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BY-NC-ND 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access December 31, 2018

Beyond Emotion: Empathy, Social Contagion and Cultural Literacy

  • Robert Crawshaw EMAIL logo
From the journal Open Cultural Studies


This paper reviews the implications for research in cultural literacy of the current hypothesis that revolutionary advances in communication technology are inseparable from an over-reliance on emotion, both in the representation of global disaster and human suffering and as a means of manipulating public behaviour in the political and commercial spheres. It explores the view that feeling has become a simulacrum or form of “hyperreality” whose “contagion” through targeted exploitation is an obstacle to deeper understanding of social processes. It summarises the challenges which this presents for research into the nature of cultural literacy by critically considering three current paradigms: affect theory, clinical psychology including neuroscience, and memetics with due regard for recent attempts to model social behaviour through computer-based simulation. Its conclusions are that historical comparisons between past and present of the processes whereby cultural artefacts mediate emotion, combined with highly contextualised empirical fieldwork into their contemporary impact, should be key foci of critical research into cultural literacy, using the full range of technological instruments available.


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Received: 2018-04-28
Accepted: 2018-11-07
Published Online: 2018-12-31
Published in Print: 2018-12-01

© by Robert Crawshaw, published by De Gruyter

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License.

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