We have no answer yet as of whether the digital revolution will transform humans for good or bad
Will the digital transformation liberate humanity or tether us with virtual chains? Do communicative technologies fire our imaginations or dull our senses? Do social media nurture community or intensify our isolation, expand our intellectual faculties or wither our capacity for reflection, make us better citizens or more efficient consumers? Have we become a nation of skimmers, staying in the shallows of incessant stimulation, or are we evolving into expert synthesizers and multitaskers, smarter than ever before?
When I design online ads for American Apparel, I almost always look for an angle that will provoke. Outrage, self-righteousness, and titillation all work equally well. Naturally, the sexy ones are probably those you remember most, but the formula worked for all types of images. Photos of kids dressed up like adults, dogs wearing clothes, ad copy that didn’t make any sense—all high-valence, viral images. If I could generate a reaction, I could propel the ad from being something I had to pay for people to see (by buying ad inventory) to something people would gladly post on the front page of their highly trafficked websites.
But entertainment has the merit not only of being better suited to helping sell goods; it is an effective vehicle for hidden ideological messages. Furthermore, in a system of high and growing inequality, entertainment is the contemporary equivalent of the Roman “games of the circus” that diverts the public from politics and generates a political apathy that is helpful to preservation of the status quo.