The Evental Potential of Blogs

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. […] Typically, these events are organized outside of the media […] the media only provide a channel for their transmission. By ‘outside’ we mean both that the events take place outside the studio […] 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.

Existential self-loathing? take a look at yourself

Pay TV for me is a bit like smoking dope for those dudes in high school that everyone knew and probably everyone actually was at one stage. Like the way to ascertain if a dope smoking session had been an authentic dope-smoking-session depended on whether or not you solved the problems regarding the Meaning of Life and articulating the MoL proof in the argot of surfie-bogan. Similarly, a few times since being home I have veged out in front of the telly and have found myself thinking very mysterious thoughts… What are mysterious thoughts? Not my regular thoughts… Well regular for someone who reads D&G with his morning cereal as his morning serial. Oh, dear. Speaking about myself. How embarrassment. Yes, I wanna get very self indulgent…

After checking out what was on Cartoon Network, I flicked on through catching a flick that struck me as capturing in a remarkably clear manner one of the problems that has been bugging me for a damn long while. The film is entitled Me Without You and is very, very interesting. Not only because it mentions ‘deconstruction’ in an intelligent way, but it also has some fuckin cool music.

What grabbed my attention where the respective plights of the two main characters. They are friends and it is a ‘toxic relationship’ as the little blue button on my pay TV remote told me in the description of the movie. One, Marina (played by Anna Friel), is scared of being normal, having a family and kid and all that shit. Her mum attempts a suicide via overdose and I got the impression that was how she was going to turn out for most of it. The other, Holly (played by Michelle Williams of “Dawson’s” non-fame), is continually somehow halted from developing a relationship with Marina’s big brother, Nat (Oliver Milburn who looks a lot like this other bloke I know named Myke who now lives in Melbourne!!! WTF! If Mykle ever needed a job he could get one being this guys stunt double or, at least, his stunt cock;). Holly is the “intellectual in the family” as Marina‘s mum describes her and has a big future being a journalist and writing books – she is also the one who delivers the line about ‘deconstruction’ as a critical methodology losing its viscerality or something like that…

The dynamic between Marina’s utter self-loathing (she even wears a t-shirt that says “I Hate Me”) and Holly’s stultified potential are two sides of my very own self. I realised driving home from an indoor soccer match earlier this evening that I really do loathe my own existence. Not in some happy Disneycide way that you find on a brain-numbing evening soap where the pretty young thing hates him or herself compared to some other knob. I don’t hate myself, I quite like who I am and I don’t think I would like to be anyone else. I am not talking about envy masquerading as self-loathing, I mean the real deal. I find my very existence problematic. Here is my list of existential self-loathings:

List deleted. I was scaring myself.

Opposite the self of annihilation, which is really just a tendency and I shall get to that later, is the site of potential, played by Holly in the filmic representation of my self. Yep, Glen doing his PhD, blah blah blah. I just deleted a whole lot of random, boring stuff.

My problem is how to deal with this self-loathing. Should I aspire to have a good job, family and house? Should I aspire to succeed? Should I aspire to fulfill my potential? Which potential? The one where I become the best damn Borg on the planet by efficiently assimilating (at least I’ll have to start going to the gym again), or the one where I am motivated by never ending sense of awe I feel when I witness the utter stupidity of the world.

Surely this is a problem that everyone with a nanogram of critical spirit realises about their own existence living in such a painfully unjust capitalist society where everything is taken for granted. It really does shit me to tears sometimes, but blokey tears so they are silent and I let them run down my face like they aren’t there.

I have been really bugged by this since I got an email through the CSAA list and then read on Melissa Gregg’s blog about a research project for “early career public intellectuals”. I find that term extremely problematic – “career” alongside “public intellectual”? How is this possible in the current era of sportsmen who speak like bankers and once-were-academics who have to whore themselves for an income by fitting into this fuckin system. ‘Career’ is the historical workplace-based process of deterritorialisation by capital. Of course that would never happen, look at all the wonderful examples of ‘public intellectuals’ who are very well placed in their careers we have around us. However, ‘early career’ is problematic as it signals a tendency or aspiration toward an eventual deterritorialisation by capital. It makes my blood turn cold. How can ‘early career’ and ‘public intellectual’ be reconciled so easily without an unacceptable compromise on either side of the divide?

Fuck I dunno…

Capital is eyeballin’ you

Since being back home I have been cranking the pay-tv my folks have. I caught _Dog Soldiers_ this morning, dang, that is a cool movie… Anyway, on the Cartoon Network they have this promotion running at the moment called _Eyeballs 2_. Here is the login page.

Fly Buys points and all the other consumer incentive programs operate as an apparatus of capture for networks/circuits of consumption. That is, they simply do not encourage people to buy something from one shop, they commodify entire chains in the networks of consumption. Capitalists call this ‘synergy’. The clearest example of this in Australia is the relatively recent melding of petrol/service/gas stations with supermarkets/grocery stores. It is recent because it didn’t exist when I worked at a service station up until early 2003. Spend a certain amount ‘here’ and you get money off your fuel bill at the linked servo ‘there’. I think these circuits of consumption are very interesting as commercial interests are not simply investing in your patronage, but they attempt to commodify a massive chunk of your life. Your lifestyle becomes a resource – a resource that is strip-mined for everything your got and don’t got (via credit).

They sucker you in with the only simulacra that exists anymore with any meaning (ooh, the paradox): the ‘bargain’. The logic of the ‘sale’ or the ‘bargain’ motivates consumers to lease out their lifestyles – represented as circuits of consumption – to themselves so commercial interests can accrue rent, i.e. produce surplus value, over a network of consumption rather than a single point transaction. The bargain is a simulacra in one of Baudrillard’s modes (I can’t remember which one??). It is the logic that fools people into believing they are producing value by spending money. Is that retarded or what? Advertising seduction merely prompts consumers to desire something. The recent developments in consumer incentives organises this desire into seemingly self-perpetuating locuses of consumption.

Getting to my point, the model for this is not some fantastic business venture schemed up to rip multi-millionaires off. I argue the model is derived from children’s television programming. At some point in history the story became subsumed to these networks/circuits of consumption. The circuits of consumption were once derived from the fandom generated by a show to become the motivating force behind the show. So now these circuits of consumption organise fandom. Disney has been on the ball for years, it never really made the final step though… There is a dialectical tension between the principle of organisation implicitly promoted by the commercial interests and the organisation of fandom immanent to itself. I talk about this in my thesis with the car dudes and their enthusiasm. Some fandoms/enthusiasms are more autonomous than others. For example, computer game modders probably have more autonomy in terms of im/material production that sustains their fandom than does, say, an eight year old kid playing with his Pokemons.

Perhaps the best example of this is the US re-produced Japanese anime that was known in the US and elsewhere (including Australia) as Robotech. The fellows at Harmony Gold (US re-production house) had the genius to reconstruct three separate anime series from Japan into one massive show. They could do this because all three original series were made or influenced by the artwork of a single Japanese anime artist. Anyway, the deal would only be struck to make (or reproduce) the series as Robotech if they could guarantee sales of merchandising for toy maker Hasbro. The link between the show and the merchandising was intrinsic to the development of the show – the proof is found on the DVDs in the seven Robotech boxsets (I own them all, suckers!). There are a number of voice-overs and interviews that explain the relationship between Harmony Gold and Hasbro was essential to the re-production of Robotech and therefore, I argue, Robotech fandom.

The next stage in this commodifcation of networks of fandom is not modelled on television programming, but major league sports. Pay per view. With media on demand only a few dreamy sleeps away (like christmas!) the congruence of medias will herald the congruence of lifestyles, production and fandom – the biopolitical production of the perfect consumer.

What spawned this post is the now-running incentive program on the Cartoon Network called _Eyeballs 2_. It connects with Johnathan Beller’s argument regarding the ‘cinematic mode of production’ and check out a response to it also. Through what Beller calls the “labour of looking” kiddies collect ‘eyeballs’ and trade them in. The Cartoon Network is doing a massive favour to tomorrow’s business.

The ‘eyeball’ itself is interesting. It is not the ‘eyeballs’ of the kids (or big-kid PhD students) watching cartoons, but the eyeballs of capital. They are multiple and are only defined by their number – deterritorialised multiplicities. The qualitative differences between cartoons don’t matter. What matters is how many ‘eyeballs’ you have. You are defined by your ‘eyeballs’, or, rather, how many ‘eyeballs’ have you. They call it an ‘eyeD’ card.

The recent furore around mpeg music and movies online gains a different importance. It is not only the labour of looking that is being lost – the pay-per-view factor. What is also lost is the ability to manipulate consumers into circuits of consumption. The crucial scripts that determine the organisation of fandom are taken out of the hands of synergised media conglomerates and back in the hands of consumers. It is a bit like when car enthusiasts go street racing, there is no need to go to the drag strip…

Sequel’s paper is cranking

I have been doing some research on the Matrix franchise as it is my prime example of a series of ‘sequels’ that are not so much the the mimetic reproduction of a series of attributes, but a series of repeated differences that make each its own example or simulation. This includes the three movies the Animatrix series and the videogame.

Anyway, I have been reading various fansites, and I found this cracker Q&A.
Whoever wrote this obviously has not read Jean Baudrillards Simulation and Simulacra (which appears in the first film as an ironic ‘false’ copy for Neo to hide his computer disks). This is some of the funniest shit I have ever read, obviously it was written by Dubya’s speech writer:

Q: Why does the Architect talk funny?
A: All the other inhabitants of the Matrix that we’ve met so far (Agents, Seraph, The Oracle, etc) may be programs, but they interact regularly with humans. They need to be able to communicate with normal people on a regular basis, and their programming reflects that in the way they speak. The Architect is a machine that never has to communicate directly with humans, therefore he tends to talk like a machine would when talking with other machines. He uses big words, overly complicated sentences, and purely logical expressions of his message – not exactly the way people talk to each other.

Team America, ‘fuck yeah’ or ‘get fucked’?

US Narcissism: ‘Pimp the World

The real puppets in Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s latest effort are the right and left of politics.

The flick is a comical polemic (or polemical comedy??) that allegedly sticks the boot in to the patriotic neo-cons and F.A.G liberals. Instead it sticks the boot into politics as an institution.

“The right just likes to think the left is stupid and the left just likes to think the right is evil. [laughs]”
– Trey Parker http://movieweb.com/news/news.php?id=5406

Something of a narcissistic take on what it is to be an ‘American’ (rather, US citizen, for those north and south non-US Americans), Trey and Matt seem to have decided that it is more funny to poke fun at the current situation, as Trey says, “where everyone hates us [the US]” than really asking, why does everyone hate the US? Maybe the film makers do not even realise the utter narcissism of their own film. When asked “What should people take away from watching it?” Matt says, “I want people to take away the strees of making it.” (Comments found in the ‘Meaning’ video here: http://www.cinema.com/article/item.phtml?ID=3058>)

The world is seen as a terrain of pussies and assholes that the global dick of the US goes around fucking and fucking up. I really wonder how much ‘quality time’ the duo have spent in any other country? The utterly US-centric world view indicates less about the state of the world and the role of the US in it, than it does about the sorry state of politics in the US. It is shocking that in the most powerful nation citizens are not forced to vote, and therefore not forced to engage in a meaningful way with US politics.

The rhetoric coming out the US at the moment seems like they want everyone to be ‘free’ and without ‘terror’, but to me it all seems like they don’t just want to ‘Pimp my ride’, but ‘Pimp the World’. Who would be the pimps that set up all the pussies and assholes for the US-penis to fuck? Trey and Matt!! With their comedic-penis that hunts for every popular culture nook and political cranny to stick it in and fuck up. Good work guys, you bunch of fuckers.

I understand the film as evidence of the US nation’s Hollywood complex, you know, the stories about whinging, bitching actors who think they are ‘special’ and ‘important’. Just because the US is the most powerful nation in the world does not mean it is the ‘best’ or ‘special’ nation. Stone and Parker attack the actors of the hypocritical Hollywood left (which is understandable!), but they fail to realise (maybe?) they have set up the US to have all the qualities of the arrogant, stupid, self-consumed, and stereotypical Hollywood ‘star’ of the global stage. What is absent from all the debates about the US in any discussion I have read is discussion about the complete absence of US humility. What the fuck has happened to that?

The terror attacks in 9/11 on the WTC were taken to be shock to the US nation. Some of the rhetoric I have heard is that it is like Pearl Harbour, where a slumbering giant awakes and really (to use the rhetoric of Team America) ‘fucks all the pussies and assholes in the world’.

What the terror attacks in 9/11 should have done is make the US more humble, not in the face of the power of terrorists, but in the face of its own power. Instead it did the opposite.

Three years later, now we have a couple of clowns who think this utter lack of humility is funny. It is not funny. Now we live in a global situation where the US has forgotten its own power, not because it is not aware of it, but because it has become totally subsumed by it. Now we live in a world where the future, for some, is terrifying and horrible.

It is not without some irony that politico-puppetry and puppet politicality of Team America got hammer(head)ed by the vacuous Shark’s Tale at the box office and the high school football drama Friday Night Lights kicked Team America down to third place on the box office rankings. It speaks volumes about the priorities of ‘Americans’: politics comes after entertainment. Why? Because they are ‘Team America’ and such dicks don’t have to worry about politics, just fucking things up.

For box office figures:
http://www.cnn.com/2004/SHOWBIZ/Movies/10/17/box.office.reut/index.html

On the pussy, dick, and asshole rhetoric of Team America:

“There are three kinds of people in this world,” Johnston says. “Dicks, assholes and pussies. We’re dicks, and the rest of the world are pussies. But sometimes an asshole comes along and wants to shit all over everyone, and the only kind of person who can fuck an asshole is a dick, because pussies are just an inch away from being assholes themselves.” (Diplomatically, Johnston concedes, “Sometimes dicks fuck assholes at inappropriate times, and they need pussies to guide them in the right direction.”)
– from: http://www.corporatemofo.com/stories/041015teamamerica.htm