Featuring Stuart Ewen
Stuart Ewen is Distinguished Professor in the Department of Film & Media Studies at Hunter College, and in the Ph.D. Programs in History, Sociology and American Studies at The CUNY Graduate Center. He is generally considered one of the originators of the field of Media Studies, and his writings have continued to shape debates in the field. He is the author of a number of influential books, most notably PR! A Social History of Spin. Read more below.
Presenting “Edward Bernays and the Century of the Selfie”
In 1928, Edward Bernays described the public relations counsel as someone who could bring public opinion in line with the interests and goals of leaders in business and government. The role of the publicist, Bernays believed, was to understand the mental life of the masses and use that understanding to efficiently manage the workings of democracy.
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons… who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”
Essential to Bernays’ vision was the belief that—if shrewdly employed—the modern apparatus of communication, the media of mass impression, could stealthily “influence the attitudes and actions of our fellow citizens.” Central to this faith was the supposition that the media could be managed from the top down in order to shape the terrain of public perception.
In today’s social media environment the physics of communication has changed in fundamental ways. Ordinary people, employing affordable devices connected to the Internet, have become their own publicists, their own media makers, altering the dynamics of American democracy in significant ways, and implicitly challenging many of Bernays’ bedrock assumptions.
In “Edward Bernays and the Century of the Selfie” Stuart Ewen will excavate the panorama of individual self-promotion that permeates the Internet today and explore the extent to which it may, invisibly, continue to bring people’s opinions into cooperation with the goals and interests of those in power.
More About Stuart Ewen
In addition to PR! A Social History of Spin (1996), Stuart Ewen is the author of a number of influential books, including All Consuming Images: The Politics of Style in Contemporary Culture (1987; 1999). The latter provided the foundation for Bill Moyers’ 4-part, Peabody, Emmy, and National Education Association Awards winning PBS series, “The Public Mind.” PR! was a finalist for The Financial Times Global Business Book Award in 1997, and provided the basis for a 4-part BBC Television Series, “The Century of the Self.” Ewen’s other books include Captains of Consciousness: Advertising and the Social Roots of the Consumer Culture (1976) and Channels of Desire: Mass /images and the Shaping of American Consciousness (also with Elizabeth Ewen. 1982; 1992). In the spring of 2001, Basic Books published a twenty-fifth anniversary edition of Captains of Consciousness. His writings appear in French, Italian, Spanish, Finnish, German, Norwegian, Russian, Swedish, Korean and Japanese translation. More here.
About Edward Bernays
Edward Bernays, ‘Father of Public Relations’ And Leader in Opinion Making, Dies at 103, obituary in The New York Times on May 10, 1995.
Offered with …
The Museum of Public Relations and Library resides at Baruch College’s Newman Library Archives and Special Collections. More information on the museum is available here.
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