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The Mediated Perceptual Well


I use the term "perceptual well" to describe the portion of the universe that I am able to perceive.

Astronomers tell me that the size of the Known Universe is approximately 14 trillion billion billion cubic light years. It is possible that the Known Universe is merely a small bubble of inflating space-time inside the grand scale of the Unknown Universe.

The size of my office cubicle is approximately 27 cubic meters. My perceptual well is such a tiny part of the Known Universe!

However, via media, I am able to learn about the extent and properties of the Known Universe. Via media, I read and hear stories about what is happening elsewhere on my planet. Media allow my perceptual well to expand beyond my own perceptions; however, as much media as I consume, I can only know a tiny amount of all that is transpiring each day in the Known Universe.

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I was wondering today ... if I ignored all the media I've consumed since President Bush's inauguration ... if my perceptual well were limited to my own unmediated perceptions ... whether I would be happy with George W. Bush's administration to date.

My financial situation has been great -- my income has expanded, my job is as secure as any job can be, I am enjoying spending my money on wonderful books, DVDs, restaurant meals, travel, toys, seminars, intoxicants ...

Although I am a gay male I have not suffered any discrimination of any sort during the Bush administration. It is true that I'm not allowed to get married to another man, but I don't have a man I wish to marry, and the issues of gay marriage and gay adoption do not touch my own life in any way right now. Besides, President Clinton was against gay marriage, so it isn't like President Bush was a step backward in that department.

I have been annoyed by the increased "security" crap I must endure in the Nation's Capitol, but I saw the Pentagon burning from my apartment window, and my own Post Office was closed due to anthrax contamination, so I understand why people would want to be more careful and less trusting.

The only reasons I'm unhappy with Republican rule are things I read about in the newspapers. And I generally pay attention to liberal media, and I'm biased against Republicans anyway. I feed my bias by attending to media that tell me how much the Republicans are fucking up. My mediated perceptual well is full of stories of injustice, arrogance, malice, and stupidity. I am told to feel outraged! How dare they do these things! Put a stop to this madness by supporting Democrats!

Hmmm. The truth of the matter is that my personal life is not significantly different as a result of the regime change here at home.

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When media tell me about the extent and the duration of the Known Universe ... that's kinda cool, but it doesn't change the particulars of my personal life. When media tell me about earthquakes, fires, rapes, or murders ... I might feel momentarily sad, but, hey, it didn't happen to me. Most of the outrages we discover via media do not affect us personally.

Media provoke artificial emotional reactions and artificial emotional identifications. And they do this to us on purpose. The editors of these media organizations know exactly what they are doing. They choose stories for their own purposes, to create a particular version of shared reality among their readers. One purpose is to addict the reader to that system of shared reality, to sell her a subscription. Another purpose might be to provide advertising demographics to businesses. Another purpose might be to promote a political agenda that will increase the wealth and power of the owners of the media organization.

We are rarely mindful of these purposes. We generally believe what we see and what we read, and our media consumption pattern creates, for each of us, our own Known Universe.

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Step away from this mediated perceptual well. For a day, for a week, for some arbitrary length of time. Step out of the bath, towel yourself dry, and allow yourself to perceive only what is within your personal grasp. The people you live and work with. The sounds of your home and office. The touch of the fabrics and furniture in your dwelling. The smells and tastes of the food you eat.

These unmediated experiences are your life. The mediated experiences are not your life. The mediated experiences are constructed by other people for their own purposes, to control your life and make it into a replica of their own design.


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