Turning into ‘media zombies’

Our almost-constant use of media is turning us into zombies. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing – at least in Mark Deuze’s eyes.

Deuze, a media researcher from Indiana University, was at Wilfrid Laurier University Monday afternoon giving a lecture entitled, ‘Living in Media = Creating Art with Life’ as part of the communications studies department’s Media(tions) speaker series, to celebrate the department’s ten-year anniversary.

“Every study of media use concludes that we’re doing more of it,” said Deuze. “Using media has turned us into zombies and the reference here is usually that if we use media too much, our brain dies and we become a hoard of unruly people.”

Deuze drew comparisons between the media culture of today and the zombies popularized by horror films by introducing the notion of being “together, alone.”

“In every movie where we see zombies, they’re never alone,” he said. “They’re not individuals, but they’re not a collective either.”

Deuze went on to liken a hoard of zombies to a mass group of people in situations like the uprisings of the Arab Spring or the Occupy movement through an idea he called “impersonal sociality.” He argued that in these mass movements, people cease to be individuals and become like a pack of zombies looking for brains to eat, a single mass working towards a goal.

“When someone was part of the Arab Spring, they ceased to be a man or a woman,” continued Deuze.

It is in this blurring of categories that Deuze said his comparison between the people of today’s media culture and zombies becomes favourable.

“There is something really powerful and good about being a zombie,” he said. “By being a zombie, we can move past what is holding us back.”

Deuze illustrated this point by referencing the recent the recent reports of women’s rights protesters being assaulted in Egypt.

During the uprising, he said, it didn’t matter whether the protesters were men or women, they were all part of the singular group of zombies.

Deuze also presented aspects of his recent “Media Life Project,” in which he attempts to answer the question, “‘How can we live a good and beautiful life in media?’”

“Switching [media] off is just an illusion,” he said. “We live in media, not just with it.”

Media, Deuze explained, has become “organic … [and] almost impossible to detect.” Which has led to the public using media up to three times more often than the even realize.

“I saw a survey that said 68 per cent of teens tweet right after having sex,” said Deuze. “So even in the most intimate moments, we are not disconnected.”

While acknowledging the problems with the hyper-use of media in contemporary culture, Deuze concluded that there are positives that come along with such a media-heavy society.

“The media of today, while having all kinds of flaws, do empower us,” he said, referring to the ability people now have to control their own reality.

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