Discussion Points: 11-10-10

1. Boorstin says that we, “live in a world where fantasy is more real than reality,” (37), that we create simulations of experiences because we can’t experience them ourselves, then we have the audacity to believe that our simulations are superior to the actual experiences. How would Boorstin approach the advent of the internet? Can the internet, in some way, serve as a tool to “disillusion ourselves,” (6) by gaining access to the knowledge that original experiences are superior to the simulations of them that we create?

2. Is there a way to reconcile the difference between “man-made and God-made events,” (11) or, “celebrities” and “heroes” (61)? In other words, can we remove the artificial fervor that people add to events and people (which make them pseudo-events or celebrities) and understand them on the basis of their actual weight? For instance, can we construct a scale that accurately places Alexander the Great, John Milton, Lady Gaga, and LonelyGirl15 in order of their actual impact on the world? Or has the internet (and other media) already broken the scale, such that “actual impact” has become a completely relative term?

3. Setting aside the distinction between authenticity and fabrication, Boorstin claims that, “the celebrity is created by the media,” (61). Yet, on Youtube, millions of people have viewed web-cam videos made by some guy/girl in his/her room, and on Twitter, we can see topics that are trending based on what users think is newsworthy. To what extent have new media taken the mechanisms of “old” media (journalists, news-anchors, advertisers, writers, producers, etc.) out of this equation for making a celebrity? To what extent are these mechanisms still present/necessary to elevate news and people to fame?

4. Laurel talks about how–through computers–we can interact within, “worlds in which we can extent, amplify, and enrich our own capacities to think, feel, and act,” (113). In what ways has the internet become an extension of our imagination as, “laboratory of the spirit,” (112)?

5. How can we reconcile Laurel’s world-view with Boorstin’s?