cover image MEDIA UNLIMITED: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives

MEDIA UNLIMITED: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives

Todd Gitlin, . . Holt/Metropolitan, $25 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-4898-8

Gitlin, a professor of sociology, culture and journalism at NYU, has examined the media in print for over 25 years—in fiction (The Murder of Albert Einstein), nonfiction (Inside Prime Time, which was hailed as the best book ever written on the TV industry) and a kind of memoir-history (The Sixties). Now, with the spirit of Marshall McLuhan hovering in the background, Gitlin claims that "living with the media is today one of the main things human beings do," and he elaborates on that theme in this wide-angle overview that attempts to tackle seriously "the baffling media totality" "as a central condition of an entire way of life." After an opening salvo of statistics on the "media cavalcade at home" (TVs, CDs, VCRs), he skims over past pop culture: the power of posters and photos was followed by neon dazzle, the rise of radio and a modern-day "electronic efflorescence" of AOL instant messages and wireless devices of the "new nomad." Every angle is here—from Muzak's "soundscape" and T-shirts as "walking billboards" to the "packaged innocence" of Disney and adrenaline action movies. From the late Lance Loud on the once-controversial An American Family (1973) to Jennifer Ringley's webcam "life performance" at, media has escalated to a "nonstop spectacle" in an ever-accelerating "McWorld." Gitlin writes with flair and humor in this valuable, thought-provoking take on how—and why—media has become "central to our civilization." (Mar.)

Forecast:Communications students are certain to grab Gitlin, and Internet marketing, a national author tour and media appearances combined with the author's past track record will prompt many others to look for this one on bookstore shelves.