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. [â€¦] Typically, these events are organized outside of the media [â€¦] the media only provide a channel for their transmission. By â€˜outsideâ€™ we mean both that the events take place outside the studio [â€¦] 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.