Crowds are going to be the ‘in’ academic topic for 2006 and beyond, that’s my tip! See what I mean here and scroll down to the event at Goldsmith’s College on Tarde. Eric Alliez has a paper available for download. A comment on Ted’s blog where I allude to the political economy of affect-capture/spectatorship and crowds has got me thinking about it again. I had begun thinking about the concept of the ‘crowd’ in relation to automobile traffic, which is kind of an obvious direction in which to head, and my principle supervisor Zoe said I might want to start reading Gabriel de Tarde. However, beyond traffic I realised their were greater applications in relation to media and subcultural studies.
A subculture is not a thing, but the cultural detritus organised around the affective dimension of a particular assemblage of molecular elements selected, territorialised, arranged and enveloped. The inflexion from the parent culture is not because of the meanings invested into particular objects (ala semiotic reading of ‘style’), but that these objects are territorialised through a modifying variation facilitated through a change in context or application. Think of the classic Punk example of the safety pin or in the case of modified-car culture there is the panel van transformed from workhorse to fuck truck through the addition of a mattress. A different territorialisation to that of ‘common sense’ instigates a becoming-together that occurs on a machinic scale.
An abstract machine may be developed alongside and within an assemblage like a crane on the side of a building site upon which a skyscraper is to be erected. The skyscraper in culture is the discursive ‘model’, ie what is a ‘real’ hot rod or a ‘real’ punk. Debates around these issues serve as the stage upon which the affective dimension of the assemblage is captured and modulated, not because of some ‘essence’ of the meanings involved, the meanings are animated by the pre-verbal (‘viral’) dimension of language that allows a becoming-together.
Enter crowds. If the job of the subcultural industry is to capture and modulate the affects of a particular machinic assemblage by capturing the ‘pre-verbal’ affective dimension of language in text and imagery, then the text becomes a material mediator rather than informational conduit. What Massumi calls ‘event transmission’ (the event of becoming-together). Really it is just a matter of thinking about Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of a collective assemblage of enunciation from the point of view of the culture industry media producers. By this I mean, similar to ‘event management’ industries what is exchanged in capitalist relations in the culture industry is not the text-event, but the spectator-crowd that is its audience.
The concept of the crowd becomes a fascinating way to think about distributed audiences that are collectively individuated by a singular mass-produced text-event. The classic example is the Bible or any other religious text. I am not going to have time to follow this up for my dissertation, but I would love to think about it some more later.