Umberto Eco on mass media, “discordant interpretations” and TV advertising

“The mass communication universe is full of these discordant interpretations; I would say that variability of interpretation is the constant law of mass communications. The messages set out from the Source and arrive in distinct sociological situations, where different codes operate. For a Milanese bank clerk a TV ad for a refrigerator represents a stimulus to buy, but for an unemployed peasant in Calabria the same image means the confirmation of a world of prosperity that doesn’t belong to him and that he must conquer. This is why I believe TV advertising in depressed countries functions as a revolutionary message.”

Bonus: Sukarno shores up the point

“The motion picture industry has provided a window on the world, and the colonized nations have looked through that window and have seen the things of which they have been deprived. It is perhaps not generally realized that a refrigerator can be a revolutionary symbol—to a people who have no refrigerators. A motor car owned by a worker in one country can be a symbol of revolt to a people deprived of even the necessities of life . . . [Hollywood] helped to build up the sense of deprivation of man’s birthright, and that sense of deprivation has played a large part in the national revolutions of postwar Asia.”

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