Media Events and Senses of Occasion

Below is my abstract submitted for the CSAA 2012 conference. I am speaking at the Pre-Fix event, too. It will be good to catch up with everyone! This is a bit of a fun paper for me as I want to have a breather from thinking about ‘enthusiasm’ and so on. It builds on some work that has been simmering away in the background, originally based on the paper I wrote in Sweden in 2004.

Media Events and Senses of Occasion

Is Daniel Dayan and Elihu Katz’s concept of the ‘media event’ still relevant in the post-broadcast era? Dayan and Katz demonstrated the ways in which specific kinds of media events enabled the audience to participate in ‘history’. The proliferation of ‘new media’ platforms and emergence of a ‘post-broadcast’ media ecology presents a challenge to this concept of the ‘media event’.
How to research post-broadcast media events? Dayan and Katz used a certain conception of the social premised on a ‘neo-Durkheimian spirit’ of ‘mechanical solidarity’ to explain the ‘yearning for unity’ they documented in participatory audiences. Post-broadcast media events lend themselves to a different ‘Tardean’ conception of sociality, assembled through post-broadcast relations of online and offline behaviour, and characterised by what Brian Massumi describes as ‘becoming-together’.
Dayan and Katz emphasise that televisual broadcast media event have a certain ‘sense of occasion’ as ‘high holidays of television’. Katz in part derived the notion of ‘occasion’ and ‘non-occasion’ from anthropologist James Faris who studied the lexicon of social events of a small fishing community. Faris investigated the way these social events were occasions of “sanctioned license, a legitimization of behaviour and action normally considered ‘sin’”.
What counts as an ‘occasion’ for media events in the contemporary post-broadcast era? This paper shall speculate that rather than sanctioned deviance, complex temporal relations between expectation and anticipation affectively prime participants for the ‘happening’ of an event. The ‘felt tendency’ towards the future (or past) implicates participants in the incorporeal and topological materialism of the ‘sense’ event of the ‘media’ event.

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