Social Role of Entertainment
TU Anthropologists published a new book on why Americans lose themselves online and in other forms of play. Professor Peter Stromberg’s study, Caught in Play: How Entertainment Works on You, will be published in early 2009 by Stanford University Press.
Caught in Play reveals that though we engage stories, games, and images for fun, it does not follow that entertainment is trivial in its effect on our lives.
Most of us have, at some point, become so immersed in a book or game or movie that the activity temporarily assumes a profound significance and the importance of the outside world begins to fade. Yet although we are likely to enjoy these experiences in the realm of entertainment, we rarely stop and think about what effect they might be having on us. In fact, precisely because it is so pervasive, entertainment is difficult to understand and even to talk about.
For all that has been written on individual pop icons and sitcoms and the liberating or oppressive power of popular culture, basic questions remain unanswered. What do we know about the overall effect of living in a society in which entertainment is so central? What do we know about how entertainment affects society and the people who participate in it?
To understand the social role of entertainment, Caught in Play looks closely at how we engage entertainment and at the ideas and practices it works to create and sustain. Though we engage entertainment for fun, it does not follow that it is trivial in its effect on our lives. As this work reveals, in the contemporary world, entertainment generates commitments to values we are not always willing to acknowledge: values of pleasure, self-indulgence and consumption.