Snakes on a Plane on a Line of Flight

Meaghan Morris had the launch of her book Identity Anecdotes in Sydney last night at Gleebooks. I was working and it was fun serving everyone from the CCR. I was happy to meet Ned Rossiter as I really like his paper on Processual Media Theory. Plus I met a new PhD student now at the CCR from Japan. I was trying to convince him he needed to look at drifting. Anyway…

In today’s lecture for the Technology and Culture seminar I am teaching this semester I discussed the notion of the media event. In writing the lecture over the last couple of days I realised why I never really understood Baudrillard and have not thought that Dayan and Katz’s conception of the media event is that useful. It is because they are neo-Durkeimians! I have been heavily influenced by people who have been heavily influenced by Gabriel Tarde…

For example, McKenzie Wark’s conception of the media event partially derived from the post-Foucaultian work of Virilio. As Alliez notes Foucault attempted to critique Durkheimian conceptions of the social through a microphysics of power.

The other critique of Durkheimian conceptions of the social comes from Deleuze and Guattari’s Tardean notions of the molecular flows of desire…

What I have been working towards is a Tardean conception of the media event! That hit me like a sledgehammer a couple of days ago when I started writing my lecture. My lovely super-bright third year students got Glen in full flight. I call it a transversal media event. I use the Snakes on a Plane pre-release hype as an example of such an event, and importantly as a counter to the sorts of post-9/11 affective politics around fear that Brian Massumi and Australian politician, Carmen Lawrence, have written about. (A more rigorous version of this argument.)

I want to turn into into a paper when I have some time. I have already knocked up 4,000 words of argument for the lecture notes so it shouldn’t be too hard. Maybe it should be for my post-doc…

11 thoughts on “Snakes on a Plane on a Line of Flight”

  1. Ned gets around! He was in Bris for AoIR last week – glad you got to meet! What did MM have to say for herself?

  2. \’Gets around\’! stop it! you\’ll be starting rumours next!

    yeah, it was classic timing as I had just been telling a workmate, \”You know the CCR is my research centre\” etc and also discussing about blogging and what not. My workmate was like, \”Blogging, ewwww! …you\’re such a nerd! ewwww…\” And I was like, \”No, bullshit, I meet heaps of people through blogging.\” this was not the first time we had exchanged views about blogging. So anyway serving some drinks, etc and then Ned rocks up and he was like, \”Hi Glen. I am one of your blog readers. My name is Ned Rossiter.\” Fuckin classic! Anyway Ned\’s media theory stuff is pretty cool it has helped me think through some stuff to do with the interaction across \’platforms\’…

    From memory, and off the top of my head:

    MM replied mostly to Ien Ang\’s lovely book launch.

    Ien started off by talking about the title of the book and how MM set up the \’anecdote\’ as a ploy for starting off a dialogue across lines of alterity. Then she raised an example of one of her own anecdotes and talked about some emails that were exchanged with MM around the mid-1990s. This is around the time of the rise of Pauline Hanson (and the historical context surrounding all this). She talked about how MM gave her some very good and supportive advice. Firstly, move to Marrickville when she (Ien) was to take up her post in Australia at UWS in 1996 as \’Hanson\’ was a long way away from there. Secondly, it was not good enough to simply \’shout down\’ the racist undercurrents and denounce their stupidity. She suggested the broader Left was happy with such denouncements of stupidity because then they didn\’t have to engage with such elements.

    [I suppose I have moved inner-west now too, as something of a refugee from the suburbs, so I can\’t really comment but there is something of a contradiction in that (move to marrickville::dialogue). I suppose \’talking\’ doesn\’t mean \’living with\’.]

    MM followed with an anecdote of her own about a flight across the US once. She talked about how bars in the US are a relatively unique place as they are a space of story telling, and anyone can tell their story. SHe talked about how in a bar in some US airport she was confronted by a massive bloke shouting into his mobile phone with a number of large beer vessels around him. He was shouting, \”Well, at least they don\’t have no faggoty beers!!\” MM said she gave him the most severe sternest cross look she could muster. He turned to her and said something like, \”Well, you didn\’t like that did you little lady!\” Then she talked about how for the next four hours or so she gave him \”motherly advice\” about possible psychoanalytic/cultural/sociological reasons about why he couldn\’t get a girlfriend or something.

    I think that\’s about it.

  3. Ien is right on the money about not just ‘shouting down’ racists etc. And the need to begin understanding the micro-politics of how people form opinions and operate – including racists – so as to be able to intervene. Hence, MMs anecdote.

    Did Ien discuss the whole ‘inner west’ thing much, and how even though her approach is productive and useful many people -like academic etc – are ‘refugees from the suburbs’. This spatial distribution could hinders or limit her approach dramatically. In fact I try to approach politics in the same way but become increasingly alienated from the very groups i woul dlike to interven in, as I become an ‘academic’, speak about politics ‘all the time’, and so on. It could become a real problem with this micro-intervention approach. That is, who are we really going to get to speak to.

    MM gave motherly advice, but it was a position that ironically had political benefits in that situation. Because she was an older woman she had access to speaking to the bloke in a certain way. Others – such as us – would be seen as challenging him and risk violent retribution. How to deal with and allow such movements? What modality of politics and tactics would make MM and Ien’s approach accessible to more people to operate in the way they do?

  4. humour, maybe? i can’t see how it would be possible to dismantle and confront not what people say per se but the social milieu of expectations dissolved in the surface of their bodies that allows what they say to be perfectly ‘reasonable’.

    i faced this in my field work, the reactioinary elements. to tell you the truth I had never really experienced it like that in the car scene before. i think it is because i had only participated at an organised level with groups from different class and ethnic backgrounds. I was quite shocked. That is one of the reasons why I turned to the magazines and the archive, not because the magazines ‘made’ something happen (like some sort of transmission model of media) but because they offered a map of how and when the reactionary elements became interwoven with an enthusiasm. this is what my CSAA paper is about.

    I think Ien’s point about Marrickville was more for her own survival, because of all the anti-Asian sentiment at the time.

  5. Hey Glen,

    The ‘transversal media event’ sounds like an interesting concept. Not sure exactly what it would entail, but on Tarde, I was wondering if you’d looked at Latour’s reading on scaling, spacing and contextualising in ‘Reassembling the Social’? In particular, the sections how to ‘keep the social flat’ might be useful for you.

    There’s a key point here on the standard micro/macro move in sociology, the notion that the social can be determined through a zoom-like dolly shot:

    “Any zoom of any sort that attempts to order matters smoothly like the set of Russian dolls is always the result of a script carefully planned by some stage manager. If you doubt it, then go visit Universal Studios. ‘Ups’ and ‘downs’, ‘local’ and ‘global’ have to be made, they are given. We all know this pretty well, since we have witnessed many cases where relative size has been instantaneously reversed – by strikes, revolutions, coups, crises, innovations, discoveries. Events are not like tidy racks of clothes in a store. S, M, X, XL labels seem rather confusingly distributed; they wane and wax pretty fast; they shrink and enlarge at lightning speed. But we never seem ready to draw the consequences of our daily observations, so obsessed are we by the gesture of ‘placing things into their wider context.'”

  6. oh, after reading lots of ANT and STS stuff to get a grip on what it was on about (and a process I also repeated with Bourdieu’s work), i decided to stay away from ANT for the diss, except for a chapter in _ANT and After_ on ‘event-network theory’. My plan has been to focus on the work on actual car cultures and related domains and tease out specific readings of the work with a very strong if only infrequently acknowledged influence of D&G stuff. It is largely compatible with ANT, but I didn’t want to begin with ANT. In part this was because I had heard a number of ANT papers at conferences and they carried on like preachers. Far too formalistic. They were more about demonstrating knowledge of ANT than they were about actually doing research. This is also one of the reasons why I have decided to not really use the notion of an ‘assemblage’ in my diss and focus more on ‘events’. So I had to begin with the events of the enthusiasm, then the cars and enthusiasts, then the magazines and other social institutions, and them changes between all these levels over time, and the shifts herald by new cultural formations, technologies, etc.

    but that quote above is awesome, and it fits with some of the argument in Deleuze’s The Fold and Logic of Sense and GUattari’s Chaosmosis.

  7. Your intuition regarding Baudrillard is quite correct: he falls into the line of Durkheim – Mauss – Levi-Strauss – Clastres, as does Bataille. Reading Deleuze and Foucault as unproblematically anti-Durkheimian seems a bit wrong. At least it does with Foucault. There’s more similarity between Durkheim and Deleuze than Deleuze is willing to admit – in part because of his Tarde-revival because, well, Tarde was destroyed by Durkheim. I don’t think the ‘microphysics’ is aimed at Durkheim so much as it is aimed at Marx and liberalism generally. Have you seen Richman’s Sacred Revolutions or Pearce’s The Radical Durkheim or Gane’s edited volume, The Radical Sociology of Durkheim and Mauss? Your comments – if we were to extend them somewhat – are correct, I think, regarding the American neo-functionalists headed by Jeffrey Alexender (who edited, as it were, the Cambridge Companion to Durkheim). He also edited a volume, Durkheimian Sociology, which I haven’t looked at yet. I’d like to see more people – at least those in social and political theory – read Durkheim’s Elementary Forms

    (Your link to me in your most recent post is incorrect!)

  8. thanks craig! no, i haven’t read any of the durkheimian work. if i am going to follow this notion up i shall have to, but it’ll require much more time than i have at the moment.

    What similarities are there between Durkheim and Deleuze? 🙂

    and fixed the link!

  9. For one, Mauss and Durkheim are quite interested in the role of the body in the reproduction of society; another is in the non-dialectical, but antagonistic modes of organization (molar/molecular, organic/mechanical); there’s likely something to be said about the war machine/State as well. Deleuze cites Clastres and Dumezil – both Durkheimians – throughout.

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