Media Seductions: Influence Theory from Plato to Battlefield

Elizabeth Losh

Media Seductions

In the fifth century B.C.E. the Greek philosopher Plato warned that seemingly positive innovations that allowed human beings to represent, record, and communicate their experiences in new ways might have unexpected negative consequences.  He cautioned that the “new media” of ancient Athens might corrupt the young with images of sex and violence, dumb down popular culture into a state of amnesia, foster the moral deception of a gullible citizenry, and encourage blasphemous behavior that would destabilize society.  In the millennia since Plato, we have seen moral panics about paintings, novels, plays, newspapers, photographs, films, comic books, television shows, videogames, and social network sites that have galvanized public opinion, spurred policy-making decisions, and fostered philosophical reflection and scientific inquiry. This course on the culture, art, and technology of media influence looks at many kinds of texts that have been associated with powerful forms of persuasion – both in the present and in the past.  Such new media have been credited with ending slavery and colonialism, but they have also been blamed for murderous obedience to totalitarian leaders and violent martyrdom in the name of global jihad.

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