Sunday, January 29, 2012

Radio America: the Great Depression and the rise of modern mass culture

In the 1930s a new system of mass communications took hold in the United States and helped spawn a new mass culture. As radio brought an expanding, impersonal public sphere home to Americans, they encountered a world in which even culture and communication might be centralized and standardized. The modern the culture that radio represented threatened to overpower individuals, leaving them with little control either in their own lives or in the wider world. But mass culture did not quite prove entirely all-powerful. Within very constrained spaces, Americans found some room to interpret radio’s meanings to help them address the very challenges posed by radio and mass culture more generally. Many found radio could enable them to gain a sense of autonomy in their own lives by helping them understand an encroaching mass world in familiar, personal terms. To some, radio also offered the prospect of speaking meaningfully in that world, through a newly viable hope of communication with a mass audience.  By: Bruce Lenthall

1 comment:

  1. After our class discussion on Tuesday, I reflected on what Adorno said about radio music, and I really think his words are so sharp and inspiring that they directly pointed out the problem we have today with radio or any other forms of mass communication. Radio music, TV shows, magazine stories...all have been being treated and standardized like a commodity, with the primary goal of making profit rather than satisfying people's needs and wants, and this produces standardized audience - us, with standardized enthusiasm. We have talked about this in class that, this kind of standardization is dangerous. It is "soporific", stopping people's critical thinking and controlling people's judgment and freedom of choice. Pseudo-individualism will be the highest level of jeopardy such standardization could bring. And we will never realize it so easily.