“Time becomes, in effect, palpable and visible; the chronotope makes narrative events concrete, makes them take on flesh, cause blood to flow in their veins.” — Bakhtin, DI, p 250
The techniques by which script writers maintain interest in a serial television show all involve producing a spectacular architecture that distributes bodies in space and time. The space is in front of each viewer’s respective television and the time is every broadcast of the relevant show. This seems to be obvious. Clearly, people who make TV shows want people to watch the TV shows. I am suggesting something a little less obvious than, well, the obvious.
JJ Abrams is guest editor of the latest issue of Wired magazine and his editorial is entitled The Magic of Mystery. Think of the ‘mystery’ less as a simple plot device produced by a singular journey of discovery (or not) towards the truth and more as a device, a machine, for producing relations of futurity between diferent orders of time.
Skipping ahead […] lessens the experience. Diminishes the joy. Makes the accomplishment that much duller.
Perhaps that’s why mystery, now more than ever, has special meaning. Because it’s the anomaly, the glaring affirmation that the Age of Immediacy has a meaningful downside. Mystery demands that you stop and considerâ€”or, at the very least, slow down and discover. It’s a challenge to get there yourself, on its terms, not yours.
Besides sounding like a student of Paul Virilio, my interest is that Abrams defines the value of taking the time to be swept up in mystery as a form of challenge ‘on its terms, not yours.’ What he gets grumpy about in the article is the culture of ‘spoilers’ that has emerged in the context of globalised poular culture and the easy communicatability of the internet. Abrams is of course smart enough to realise that this culture of spoilers presents its own challenges. It is not an issue with the loss of challenges, and correlative waning of affect, but the loss of control over the challenges posed by the Abrams magical mystery tour and the capacity to cultivate the affects of interest and excitement in an audience.
Spoilers short circuit the chronotope of the serialised spectacle. Spoilers get people from in front of their televisions to in front of their computers. They get them downloading the latest episode of their favourite TV show and not waiting to be told when to watch it with a bunch of advertisements.
In Deleuzian parlance the chronotope is a type of abstract machine for crystalised time. It gives the incorporeal events of narrative fiction their materiality. It is not a thing, however, nor is it contained in a book; rather, it is a relation actualised in the dynamic of its affective resonance. When the blood pumps it really pumps, people get excited, they are incited to act, to be.
I am very interested in this question of temporality. I need to figure out someway to do some further work on it. I think it is what I really want to do. This is both exciting and terrifying.