Swift Viewing: The Popular Life of Subliminal Influence

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Duke University Press, Jan 2, 2012 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 307 pages
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Since the late 1950s, the idea that hidden, imperceptible messages could influence mass behavior has been debated, feared, and ridiculed. In Swift Viewing, Charles R. Acland reveals the secret story of subliminal influence, showing how an obscure concept from experimental psychology became a mainstream belief about our vulnerability to manipulation in an age of media clutter. He chronicles the enduring popularity of the dubious claims about subliminal influence, tracking their migration from nineteenth-century hypnotism to twentieth-century front-page news. His expansive history of popular concern about subliminal messages shows how the notion of “hidden persuaders” became a vernacular media critique, one reflecting anxiety about a rapidly expanding media environment. Through a deep archive of eclectic examples, including educational technology in the American classroom, mind-control tropes in science fiction, Marshall McLuhan’s media theories, and sensational claims in the late 1950s about subliminal advertising, Acland establishes the subliminal as both a product of and a balm for information overload.
 

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Contents

Black Magic on Mars
1
Subliminal Communication as Vernacular Media Critique
13
Mind Media and Remote Control
43
The Swift View
65
MindProbing Admen
91
Crossing the Popular Threshold
111
The Hidden and the Overload
133
From Mass Brainwashing to Rapid Mass Learning
165
Textual Strategies for Media Saturation
193
Critical Reasoning in a Cluttered Age
227
Notes
239
Bibliography
267
Index
291
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About the author (2012)

Charles R. Acland is Professor and Communication Studies Research Chair at Concordia University, Montreal. He is the author of Screen Traffic: Movies, Multiplexes, and Global Culture and co-editor of Useful Cinema, both also published by Duke University Press.

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