Faculty Publication- Peter Fallon

Associate Professor of Media Studies Peter K. Fallon’s latest book is titled “Cultural Defiance, Cultural Deviance.” The book is a collection of essays on topics including: communication and communication theory, theology, ethics, social justice and racism.

“What ties it all together, I think, is the theme that we need to pay closer attention to the world we live in, and not to the digitized electronic image of the world,” Fallon said. “That image is constructed on the basis of profit and is entirely imaginary.”

More specifically, the essays cover topics on: the inevitability of the Occupy movement in a global technological culture; whether we should love or fear our technologies; and how the Trayvon Martin case exposed the cold, still-beating heart of racism in America, according to Fallon.

Although a wide variety of subjects, Fallon drew on a common theme.

“The common theme that ties them all together is a concern that we Americans have no idea of the reality of the world as it exists beyond our technologies,” he said.

One of the themes of the book is that “technology is technology.” Technology can be viewed in a positive or negative light, but a lot has to do with what the intentions for that technology are. Yet, Fallon argues that in recent decades our attitude about technology has changed.

“We’ve lost a dispassionate approach to technology, we’ve lost any sense of objective distance, we’ve lost our critical thought about our technologies,” he said. “We’ve become acolytes of a new religion and technology has become our god. In terms of technology, we should all ‘get real.’”

When discussing the subject of anti-technology, Fallon draws on the idea that there are numerous types of technology–not just mobile phones and computers.

“[People] lose sight of the fact that even our words with which we speak, through which we share information, are technologies. They are inventions. They are not ‘natural.’”

However, retouching on the theme that “we should all ‘get real,’” Fallon argues that people don’t need numerous sources of technology to survive day-to-day life. Yet, that’s not to say Fallon is anti-technology himself.

“No one actually needs a smartphone, but we’re so in love with them we accept and then perpetuate the stories advertisers sell us that convince us we do need them.”

When asked why people should read and/or purchase his book, Fallon notes that not every reader will love it, but not every reader will hate it either. For him, the greatest concern is that people read something. According to him, “Literacy is on the decline in the US,” and that “This accounts for the decline in critical thinking skills.”

Should readers chose to read “Cultural Defiance, Cultural Deviance,” Fallon hopes readers will take away this message:

“We build our lives, we build our reality, we build our world. We can choose either to build lives that are closely connected with objective reality thereby allowing us to measure the state of the world and improve it, or we can build lives of entertainment, amusement, and blissful ignorance in virtual realities of our choosing, and let the poor old world take care of itself. I know what my choice is.”

——————————————————————————————————————

Why should people buy your book?

 

How can I answer this question? People should answer it for themselves. Many people will read this book and love it; others will read it and believe they’ve been ripped off for $11.95 ($7.95 for the Kindle edition). My greatest concern is that people read SOMETHING. Literacy is on the decline in the US. This accounts for the decline in critical thinking skills.

 

But the message I hope readers will take away? Simple: we build our lives, we build our reality, we build our world. We can choose either to build lives that are closely connected with objective reality thereby allowing us to measure the state of the world and improve it, or we can build lives of entertainment, amusement, and blissful ignorance in virtual realities of our choosing, and let the poor old world take care of itself.

I know what my choice is.

One more thing I can hardly believe I didn’t mention. As background you should know that my first two books won major awards; the first, “Why the Irish Speak English” (Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2005) won the prestigious Marshall McLuhan Award for Outstanding Book in the Field of Media Ecology for 2007, and my second, “The Metaphysics of Media: Toward an End to Postmodern Cynicism and the Construction of a Virtuous Reality” (Scranton, PA: University of Scranton Press, 2009) won the only-slightly-less-prestigious Lewis Mumford Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Technology for 2010.

 

Google these guys. They’re giants of their fields. To be honored with awards in their names — and $2.25 — gets me a ride on the EL.

1.  Do you use technology in your daily life? What kinds?

 

Well, of course I do. I am in no way “anti-technology.” To be so or even to claim to be so would be idiocy. Lunacy. And a lie. Part of the cultural myth I referred to a second ago says that if you even question the efficacy and desirability and (supposed) advantages of new technologies, that you are a reactionary, a Luddite, you hate progress, and you are “anti-technology.” And that is simply nonsense.

 

People who make such charges are ignorant of the fact that all human behavior is both symbolic, and technological. They lose sight of the fact (if they have ever been at all aware) that even our words with which we speak, through which we share information, are technologies. They are inventions. They are not “natural.” (The human capacity for language is neurological and universal, but languages themselves — speech systems — are invented.) And writing is a technology. The alphabet with its 24-30 characters is a technology that afforded, when it was developed nearly 3,000 years ago, great advantages over other writing systems, like syllabaries, with as many as one or two hundred characters, or ideograms, with thousands of characters. And printing is a technology that allowed for the speedy and widespread distribution of texts over vast areas.

If I have a bias toward or away from one sort of communication technology over another, it is in accordance with how it facilitates or impedes our critical thinking faculties. In order to know more about this, I suggest you take a look at “The Metaphysics of Media.” http://www.amazon.com/Peter-K.-Fallon/e/B001HOY6SU/ref=pd_sim_sbs_b_bl_1

 

1.  With the technologies that you may use, have you limited your use of these devices?

 

The way you phrase that question, Jenn, is an indication of the power of the cultural myth I have referred to several times. We are inclined to think about the choice of one medium — or set of media — over another as a “limitation,” and the person who makes a choice to use one set in preference to another as somehow depriving themselves. And it really isn’t true.

I read a lot. I read on the order of 50-100 books on average each year. During years (like this one) when I’m working on writing another book, that jumps up to about 150-200 books (roughly three/four each week). Reading as much as I do, I don’t have to worry about artificially limiting my use of certain devices which, as it turns out, I probably don’t have anyway. I have no cell phone, “smart” or otherwise. No one actually needs a smart phone, but we’re so in love with them we accept and then perpetuate the stories advertisers sell us that convince us we DO need them. I have no device that provides me with “apps” of any sort. I have no television; I have internet protocol streaming video in my home (see? I’m not really a dinosaur). I choose to watch only what I wish.

Let me emphasize the fact one more time that my choices are in no way a “limitation” of any sort. I live an information-rich life. I’ve never seen “Madmen” or “Game of Thrones.” I’m surviving, happy and contented.

 

Why should people buy your book?

 

How can I answer this question? People should answer it for themselves. Many people will read this book and love it; others will read it and believe they’ve been ripped off for $11.95 ($7.95 for the Kindle edition). My greatest concern is that people read SOMETHING. Literacy is on the decline in the US. This accounts for the decline in critical thinking skills.

 

But the message I hope readers will take away? Simple: we build our lives, we build our reality, we build our world. We can choose either to build lives that are closely connected with objective reality thereby allowing us to measure the state of the world and improve it, or we can build lives of entertainment, amusement, and blissful ignorance in virtual realities of our choosing, and let the poor old world take care of itself.

I know what my choice is.

 

———–

 

1.  What is your book about?

It’s about 150 pages. Seriously, it is a book of essays so it is about many things: communication and communication theory, ethics, theology, racism, social justice. What ties it all together, I think, is the theme that we need to pay closer attention to the world we live in, and NOT to the digitized electronic image of the world. That image is constructed on the basis of profit and is entirely imaginary.

1.  What topics did you cover? Why these topics?

Well, I addressed that question to a certain extent in the previous answer. It is about a number of things: the inevitability of the Occupy movement in a global technological culture; whether we should love or fear our technologies; what one of my teachers, Neil Postman (world-renowned media and social critic who died ten years ago) would think about the internet if he were alive today; how the Trayvon Martin case exposed the cold, still-beating heart of racism in America; why an early-20th century Dublin barrister spent his life collecting books.

1.  Where did your interest in this subject come from?

LOL. Which subject? I am interested in many things as this collection of essays shows. But rather than the specific topic, the common theme that ties them all together, as I said previously, is a concern that we Americans have no idea of the reality of the world as it exists beyond our technologies.

1.  Do you feel that overall technology is a negative aspect of life of the past twenty years, or do you feel that only certain components have a negative affect on daily life?

One of the themes of the book is that technology is technology. While there are technologies that are designed with “negativity” in mind (think firearms or nuclear weapons — what can you achieve with them beyond destruction?), most of us would agree that any communication technology must be fairly benign; it is, after all, designed to help us communicate.

What has changed in recent decades is our attitude about technologies. We’ve lost a dispassionate approach to technology, we’ve lost any sense of objective distance, we’ve lost our critical thought about our technologies. We’ve become acolytes of a new religion and technology has become our god. Think about it: the passing of a billionaire Capitalist whom most people familiar with the details of his life would agree was not actually a very nice person (Steve Jobs) was treated as a major event inspiring national mourning and he has been apotheosized into near sainthood.

We’ve bought into a cultural myth that we can’t function without these “new technologies,” that we’ll never get jobs, and that, ultimately, higher education must be about teaching students how to use them. To reject the use of any number of these technologies is to invite the scorn and ridicule of friends. And we’re constantly reminded that we are part of a “revolution” that, if history shows us anything at all, will result in absolutely no improvement of the human condition.

So, I suppose, my answer is that in terms of technology, we should all “get real.”

 

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