Last Wednesday, rock journalist Chuck Klosterman lectured on the media’s influence on how we, as individuals, perceive reality. The topic itself was broad, so even Klosterman had trouble getting to his point. Still, Klosterman has proven himself to be a powerful commentator on popular culture, and his point was probably all the more poignant in its ambiguity.
No one knows how media (especially new media) is affecting our reality. Film and television are assailing us with information at 24 frames per second. Computer multimedia and video games are even faster. Our brains struggle to store, much less interpret, this massive amount of information.
When Klosterman was in high school, he had six cassette tapes of music that amounted to roughly 70 songs. Looking at my iTunes library, I have 5000 songs just on this computer. Klosterman struggled to interpret half of his music library. I’ll be lucky if I fully interpret 1 percent of mine. Right now, I’m telling myself I can generalize — I don’t need to know every detail of every song. But I’m struck by the fact that I hardly know anything about my music other than that I like the sound.
I wanted Klosterman to make me feel better, to tell me good music was still good music. I took down a poster for his lecture and got in line to have it signed. I’m going to ask him if he likes a band called The National. If he does, somehow I won’t be bothered. The media can keep using me as it pleases.
He signs my paper, and I don’t ask anything. The man just spent the last hour telling me the media has the wrong idea. People like Britney Spears are different in person compared to on television. Even Klosterman is putting on a show. Why would I ever want to ask him if he likes The National?
Chuck Klosterman, I have been thoroughly impressed.