Into the Postmodern Imaginary: A Critical Investigation
Of Mass Media, Simulations, Self, And Social Interaction
David Ernest Boyns
Advisor: Jonathan H. Turner
Source: DAI, 65, no. 01A (2004): p. 310
Postmodern theories have posed a critical challenge to sociology. Current debates have distinguished between the "modern" and the "postmodern." This work engages the postmodern challenge to sociology, develops a "sociology of postmodernism" and is divided into three substantive sections. The first section reviews the theoretical discussions of the putative transition between the "modern" and the "postmodern." Three modes of modernity are outlined to describe the "modern" as a social project, a movement of cultural aesthetics and a social form characterized by reflexive modernization. Parallel distinctions are made between the "postmodern," "postmodernity," "postmodernism," and the process of "postmodernization."
The second section investigates the key propositions of postmodern theory, namely those concerning the emergence of a culture of simulations dominated by free-floating signifiers. Critical attention is given to Jean Baudrillard's notion of simulations. Postmodern approaches to culture are criticized primarily for their advocacy of the proposition that a mass mediated culture of simulations has initiated a "crisis of representation" that produces "free-floating" unstable, hyperreal cultural objects that have no empirical reference points. Because postmodern theories of culture rely upon the poststructural "demolition" of the semiology of Ferdinand de Saussaure, postmodern theories describe a "collapse of semiotics" under the deconstructive analysis of Jacques Derrida. An alternative tradition of semiotics developed by Charles Sanders Peirce is discussed, as well as the insights it's contemporary advocates Umberto Eco and Mark Gottdiener. The theoretical efficacy of semiotic models of meaning is evaluated with respect to four modes of sociological meaning. Because both semiotic and postmodern analyses are not grounded within sociological processes, and have completely disregarded the longstanding theories of social interaction developed within sociology, their approaches produce a distorted view of contemporary social life.
Finally, the third section engages media studies and communications literature to assess the claims of postmodern theories. One of the concerns of this section is the observation that postmodern theories rely upon the putative effects of a powerful mass mediated hyperreality and its ability to fragment meaning and decenter the self, yet postmodern approaches do little to incorporate insights from the theory and research into the mass media itself.
Descriptor: SOCIOLOGY, THEORY AND METHODS
Accession No: AAI3120581