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An Introduction to Postmodernism

John Lough | Tuesday December 01, 2009

Categories: Key Concepts, New Media, Postmodernism, Other Topics, Theory, Postmodern Theory

What is it?

The concept is one which has become increasingly useful in the analysis and understanding of contemporary media culture but unfortunately is not a simple one to define.

It is at once a sociological condition which it is argued that the western world has moved in to over the last 30 years or so, a way of working (i.e. we can talk of a pomo film/book/work of art, etc.) and a set of philosophical ideas about the nature of reality; and these three aspects interact, and are interdependent.

Postmodernism is often paradoxical and contradictory; e.g. de-centralisation; fragmentation yet at same time can be centralization, globalization, macdonaldisation of the world.

Philosophers such as Baudrillard, Richard Rorty and Lyotard

Characteristics

  • Barriers of high and popular culture disappear
  • Hyper realism simulacra
  • Our perceptions of time and space shift and change; past present and future dissolve into an eternal present, boundaries of all types blur-between high and popular culture, genres, even reality and fantasy.
  • The traditional role of the author as creative maker of a cultural artefact is brought into question e.g. in the era of sampling and computer-centred music can we talk of a musical auteur as we might have done with Mozart or even The Beatles?
  • End of originality
  • Traditional metanarratives of family, work, etc. are no longer credible or workable e.g. traditional institutions such as governmental agencies are often seen to be corrupt or self-serving, religion is often portrayed as in crisis or irrelevant (and with the rise in ‘new age’ philosophies, the growing popularity of pre-Christian belief systems are no surprise) even the nature of science itself has come in to question, often seen in fiction as the cause of social ills rather than the cure.
  • Anything goes pick and mix raiding the image bank Eclecticism
  • The future is generally portrayed as a dystopia rather than a utopia; in films such as Bladerunner,...

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