Mark C. Taylor and Esa Saarinen
_Imagologies: Media Philosophy_
Approximately 300 pages (pages are not numbered).
_Imagologies_ is one of the strangest books I have ever read. It very self consciously goes against all the principles of good writing that most academics have been taught. Instead, the book gives us a mishmash of graphics, quotations and correspondence that the reader must put together for his own edification.
The books represents an experiment in joint teaching by two faculty members a continent apart who tried to expose their students to new ways of conceptualizing the world of modern communication. They succeed only partially.
This is not a clearly conceptualized text. It illustrates how difficult it is to do something unconventional. They needed significant resources to put the course and the text together. It is to the credit of the authors that they persisted in their endeavor even in the face of many obstacles. The resulting text is most interesting, but not very useful.
Part of the text is a running diary of the events leading up to the creation of the course and the publication of the book. Part of the text is like McLuhan and Fiore's _The Meaning is the Massage_ (1967), giving us speculative images and statements about the future of global communication.
The authors create and define many new terms, such as *simcult* ('in simcult, the essential is nothing and nothing is essential'); *imagology* ('imagology insists that the word is never simply a word but is always also an image'); *mediatrix* ('in the mediatrix, you become an image and thus less real. But, paradoxically, through this loss of so-called reality, you become more real than ever before.').
The book's provocative format stimulates discussion by raising questions, rather than providing answers: 'the challenge is not to make statements but to ask questions.' (p. Styles 2) 'The imagologist does not seek truth but entertains enigmas. Though the opposite way, the academy and mass culture worship at the altar of clarity and simplicity, which the imagologist shatters. Institutions of triviledge abhor enigmas that ought to be cultivated.' (p. Ending the Academy 3)
The statements that are just thrown out for discussion are most provocative, but hardly defensible. For example: 'Philosophy lacks the courage to be superficial. Superficiality is not merely a matter of knowledge but is a style of practice. The practice of superficiality carries one beyond the bounds of expert culture by crafting techniques of adaptation that have transformative effects. Superficial practice produces a bricolage that is perpetually shifting.' (p. Superficiality 13) Different groups or individuals could debate this endlessly, but to what end? The authors clearly feel the debate is important, not the outcome.
Our media create new terms to define new approaches or new concepts. Much of _Imagologies_ is involved in creating this new language. For example, 'in simcult, ad diction is crafted to create addiction. Image produces desires that are necessary to keep the economy running. In the electronomy, all investments are libidinal.' (p. Ad-Diction 1) This brief statement gives us three new terms to play with, all of which expand the range of possibilities, which is part of the objective of the word play, specifically and the text in general.
Another provocative term is *interstanding*, which they define as 'when depth gives way to surface, under-standing becomes inter-standing. To comprehend is no longer to grasp what lies beneath but to glimpse what lies between.' (p. Interstanding 1) I am not sure what is more beneficial: to explore that which forms the foundation, or that which fills the spaces between objects. Arguments can be made to support either position.
My assessment of this text is ambivalent. I found it difficult to read, because there is no narrative or logical thread to tie the sections together. It is, on the other hand, most stimulating to contemplate the alternate views of our present society that Taylor and Saarinen constantly reconfigure. Each reader should discover his or her own reaction to the prodding that _Imagologies_ provides.
University of Missouri-Kansas City, USA
_Film-Philosophy_, vol. 1 no. 9, October 1997
Copyright © _Film-Philosophy_ 1997
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