Douglas Kellner on Jean Baudrillard and Marshall McLuhan
Douglas Kellner offers an insightful review of Jean Baudrillard’s media theory, aiming to emphasize the necessity of reconsidering its grounds. Kellner does so by pointing out the main viewpoints that draw it close to McLuhan’s “medium is the message” thesis. The article develops around Baudrillard’s main argument: media effects lie not in their content per se, but in their technological nature – a clear reminiscence of McLuhan’s work. These effects only lead to massification and homogenization of ideas, audiences and overall experience. Moreover, the media create a hyperreality, a simulation of “the real”,eventually erasing the boundaries between “reality” and its representation.
In order to make his own case clear, Kellner presents three main issues in Baudrillard’s theory, all of which are offered counterarguments. The first “subordination” Baudrillard does is to abstract media effects from their content. Kellner hereby proposes a dialectical media theory, featuring cultural interpretation. What Kellner considers a notable flaw in Baudrillard’s theory is the fact that media are not analyzed within a certain context, irrespective of its nature. Second, Kellner opposes Baudrillard’s technological determinism, supporting the idea of media as a synthesis of technology and capital. Thirdly, Kellner draws attention to the “utopia of immediate speech”. What Baudrillard considers genuine communication is , in fact, just as misleading as mediated messages.
Concluding, Kellner states the absolute necessity of approaching media effects within specific economic, political or cultural circumstances: hence, the idea of a dialectical media theory. For this reason, Kellner strongly recommends casting a critical eye on Baudrillard’s implosive theory.
Considering today’s new forms of media and their gradual transformation into mainstream “genre”, could the audiences’ ongoing possibility of creating new content lead to massification of ideas and experience, just as Baudrillard stated in his “requiem” for the media? or should the theory considered obsolete, since content nowadays is crucial in exchanging media significations?