On Gitelman’s Skepticism

I’ll be the first to admit that I do get a little hung up on surface-level material in these readings. This week, it’s Gitelman’s mention of the rise of skepticism among consumer’s of print culture. I think this poses the question of how long it takes for the public to become skeptical or what variables must present themselves to instill doubt in the minds of media users. Lend an ear. Lend some insight.


3 thoughts on “On Gitelman’s Skepticism

  1. I think the “newness” of new media introduces a kind of strangeness and that strangeness disrupts the existing paradigms of communication and processing information. The disruption in turn draws attention to how it has been applies to other forms of media. And I think the your discussion of the internet makes this really apparent- I can remember growing up how often my teachers cautioned against using Wikipedia as a “scholarly source” and the only really endorsed online sources were ones that were second or third generation electronic objects, ones that originated in print such as ebook versions or journal articles accessed online. This is the first step- the new media of the internet starts to disrupt the paradigms of evaluating information and research. But now, I know a lot of my teachers- and myself when I teach- have moved away from this attempt to apply print paradigms to online sources and instead try to promote other techniques for evaluating sources. These new paradigms are ones that can and should be applied to both digital and print media and this is a kind of second step- the new media changes the paradigms and causes us to reflect on existing forms of media.

    This is a really simplified account- but there’s definitely that sense of temporal lag that you talk about. I’m not sure if there’s any kind of general rule to how long that lag would take but I suspect that it is something that varies from one media to the next.

  2. Libby — I think you’re dead-on about the ways in which the sort of media-skepticism that Gitelman tracks can be seen as sort of historically variable, especially with regards to the status of outmoded media. And the thing is, I suspect it can happen rather quickly. I believe there are some strong examples of this phenomenon in, of all places, horror films.

    The Ring (2002, based on a Japanese original Ringu, 1998) concerns a haunted VHS tape that, when watched, causes the viewer to die within seven days.

    In the logic of the film, the technology needed to produce such tapes was so widely available — through camcorders, and the ability to make copies of the tape with a home VCR — that anyone who encountered the video could easily laugh it off (anyone with a camera and a morbid sensibility could film that!) while at the same time providing the additional mechanism through which the curse spreads (one must copy the tape and pass it on to avoid dying). The “curse” of the VHS tape can spread so easily precisely because it was common practice to semi-anonymously rent physical tapes from video stores, and to pirate your own (oftentimes unmarked) VHS tapes at home.

    The ubiquity and accessbility of the VHS medium is what makes it horrific. But, as Gitelman would point out, these anxieties about the older medium required new media in order to pull its reliability into question.

    I would argue this was indeed the case. The turn-of-the-millennium social sphere was becoming newly cognizant not only of the fact that VHS was in its death throes (the DVD market took off at about the same time the American remake hit theaters) but that our media were making us more closely networked in ways we didn’t yet understand (the internet was also in its ascent, and in 2000 the viral qualities of the haunted VHS had been obliquely demonstrated with the ILOVEYOU worm that spread so quickly and effectively the US government shut down its email servers).

    The Ring presents media-skepticism — although a better term in this context might be mistrust or paranoia — as necessarily a fusion of old and new media: a medium old enough to be ubiquitous and trusted, and therefore potentially dangerous, and internet-era anxieties about how our media consumption integrates us into “publics” and “userbases” that can potentially spread information like a disease.

  3. Interesting ideas! I’m wondering if there are different types of skepticism – esp. in this case, skepticism that regards an object of the past and skepticism that regards an object of the present (but *perceived* to be an object of the future). Maybe the first is an issue of too much knowledge about an object; the second an issue of too little knowledge. This dichotomy of too much / not enough seems to align pretty well with Gitelman’s discussion of print v. aural?

    Finally, to bring an outside source here…in his text _Listening_, Jean-Luc Nancy he talks about listening *for* or toward something…wondering if sound/aural media will always have this “future”-dimension attached to it….

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