The patients are able to give only vague hints of its construction. It consists of boxes, cranks, levers, wheels, buttons, wires, batteries, and the like. Patients endeavor to discover the construction of the apparatus by means of their technical knowledge, and it appears that with the progressive popularization of the sciences, all the forces known to technology are utilized to explain the functioning of the apparatus. All the discoveries of mankind, however, are regarded as inadequate to explain the marvelous powers of this machine, by which the patients feel themselves persecuted. The main effects of the influencing machine are the following: It makes the patient see pictures.
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It took me some 20 years of writing about the media to coalesce a view coherent enough to call my own. The fact that I chose a comic-book format to present that view might seem a little peculiar to those who know me from the radio. After all, radio is the medium without pictures. Voices are very personal. Another reason for using comics: The world is full of media books with competing predictions of cyber-utopia or annihilating chaos. I steer between those shoals, and sometimes bump up against both of them.
I want those moments to stick with the reader. Pictures, especially the sly, evocative pictures drawn here by Josh Neufeld, are sticky. The first excerpt, called "Objectivity," challenges two common assumptions about objectivity: that it is essential to good journalism and that it is real. It is neither. The second excerpt is a cautionary tale about numbers. There are quite a few such tales in the book about how humans are wired to absorb information that confirms their worldview, and to repel information that disputes it.
The quality of that information is immaterial. The point of the book is that the media are not the "influencing machine" of popular imagination, but rathera mirror. Coming Thursday: The Goldilocks Number —why the same figure pops up in media reports about pedophiles, murders, snakebites, car accidents, malaria, and everything else.
The Influencing Machine
It took me some 20 years of writing about the media to coalesce a view coherent enough to call my own. The fact that I chose a comic-book format to present that view might seem a little peculiar to those who know me from the radio. After all, radio is the medium without pictures. Voices are very personal.
Over here, Brooke Gladstone is an unknown quantity. But in liberal America, where she presents a public radio show called On the Media , she is something of a star: Kirsty Wark with extra frizz. Alas, this does it no justice at all. Gladstone would rather nudge than shout, drop hints than scrawl bullet points on a whiteboard.
The Influencing Machine by Brooke Gladstone and Josh Neufeld – review