Michel Montaigne developed the essay as a form of writing that explored mentalities in relation to the world in which he lived (a world that was conjured up for the most part from the books in his library). Mental Radio serves as an ephemeral location for writing that examines documentary studies as it intersects with visual culture and new media – my current research interests. My goal is to record some ideas on the ways in which the essay as a documentary form can be re-imagined in the wake of new information technologies and the visual culture that accompanies these video and Internet-based media.
Mostly, Mental Radio is an afterthought to a video project that I started long ago and never completed. I had planned the project around the idea of mental structures as they play out in the world. In particular, I was quite keen on Emile Coué and his reductive psychology of success embodied in the mantra, “Day by day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.” The slogan itself is ridiculous, but the idea of mental forms exerting power over the world seemed to be resonant with contemporary versions of postmodernism. Of course, Mental Radio itself comes from a book by Upton Sinclair. Great politics, horrible writing. His book involves the use of ESP to change your life from that of a loser to that of a successful manipulator of others. Not so noble.
Possible topics to be explored here: military new media, telepresence, documentary modes of presentation, the history of media and communication, and pedagogical approaches to media and cultural studies. Maybe more.
Dan Leopard is an Associate Professor of Media Studies and Communication at Saint Mary’s College in the San Francisco Bay Area.