Remnant Considerations

Sorry to cut in on the McLuhan discussion (and thank you, Nicholas, for getting a conversation started so early), so take this as an optional diversion.

In sorting through the notes from our last class I came across a couple of questions that I thought worth pulling along with us as we move from MEDIUM FORM through ECOLOGY (and toward AUDIENCE).

The first relates to VISUALITY. It begins with Benjamin’s conception of “OPTICAL UNCONSCIOUS”. Recall that his claim was that photography exposed movements and dimensions of reality hitherto unknown (that is, not acknowledged by perception). This (purportedly) has the effect of overlooking aspects of reality (or perhaps restricting those aspects to the realm of the unconscious). If this is true, thinking about our image-saturated society of today, do you think this idea still holds? Are there aspects of “reality” that often go undetected; that are not retained or perhaps not processed by the person engaging with the medium?

A second point about VISUALITY is inspired by Ong. As you know, his writing focuses our attention on cultures that are predicated on and evolve consistent with ORALITY or LITERACY. The question is what about VISUALITY? Similar to the oral and written, does IMAGE have (any or the same sort of profound) influence on:

  • consciousness
  • communication
  • interaction
  • social organization
  • action

In this way, might we talk about a “CULTURE OF VISUALITY” the way that we discuss a CULTURE OF ORALITY and CULTURE OF WRITING?

Finally, and part of this latter discussion, if PRIMARY ORALITY fosters personality structures that in certain ways are more communal, externalized and less introspective than those common among literates–in short, if oral communication unites people in groups–and if writing and reading are solitary activities that throw the psyche back on itself–what does VISUALITY do? Is it simply a variation on SECONDARY ORALITY, or is it something else entirely? If the latter, does it pose (psychological, social, structural, behavioral, phenomenological, moral) issues that require a different sort of social theorization than Ong forwarded?

Just a few extra possibilities for you to reason through together.

Odds and Ends: Theorizing “False News”, “Digital Aura”, Ong and Hypertext

Driving home from class last night I was replaying our conversations (as I generally do–I hope you all do, to some degree, too!).

One conversation centered on the Time-Out on “theory-testing” versus “theory-building”. I hope it was clear that the “levels of theorization” (macro, middle-range, micro) are (somehow) related to the selection of intellectual strategy: deductive versus inductive. While these are not fully linked/dependent elements, they are not mutually exclusive either.

Hence, if one is operating inductively–selecting evidence of “false news” (whatever that is) or (working perhaps more productively) collecting any news, then seeking to evaluate which bin (“false”, “truthful”) it belongs in–you may be able to work your way up to a middle range theorization (a “system”, say, or an “institution”, for example, or maybe a socio-cultural “milieu”); whether you can get to a macro (i.e. general, total, uniform) level of explanation is less clear/unlikely, but at least you’ve moved from evidence to some sort of “theorization”.

By the same token, I am skeptical that “fake news” can work top-down as a grand/macro theorization (since, it seems more likely evidence of a larger, but different phenomenon). Stated alternatively, while fake news may facilitate testing of some sort of theory regarding media, that theory would seem to be about something larger than fake news, itself. As such, fake news would be the phenomenon, but the architecture or structural dynamics generating that phenomena would likely be something different. In any case, in a theory-testing approach, fake news might be an aspect of this larger something that you would be focusing on as you sought to confirm or reject the hypothesis you had formulated about that larger thing.

So, bottom line, the study of “fake news” may belong in media theorization, but its actual place in/relationship to media theory is less clear.

One thing that I would encourage you all to do, though, is to keep the topic somewhere near the fore of consciousness as we enter the effects, political economy and audience sections of our reading. It ought to gain in both dimension and relevance, moving forward.

Continue reading

Ideology and Utopia

Dear FMS 040ers,

I wanted to apologize (a bit) for (the disorder of) last night–the technical glitches not only interfered with our rhythm, it also influenced our ability to work through the video examples (i.e. the empirical data that was intended to facilitate our epistemological work–to use terms from last night’s lecture). Hopefully, in subsequent classes we won’t have as much environmental interference, so that we can just roll up our sleeves and get stuff done.

So, as you saw (and heard), last night involved a goodly amount of lecture. Just so that you know, that is not my preferred style; but in this course, some amount of lecture is unavoidable. I will try to find ways around it, but (just a head’s up): on certain opaque or else congested topics, it will be unavoidable.

Apologies there, as well.

Anyway, while we are on the subject of the empirical/epistemological interface, if I might make a suggestion . . . perhaps you might care to think though the evidence provided as a means of better mastering it. For instance:

  • how does the Abbott and Costello routine help us process elements like paradigm, syntagm, convention, code, and system?
  • how do the Ben Carson and Bernie Sanders’ political ads help us understand the 3 elements of semiotics: sign, code, culture?
  • what aspects of those political ads help facilitate understanding of concepts associated with semiotics: sign, signification, denotation, connotation, constraint, motivation?
  • are elements from Plato’s allegory–form, representation, reality–discernible?
  • at a more advanced level, how would the Barthes model of connotation be applied to the political ads?

We will do a bit more work on these aspects in class next week (especially Barthes’ model of first and second order connotation)–so, head’s up there. Please feel free to work through some of these points in this space and/or post questions about this on the Wiki to help facilitate our classroom discussion next Tuesday.

One final dimension before closing . . .

Yesterday we identified a few heuristics that we might carry forth in our theorization of media, including:

  1. Plato’s allegory;
  2. Kuhn’s model of scientific (r)evolution; and
  3. Mannheim’s ideology and utopia.

Removing the third heuristic from the realm of theory, can you see specific instances of this dualism play out in the “real world” of experience?

In effect, rather than focusing on the form (theory, itself) do you see evidence of “ideology” and “utopia” at play in content (actual real world thought and action)?

Extra plus bonus points if you can discern evidence of ideology and utopia in media form or content, itself.

If you have thoughts on any of this, we’d all benefit from hearing them!

What is this (“Post-Hoc”) page for?

As the name implies, “Post-hoc” is where we turn for further discussion about lectures past.

Not clear about what was discussed?
Have a point that there wasn’t time to address?
Want to suggest further readings or make connections to media products that others may wish to sample (as they pertain to our in-class discourse)?

Here is where that can transpire. If we’re lucky, it won’t only be one student speaking in a vacuum; others will choose to weigh in . . . and from that, so much more may follow.