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Marita Sturken

Subject Communication Studies » Visual and Non-verbal Communication

People Baudrillard, Jean

Key-Topics spectacle

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


The term “spectacle” refers to an event or image that is particularly striking in its visual display, to the point of inspiring awe in viewers. In its origins, the concept of spectacle was used to describe something impressive and unusual, which thrilled because it looked like things never seen before or which deployed immense scale to dwarf its spectators. The notion of spectacle was applied to high-culture products such as visually impressive dramas or operatic displays as well as religious ceremonies and folk spectacles. The idea of spectacle is considered today, however, almost entirely within the framework of modern media . It is used primarily for cinematic, photographic, or technologically enhanced images and visual displays (from the spectacle of cinema to a fireworks display, for instance; →  Visual Communication ; Visual Culture ). While the term “spectacle” has often been used to convey the idea of unique and thrilling events, beginning with late twentieth-century theory, the idea of spectacle has come to mean an empty, media-obsessed, image-saturated world that numbs viewers with an onslaught of spectacular images (→  Media Events and Pseudo-Events ; Sensationalism ). The key text that helped to shape this new understanding of the concept of spectacle was Guy Debord's The society of the spectacle (1994 , 1st pub. 1967). Debord was a founding member of the radical ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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