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Cleansing the Past, Selling the Future: Disney’s Corporate Exhibits at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair
Unformatted Document Text:  Disney, 24 encoding process: how Disney’s unique entertainment media came to engender a diverse array of both historically and locally contingent discourses that were dispersed within the architectures, textures, and narratives experienced by so many. The cultural and historical significance of Disney’s corporate exhibits at the Fair thus is not only as archetypal symbols of the emergence of the leisure economy as the engine of American popular culture via the marriage of corporate America and the commercial audiovisual media industries. But perhaps, just as important is that, as Anderson notes, we see here the development of a “new type” of immersive entertainment, funded through what amounts to corporate R&D no less, and that is quite intentionally hyped-up with discourses of technological progress and a clean, bright, and wonderfully commodified tomorrow. Lastly, I would like to suggest that we can look at the past events considered in this paper and can perhaps see the same commodification of future gazing and technophile discourse in the “cyberspace,” “virtual reality,” and “information society/revolution” narratives of today’s new technologies. Like Disney himself was able to do almost forty years ago, the master signifiers and gurus of the cultural industries today are adept at creating media experiences that invite people to participate in virtual worlds: illusions that obscure or occlude any messy details of past or present realities. These contemporary high-tech media narratives serve to normalize and build upon the cultural processes that Disney helped to create, based on customized entertainment experiences both discursively and physically enhanced by “new technologies” for the purpose of consuming products, ideas, (interactive, immersive, advanced audiovisual) experiences, and legitimated (hegemonic) identities. This does not mean, of course, that individual and group readings of these new mediated experiences are not highly negotiated. However, Disney and others have offered many guidelines for achieving greater closer, perhaps, for preferred meanings, through highly coordinated and selective processes of signification, particularly in immerse mediated environments catering to, and made possible by, corporate interests.

Authors: Lillie, Jonathan.
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Disney, 24
encoding process: how Disney’s unique entertainment media came to engender a diverse array of both
historically and locally contingent discourses that were dispersed within the architectures, textures, and
narratives experienced by so many. The cultural and historical significance of Disney’s corporate
exhibits at the Fair thus is not only as archetypal symbols of the emergence of the leisure economy as
the engine of American popular culture via the marriage of corporate America and the commercial
audiovisual media industries. But perhaps, just as important is that, as Anderson notes, we see here the
development of a “new type” of immersive entertainment, funded through what amounts to corporate
R&D no less, and that is quite intentionally hyped-up with discourses of technological progress and a
clean, bright, and wonderfully commodified tomorrow.
Lastly, I would like to suggest that we can look at the past events considered in this paper and
can perhaps see the same commodification of future gazing and technophile discourse in the
“cyberspace,” “virtual reality,” and “information society/revolution” narratives of today’s new
technologies. Like Disney himself was able to do almost forty years ago, the master signifiers and gurus
of the cultural industries today are adept at creating media experiences that invite people to participate in
virtual worlds: illusions that obscure or occlude any messy details of past or present realities. These
contemporary high-tech media narratives serve to normalize and build upon the cultural processes that
Disney helped to create, based on customized entertainment experiences both discursively and
physically enhanced by “new technologies” for the purpose of consuming products, ideas, (interactive,
immersive, advanced audiovisual) experiences, and legitimated (hegemonic) identities. This does not
mean, of course, that individual and group readings of these new mediated experiences are not highly
negotiated. However, Disney and others have offered many guidelines for achieving greater closer,
perhaps, for preferred meanings, through highly coordinated and selective processes of signification,
particularly in immerse mediated environments catering to, and made possible by, corporate interests.


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