The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America Themes

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Graphic Revolution

Boorstin continually references the Graphic Revolution as playing a major role in the development of pseudo-events. He states, "It brought new forces toward popularizing, toward reshaping - and toward disembodying - works of art". These changes occurred in several ways. First, the invention of paper-making machines and "cylinder presses" significantly reduced the time and cost involved with producing books. In addition, machines were developed that improved the bookbinding process and the production of book covers. Due to these advancements, booksellers were able to produce and sell many more books for less money. This in effect made books a commodity.

A similar change occurred in the field of "graphic arts" as well. New technologies allowed for the reproduction of famous works into prints as well as adornments for coffee mugs, notepads, flags, etc. Newspapers began to have access to reproduced photographs as well as color printing techniques. Other improvements were made that allowed for the cheap reproduction of statues and sculptures.

He continues by discussing the conversion of the written word to the movie screen. The new standard of the quality of written material was determined by if it was adapted for a movie. All of these changes led to pieces of artwork becoming commodities. Boorstin asserts that due to the easy reproducibility, even the original loses value. In addition, the copies may appear even more vivid than the originals and are thus more easily believed.

Images

Boorstin asserts that America has changed its focus on ideal to a focus on images. He outlines several aspects of images - synthetic, believable, passive, vivid, concrete, simplified, and ambiguous. The image, according to Boorstin, is essentially a pseudo-event. In other words it is a kind of placeholder for something more real and serves to create other pseudo-events. He states that Americans have become entranced with their images, partly because they are so much more vivid and therefore seem more real than actual reality.

Boorstin posits that part of our difficulties abroad has to do with the fact that we spend so much time crafting and communicating our image that we are unable to communicate our ideals. Our enemies are much more skilled at communicating ideals because they don't have so many images to maintain. The use of passive images seems to create a certain amount of passivity in the people who use them as well. There is no need to actually develop oneself as long as one can project and maintain a particular image.

This fact has been especially exploited by the advertising industry. They have discovered that if a particular image is effectively communicated via a particular product, then consumers will purchase that product in order to command that particular image. The use of ambiguity means that an image can be applied in a variety of forms and allows for the most amount of people to buy into it. Boorstin suggests that the problem with Americans at home is that everyone has bought into the images that we are exposed to on a daily basis.

Safety

One of the perhaps less obvious themes in the book has to do with safety. When the focus shifted in America from reporting news to making news, it was partly due to ensuring the continued success of the television companies running twenty-four hour news programs. In other words it created safety for the news companies. In addition, because reporters were to some degree telling consumers what they wanted to hear, there is a certain feeling of safety. This theme continues into the next chapter, which discusses the differences between heroes and celebrities. Celebrities are safe - heroes have to go out and actually risk danger, even if only in the form of public embarrassment, and complete a task.

In chapter three, Boorstin talks about the movement from traveler to tourist. There is far more safety in being a tourist. Guided tours insure that there is little contact with the locals, perhaps including criminals. Tours also promise the delivery of a particular experience, so there is safety in the form of not being disappointed. There is also safety in knowing that one encountered all the "cultured" places to go and thus did their touring "correctly". Finally, tourist locales have been so sanitized that there is no longer even the danger of encountering foreign food - there is a McDonalds in almost every country in the world.

In chapter five, Boorstin discusses the move from ideal to image. When one is disconnected from an ideal there is no danger of not reaching the ideal. An image is already complete and available - there is no work required and therefore no chance of failure. Being disconnected also means not having to experience the pain of one's own or other's reality. It is an escape from true intimacy and relationship.

This section contains 803 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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