The User With a Thousand Faces: Campbell's “Monomyth” and Media Usage Practices

The User With a Thousand Faces: Campbell's “Monomyth” and Media Usage Practices

Barbara Cyrek (Jagiellonian University, Poland)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9100-9.ch003


The aim of this chapter is to interpret the relations of a modern media user with the latest technology through the structures described in the “Monomyth” of Hero's Journey depicted by Joseph Campbell. Individual user behaviors are adjusted to phases of mythical hero's path. The author does not judge whether the source of this myth are the expectations and behaviors of users or the ways in which the media function. These considerations are based on the Jan Kreft's concept of the algorithm as an allegory of Demiurge – representing perfection of creativity, organizing and maintaining digital world. The myth of the heroic user, whether it is conscious or not, may play a significant role in modern media management.
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Myths and Mythical Thinking

As Bruce Lincoln noted: “it would be nice to begin with a clear and concise definition of »myth«, but unfortunately that can’t be done” (Lincoln 1999). Considering the fact that there is no consensus on one universal clarification of what myth is, it may be worth starting with approximation of what myth might be.

According to the definitions which do not tend to go into sacred domains, myth may be understood as a way of thinking, thanks to which humanity can explain phenomena and justify social praxes. Myth – to recall only some ways of understanding it – may be perceived as reflecting of the mental structures common to all people (Lévi-Strauss 1979), ideology in narrative form (Lincoln 1999) or a “mode of signification” and metalanguage (Barthes 2013). According to Mircea Eliade, myth may be a “living thing” – speaking only of realities and far from portraying fiction (Virágos 2010). Notwithstanding, to be alive, it must be believed (Emmet & McIntyre 1970). As Gianluca Miscione (2014) states, myth is alive as long as it is useful, as long as it “can give meaning to the diversity of human situations, resolve inevitable contradictions and paradoxes of the human condition, alleviate the fear of uncertainty” (p. 144). The myth is not a source of factual information – it is the effectiveness of myth, that makes it true (Armstrong 2005). And what is significant for myths, is that they are obligatory – as Sophia Heller (2006) states “a culture living in myth has no choice other than to live its myth” (p. 22).

Discussing the role of myth in the pre-modern world, Karen Armstrong (2005) states that mythology was indispensable and “most people realised that myth and reason were complementary” (p. 32). In modern theories, according to Gianni Vattimo (1985), the fundamental is the idea that myth is kind of a “prescientific” knowledge. Thus, modern myths resemble rather stereotypes than religious parables: giving a ready answer, they release from the obligation to investigate, and in relation to their efficiency, they rather not arouse uncertainty as to their veracity. Therefore it is not easy to refute them.

Myths are also present in management, where, according to Monika Kostera (2008), they are more than a language that organizational actors sometimes invoke – they are frame of reference. As Jan Kreft points out, myths refer to intra-organizational management and external image of the organizations. Author asserts that: “myths reconcile what is real with what is conceivable. Mythical thinking also involves faith in the authenticity of myth. Although it is not connected with the necessity to prove that it is true, its truthfulness may be supported in the media, especially as part of marketing activities (self-promotion). Then the myth »creates facts« and defines the perception of the organization and its activities. It becomes a living myth that confirms the content of collective consciousness” (Kreft, 2017, p. 512). Modern myths refer to media organizations: their origins, leaders, managers, but also – as shows researches of Dariusz Jemielniak (2008) – media users. The last ones shall not be described in isolation from the technology they use. While considering the myth of users, one should acknowledge occurrence of a duality of relations between technology and humanity. Relations, in which it seems impossible to determine the starting point.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Narration in Advertising: The way of presenting the world, used in advertising. It does not necessarily have to be expressed in language.

Algorithmic Culture: A culture developed and maintained by algorithms, which organize, classify, and prioritize activities, objects, and people.

Technophobia: A fear of the new technology, which occurs in almost every culture, regardless of its technological advancement, and may be associated with the lack of ethical code developed for new technology.

Brand Loyalty: A consumer behavior pattern based on positive feelings towards the brand and related to the purchase of its products.

Mythical Thinking: A way of thinking according to the myth, whether it is conscious or not, and connected with the state of knowledge about the world.

Monomyth: A structure appearing in many myths and legends that refers to the hero's journey.

Participatory Culture: A culture in which every user has the potential to create and modify content. Its advent is connected with the development of digital technologies.

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