12/6: The Importance Of Routines

Today, I chose to go wildly off the track and read a selection from "Media, Meaning And Everyday Life" by Joke Hermes. Like many scholars I love, Hermes opened her piece with an analysis of the classics, scrutinizing Stuart Hall's ideology against the widespread "paradigm that was organized around texts producing subjectivities" (557). Hermes believes that the viewers and observers in media interact far more complicatedly than even Hall could have guessed, finally writing that "how and why everyday media use becomes meaningful needs to be carefully thought through" (557). However, this is not the part of the piece that grabbed me.

Far into the body, Hermes finally brings up the idea of incorporating the routine into how media consumption is studied. Coming home every day to the same TV show and the same newspaper articles "can be reassuring, a guarantee one's viewing or reading pleasures will not be interfered with or uprooted" (558). And that makes sense, because no matter what happens out there, Alex Trebek always flashes on at 7 PM PST to lead us through a series of answers. In watching that media, one woman surveyed for the piece noted that "you are reminded of all sorts of things that you knew already but kind of had forgotten" (559). I can see the comfort, but more worrying is another turn of phrase: "life is largely organized around routines that do not allow for elaborate self-reflection" (559).

What does it mean that members of society prioritize momentum over self-reflection so much? Perhaps we can finally conclude that all media is indeed the Opiate of the Masses, but that's too easy for me (and far too simple for Hermes.) Instead, I tend to think that the best way to deal with life (which is itself "a mixture of being much the same from year to year and sudden, radical changes") is sometimes to choose the pure escapism, the empty media used not as drug but as background music (563). And in the foreground, while life continues to happen, we can continue to knowingly ignore the "contradictions no one in an everyday context feels are necessary to sort out" (563).