Marvel’s America: Living in an Age of Oversimplification

Dylan Taylor | 6 February 2017

In 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville observed that Americans have “a lively faith in the perfectibility of man…They all consider society as a body in a state of improvement”. Such descriptions help explain our common stereotype as pragmatic idealists with a penchant for exaggerated emotions and an uncomfortable awkwardness in the face of negative, or even ambivalent, sentiments. Studies [1] have implied what many introverts could readily describe: America is a land where being quiet or reflective can induce strange looks or even pity. Being slow-to-judge—a trait so often honored by moral philosophers throughout history—is, to that subset of Americans which subscribes to a masculine, red-blooded vision of our tenets, seen instead as a sign of weakness and naiveté. This diluting of issues into binaries—weak or strong, moral or immoral, right or wrong—is a cultural tendency that has seemed to reach its apotheosis in the theatrical build-up to the new presidency and its traumatic fallout.

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I Meme You No Harm

Josh Simpson | 6 February 2017

Memes. We’ve all liked them, shared them, maybe even created them: those images, videos, and texts that are humorous (or at least attempt to be). They’ve replaced, in the online world, the editorial cartoons of print newspapers and journals. They are made to become viral in a time when “140 characters” seems more a description of our attention span than of Twitter’s prescribed limits and increasing amounts of information are crowding the real estate of our screens.

Let’s talk about the more serious aspect of memes (don’t groan). Do they desensitise us to the real issues behind all the jokes? Are they responsible for the recent proliferation of #fakenews and “alternative facts,” formerly known as lies?

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Television Light Lies on the American Lawn

Sarah Giblin | 23 January 2017.
In his first collection, Areas of Fog, Joseph Massey writes:

television light

lies on the

American lawn
I can think of no better way to encapsulate the omnipresence of the Presidential inauguration within mainstream media. A sense of resigned, abject, passive observation has permeated everything from the mundane to the grand. This is reflected in the ‘American lawn’ that ties the suburban white picket fences to the sweeping grounds of the White House, and the television light that ‘lies’ intimates the allure of submitting to docility that has accompanied the shock victory of President Donald Trump. It is often tempting to acquiesce when met with situations which seem hopeless; Barack Obama addressed this directly in his final press conference, ‘at my core, I think we’re going to be okay. We just have to fight for it, we have to work for it’. In response to Massey, I only offer that this ‘television light’ rests not only on American lawns, but on lawns the world over.

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Morbid Curiosity – Sorrentino’s Ironic Pope

12th December 2016 | Eszter Simor.

Why are we so obsessed with scandalous news pieces? Paolo Sorrentino’s new television series, “The Young Pope” (2016), stars Jude Law playing a fictional Pope Pius XIII. It contemplates power and faith but at the same time, satisfies a morbid curiosity about death, sex and corruption. Just like Pope Francis, Sorrentino’s fictional pope also uses the media in a very conscious manner, but he chooses entirely different tactics…

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Social Media Strikes Back

Maria Elena Torres-Quevedo | 17 October 2016

Social media empowers individuals who usually lack epistemic power, and hence suffer systemic testimonial injustice (people who are rarely listened to or considered credible by society at large: women, people of colour, trans people, etc.), to testify in meaningful ways. By posting on the internet, they can complicate and undermine state sanctioned narratives in a way that mainstream media cannot.

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Does soundbite culture harm research, or help it?

July 25, 2016 | Louise Adams

It is widely agreed that we live in a ‘soundbite culture’, one which prioritises short, punchy forms of communication. From the TED-Talk to the tweet to the emoji: quick and concise means immediate impact, and immediate impact means value in the present. But what should the relationship be between soundbite culture and the academy?

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