Bemusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Social Media
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Swansea University, United Kingdom
William Merrin   

Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea, SA2 8PP, United Kingdom
Submission date: 2022-05-06
Acceptance date: 2022-05-08
Publication date: 2022-06-30
Studia Humanistyczne AGH 2022;21(2):17–29
In 1985, Neil Postman published Amusing Ourselves to Death, a McLuhan-inspired critique of the transformation of public discourse from 19th-century print culture, with its depth of reading, thought and debate, to the contemporary era of television ‘show business’. Developments since then, most notably the digital revolution, allow us to update Postman’s thesis, to explore the digital age that succeeds the electric broadcast era and its contemporary transformation of culture and politics. This paper argues that digital personalisation has exploded the mass-media world, bursting its mainstream bubble into a foam of individual life-worlds, empowering everyone as the producer of their own realities. Arguing that the key thinker of this era is Philip K. Dick (with his exploration of fictive, split, and personal realities), the paper explores the cultural impact of this new post-truth era of ‘media’ realities and the ‘bemusement’ it produces.