It’s truly exciting to venture in to multimedia to better report stories. Images –as described by several cultural theorists – carry a hermeneutical charge beyond that of the apparent aesthetic. Writer Susan Sontag argued that we scrutinize images to appropriate the emotions portrayed to rid ourselves from the guilt of not having lived it. According to Sontag’s hypothesis, those gawking at the morbid images of people leaping off the World Trade Center towers were trying to “share” the pain of the unfortunate. Tender images that rattle our emotions have significant effect. No wonder “charismatic mega-fauna” dissects through our emotional core so easily.
The premeditated efficiency is what renders images powerful and lucrative. French cultural theorist Jean Baudrillard called the moving image a farce of the quotidian that we ironically accepted as reality. The term hyper-reality caught on fast after that.
Popular culture took, literally, a glimpse at it when Neo opened a hollow book at the 1999 film “The Matrix.” He removed a chip-like device and, for a split second, audiences read the title of Baudrillard’s masterpiece “Simulation and Simulacra.” In the book – in a nutshell – Baudrillard argues that every act is a simulation, a lie, us trying to be who we are not. We live the life of others through images, movies, television, reality shows, etc. As in “The Matrix” people can tell that if they’re in the “real world” or a fantasy world called “The Matrix.” For Baudrillard, sound, image and the content of both takes us closer to that other world, a step away from reality that still feels inexorably ours: the hyper-reality.
Okay so this French guy took to heart just a little bit. But we could see where he was going. What we see and hear through the television – and now Internet – for some is more real than life itself. On the 292 Jet Blue flight on Sept. 21, 2005, passengers were confronted with their own death. The flight was living from Burbank to New York but was forced to land at LAX after the front wheels failed to renter the aircraft. As it landed the cameras broadcast the event. Seats in all Jet Blue flights have TV monitors in the back of their seats. Looking at a broadcast of the plane’s forced landing, passengers were confronted with the reality they were living and the images on the screen. One of the passengers said he didn’t know how bad it was until he saw his plane on television. We might just be so accustomed to media that we attribute veracity to the mediated truth.
Thus our very exciting multimedia excursion is a promising and “profitable” field. People appropriate these images, they “live” it as suggested by Sontag and possibly attribute more veracity to them than “real life.”
This only the begging of a very exciting time for journalism and as Marc Cooper said last Saturday it’s not the end of our profession but a new begging and an opportunity for exploration.