The Evental Potential of Blogs

I am tempted to submit something to the Australian blogtalk event (found via Mel Gregg’s blog). Hmm, blogging isn’t my intellectual thing, but it could be fun to go to see what’s going on. I have had an idea rolling around in my head for a while. Blogging really came to my attention during the recent US presidential election coverage on CNN. The role of blogs and bloggers in the election was one of the positive things to come out of this otherwise dire and totally fucked-up historical episode.

Blogs served a number of roles in the election. They were used by presidential candidates as mechanisms for fundraising and as a form of communication with the electorate and supporters. They were used by supporters of particular candidates or parties in an unofficial capacity. They were also used by political and media commentators in what has been described as a “fact-checking” capacity for claims and stories produced by the traditional broadcast media. What seems to be confused is the exact nature of the impact of blogs and bloggers on the election.

My response is that the impact of blogs and bloggers on the outcome of the election is only indirect. However, bloggers apparently did play a role in the media-event of the election. I am using Daniel Dayan and Elihu Katz notion of a media-event:

“The most obvious difference between a broadcast television media event and formulas or genres of broadcasting is that they are, by definition, not routine. In fact, they are interruptions of routine; they intervene in the normal flow of broadcasting and our lives. […] Typically, these events are organized outside of the media […] the media only provide a channel for their transmission. By ‘outside’ we mean both that the events take place outside the studio […] and that the event is not usually initiated by the broadcasting organizations.” (5)

Having an impact on the election and having an impact on the media-event of the election are two separate things. Dayan and Katz separate a historical event and media reportage on such an event which constitutes a media-event. Official blogs and other forms of online presence certainly affected the nature of the election as a historical event. A good example here is the way Kerry managed to raise funds from many ‘little’ online donations compared to a few ‘large’ corporate donations. Unofficial, non-institutionalised blogs of the masses did not make an impact on the historical event.

The plane of immanence of the presidential media-event remained Old Media, that is, bloggers and other unofficial online sources are not yet journalists in that they do not yet have the capacity to produce what most people would recognise as ‘news’. The principle of recognition is very important. Information may have ‘newsworthiness’ and fulfill the necessary conditions (of ‘truth’, for example) for it to be classified as news, however, missing is the recognition of the newsworthiness of blogged information by an immanently constituted mass public. Recognition is something bestowed by the ‘public’ as the multititudinal audience of the media and is inherently technological. The technological relation between news and public is constituted in part by technologies of habit, and television still holds this card. The institutional nature of Old Media bestows a legitimacy upon their practices of knowledge production.

Inter-media network relations mean that bloggers do have an impact on the consitution and modulation of the media-event of the election. What bloggers did is equally important as the role of Old Media. Bloggers have the capacity to modulate the event’s becoming. What we would see from the traditional media is reportage on the event that enables and frames discussion. Arguably what is produced by bloggers is discussion that enables and frames the event. A simple example of this is the way blogger’s disrupted the narrative consitution of the event produced by the traditional broadcast media in the story about Kerry and the swiftboat vetrans.

The media outlets that constitute ‘Old Media’ remain in collective control on the initial construction of the media-event and for blogging to take over this role seems to be some time away. In fact, I don’t think blogging will ever replace Old Media as the institutional centre of news production. However, blogging does have the potential, as indicated by their role in the presidential election, to operate as a collective apparatus of capture that operates in an antagonistic relation to institutionalised New and Old Media forms.

Important to note is that other than traditional understandings of the production of imformation institutionally tempered as ‘news’ is the potential for blogging practice to capture ‘sense’ from the excess of meaning produced within the never ending series of historical events that, according to Marc Auge, define our era as Supermodern. Auge defines the Supermodern in terms of excess produced by the paradoxiacal contraction and expansion of space and the acceleration of historical time. Auge argues that the historical event produces an excess of meaning itself, but when coupled with the acceleration or excess of historical events, the cultural landscape is saturated in a double excess of meaning. The US elections are a good example of this excess of meaning where every action and speech made by candidates has the potential for newsworthiness.

The distributed networks of blogging allows for a multiplicity of partial accounts that attempt to ‘make’ sense of this excess of meaning that does not rely on the centralised institutions of the Old Media. Sense is captured collectively across a number of producers and the relation between which is determined by the extent of self-organising networks. Foucault has discussed the way sense is captured in discourse and discursive practice produces knowledge inherently involves relations of power. The distributed networks of New Media and blogging in particular have the potential to dislocate the institutional centrality of discursive practice. For this to occur bloggers will have to remain being creative in their reading habits and relations of sociality. If the network sociality produced by blogs was to coagulate to such an extent around too few core blogs or sites then the anti-institutional potential for blogs would evaporate.

7 replies on “The Evental Potential of Blogs”

  1. There’s a wonderful moment in Deleuze’s “Mediators” essay where he talks about Riemannian space as infinite combinations of neighborhoods linked in infinite ways – and cinema as aural and visual neighborhoods linked by hapticity (and in his schema during the essay, we can assume time, movement, velocity to be functions of the Haptic sphere.)

    I wonder whether… actually fuck ‘wonder’… I hereby suggest, with some determination, that blogs act as Riemannian spaces, using Deleuze’s model, even if it is a little ersatz (it was meant to be – it was just an illustration of the combinatory possibilities of science, art, philosophy.)

    They interconnect, and their strength (Mathematics for Riemann, politics for us) is in their multiplicity, reproducability, and their neighborhood-ness. (think of rubik’s cubes, or ingredients in food preparation.)

    I think understanding this is key; to say that the blogosphere can do a particular thing – politicise a people, for example – is the same as using Riemann’s spaces to create answers for mathematics.

    A sort of “Quantumodernity.”

    (Well, Marc Auge stole ‘Supermodernity’, which I thought was my best idea when I was in 2nd year, so I had to go the trump.)

    To diagnose the multitude as cancerous, excessive is really important, but to realise that cancers are enourmously, even radically efficient forms of life, is another.

    “The distributed networks of New Media and blogging in particular have the potential to dislocate the institutional centrality of discursive practice.”

    I think that potential isn’t just about user practice; I think if millions more people become bloggers, but everybody uses the same technology base (LJ, Blogger, etc) even if that means they are as benign as RSS feeds, then we create the conditions for simple way to navigate *all* blogs. Which perhaps isn’t how neighborhoods really work.

  2. ..and yes, I’m working on a response to your comments last week, but I’m still trying to consider how I feel about time and multiplicity.

    I don’t think I’ve ever been challenged to respond to such an extent by a blog comment before… *head breaks open*

  3. lol!

    *gives spoon to put mind back in to broken head*

    Sweet! Never had someone break their head over what I have written before. Or maybe they have, but they haven’t been able to talk about the experience.

    I agree with your point about the interconnectivity of blogs (and the relatively new dislocated forms of media production, here I include video camera stuff, like Rodney King beating and the recent Critical Mass arrests in NYC talked about on the Devil’s Laundromat blog linked from your blog). I have the feeling though that such voice-for-all end goal may be, in the end, too utopian? Do you think it can be a reality?

    The second bit of my blog post was almost an after thought! I think it is very important that one of the effects of the immediacy of blogs and the above point about interconnectivity, but interconnectivity reduced to just the connections with Old Media, means that a news story does not merely ‘break’ anymore. Now, news is dashed against a thousand bloggers and has the potential to actually *shatter* (or at least the illusion of shattering).

    The temporal series of a news story/event can be modulated within the knowledge production apparatus of the news media as a little feedback loop is setup between part of the one-to-many of mass media transmission, so a one-to-a-few-of-the-many. The little feedback loop has incredible *speed*, here I mean *speed* specifically in the sense of the speed of thought and of force precipitated by a ‘war machine’.

    Instead of the event forming ‘naturally’ it is ‘prematurely’ modulated (‘premature’ and ‘natural’ in the temporal series of Old Media). The rest-of-the-many will probably not really care why the event has modulated (why the swiftboat story was pulled), which means that the bloggers exist on the media production side of of the media-event and not on the mass consumption side. The danger of syndicated, sponsored blogs and other heavily commodified forms of New Media is that they will become ‘official’ segments of (murdoch-owned) Old Media.

  4. Righty-o.

    Christian, I have just read what you wrote on your blog. Kind words! However, it has made me think *seriously* about submitting something for the blogtalk event. Although I think it will be a bit daunting as I will necessarily feel like an academic interloper. I am so not hip to the media studies beat… I have actually had some harsh things to say about media studies in the past… eeek! Well not super harsh things, but I get really pissed off by the implicit Platonicism of theses regarding ‘mediation’ such as Bulter and Grusin thesis of remediation… fuck I hate that shit, which is why I speak of the ‘event’ all the time, because a sense of the event is almost impossible to capture using their way of doing things… but I hope that doesn’t come back to haunt me one day!!

  5. (working on a bigger comment)

    … I should have written more clearly.. I am seriously skeptical about the utopian potential of blogs… in fact, I’d classify my attitude as ‘playa hater’.

  6. That’s excellent that you hate media studies, though! I do a spot of mediation with Grusin in my thesis (my supervisor’s a big fan), and I’ve never felt really comfortable with it. Now I’ve read Deleuze’s “Mediators” about 20 times in a week, and I know where the discomfort comes from. Still worth mapping, though.

    In turn, I’m coming down fairly hard on all this focussing on ‘event’, although my articulation of that feeling aren’t cooked yet.

    Calling the News a shattered event is a stone-cold killer, I love it.

    At the end of my post, I said something which may have been construed as utopian: “then we create the conditions for simple way to navigate *all* blogs.” It wasn’t… that everybody becomes compatible is almost certain to lead to (or fully realise) the corporitisation of the blogging media.

    Maybe a few beers at BlogTalk and a willingness to fight amongst ourselves will do us both some good?

  7. Hi Glen and Christian,

    Fantastic stuff, I think that you both could have a shedload to offer the conference and I’d encourage both of you to submit abstracts, this is going to be a very eclectic crowd talking about some fairly shared interests from differnet angles and I think that your thoughts would really add to the mix.

    If you’ve got any qs please don’t hesitate to get in touch james [at] incsub [dot[ org or post them on the blog.

    Cheers, James Farmer

    (BD Organiser)

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