station: CITY-TV/MuchMusic in Toronto – called “global village-idiots” by satirical magazine Frank

Radio-Station: CFNY in Toronto                     

Print Journalism: NOW Magazine in Toronto or Details or Mondo 2000

Cable Station: CNN — “Dead Air: How CNN Wrecked Television News” The New Republic, August 22 & 29, 1994

Political (or Magazine) Journalism: National Review – note how Buckley squeezed out and marginalized all those who disagreed with him on the Right — the ongoing attempt in all media is “to reduce a plurality of current social phenomena to a single person, journal, magazine, newspaper, movie, or TV show” – Buckley carried out a right-wing version of “political correctness” — he excised all ideas critical of corporations/big business/laissez-faire and out-of-control technological growth

Newspaper: New York Times

Newser: Walter Cronkite

Afternoon Talkshow Host: Oprah Winfrey

Late Night Talkshow Host: David Letterman

Media Star: Female: Madonna — constantly reforging her persona

Media Star: Male: David Bowie — constantly reforging his persona

Rock-Bands: The Beatles; The Rolling Stones; The Sex Pistols; Led Zeppelin; Genesis; The Police; U2; The Clash; Dire Straits; Nirvana  

Media Intellectual: Camille Paglia

Book (Current day): Generation X, by Doug Coupland

Book (Fantasy): Harry Potter series, by J. K. Rowling

Book (SF): Neuromancer, by William Gibson

Book (Nonfiction/business advice): any book by Malcolm Gladwell

Movie (Current-day drama): The Big Chill

Movie (Teen): The Breakfast Club

Movie (Sci-fi): Star Wars

Movie (SF): The Matrix

Movie (Action): James Bond movie series

TV Series: Star Trek — William Shatner visibly drunk at Billboard 1994 awards, “Captain Kirk is dead! Get a life!” cf. his famous Saturday Night Live sketch where he screams at a bunch of nerdy Trek fans: “get a life! You — you there, have you ever been on a date?? Have you ever kissed a girl??” – yet he titled his most recent biography, Get A Life

The Original Reality Show: Survivor

Online Seller: Amazon

Online Reseller: ebay

Social Media Site: Facebook

Search Engine: Google

MP3 Player: IPOD

Smartphone: IPHONE; Blackberry – nicknamed a “crackberry” by its users because it’s so addictive/ubiquitous

Instant Messaging Vehicle: Twitter

Wiki: Wikipedia

Mark Wegierski is a Canadian freelance journalist based in Toronto.  His special interests include political philosophy, popular culture, and creative works about the future.