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Communication and «The Good Life»


Edited By Hua Wang

What is a «good life» and how can it be achieved? In this volume, communication scholars and media experts explore these fundamental questions about human existence and aspiration in terms of what a «good life» might look like in a contemporary, mediatized society. While in many ways a mediatized society brings us closer to some version of the «good life», it also leads us away from it. The affordances of new technologies seem to have shifted, for many, from an opportunity to an obligation. Rather than choosing when and where to be connected to these larger networks of information and acquaintances, we feel we must be permanently available, thus losing the luxury of controlling our time and attention.
This volume illuminates the complexity of our modern era, exploring how society can leverage exciting new opportunities whilst recognizing the complex challenges we face in a time of constant change. It helps us understand how we have come to this point and where we may be going so that we may study the opportunities and the dangers, the chances and the risks, that digital media pose in our quest for some version of «the good life».
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The title of this book—Communication and “The Good Life”—was the theme for the International Communication Association’s 64th annual conference, which took place in May of 2014 in Seattle, Washington. According to its website, “ICA is an academic association for scholars interested in the study, teaching and application of all aspects of human and mediated communication.” But what does this have to do with “the good life”?

The notion of “the good life” has been a topic of inquiry, particularly in philosophy, for a very long time—basically, since the very beginnings of the scholarly tradition. What is a good life, how can it be achieved, and what keeps humans (presumably the only species capable of thinking about such a question) from achieving it? These have been some of the most pressing and enduring questions throughout history.

In contrast, communication is a very young discipline, and it has particularly flourished over the past few decades as our ways of communicating and interacting with one another—with or without electronic media—have changed dramatically within a rather short period of time. Many of the technological advancements that we have witnessed in the past 20 years or so were introduced and offered to us with a promise: The promise was simply that these new developments would make our lives better. Of course, it is certainly not novel to correlate happiness with consumerism; the insinuation that...

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