Blogtalk Paper Redux

Came across this blog that mentions my Blogtalk paper The Evental Potential of Blogs (the way it was written on the Blogtalk website and conference program as ‘Eventual Potential’ was wrong and so was my name, ‘one-n’ Glen, not ‘two-n’ Glenn! These minor errors have been rectified it seems, but the page is really slow to load for some reason!!). ANyway, the blog is owned by Dr Gary Sauer-Thompson who has an institutional home at the Philosophy Dept. at Flinder’s Uni. I welcome the engagement, but I think Gary has missed one of my key points. It is a good question because if I ever write the paper into a proper journal article I will be able to address his qualm directly.

One of the problems with my paper is that I tried to come up with a sufficient conception of media events that could account for blogs using what I would consider to be ‘first principles’ of any event-based work Deleuze’s The Logic of Sense. If I had read Mckenzie Wark’s book on global media events, then I would’ve had another level of differentiation with which to compare Dayan and Katz’s book on Media Events rather than trying to explain highly complex Deleuzian philosophy to a bunch of non-Deleuzians!! Suffer the little autodidacts indeed…

Dayan and Katz’s work sits on one end of a continuum with an explicit historical teleology at play in their conception of media events. Media events as the ‘real-time’ reporting of history. ‘History’, that is, events that exist on a properly ‘historical scale’, becomes represented and synthesised as the simulation-like media event.

Wark’s book, on the other hand, takes a properly poststructuralist angle on ‘history’ and ‘media events’. HIs is a second generation mass media studies and properly postmodern work on media events. Instead of ‘history’ being determined by sedimented symbolic structures of power and having ‘media events’ simply produce a double of this ‘history’ in the media, Wark’s conception of media events is principally concerned with the newsworthy efficacy of the event. The complicating factor in this is that the newsworthiness can be self-perpetuating and self-emergent (there is an ‘internal’ feedback loop). There is no ‘history’ beating down upon a media milieu and forcing the media to pay attention. Attention itself is freed from the symbolic and historical links that once anchored it. I would call this sort of attention ‘enthusiasm’.

What blogging does is have the POTENTIAL to exist within the MEDIA EVENT, what I tried to capture in the title as the EVENTAL POTENTIAL of Blogging. So you can see where having the wrong title for my paper may drastically change things…

Gary’s reading of my paper suffers from not fully appreciating what I meant by ‘potential’. I certainly did not say that all political events are determined by the media and that bloggers had a hand in such events. This is what Gary assumes I am arguing from selectively quoting my paper. Such an argument would be nonsense. I deliberately selected an event (US presidential election) that could be considered a media event or a composistion or manifold of discrete media events (as many scholars have argued), where blogging clearly played a role in the media event. I went to extreme pains to argue that blogging may not have actually affected the outcome of the election (the historical event) and only affected the media reportage (media event). The purpose of my paper was to think of a way whereby blogs could be discussed alongside the mass-media without reducing it to a direct comparison or in terms of ‘media effects’. I wanted to understand the relation between the mass media and blogging, the concept of the ‘media event’ is a very good tool to enable this discussion.

I am not too sure why Gary chooses to debunk my paper with an example that he says himself doesn’t involve bloggers!?!?! I agree with his example, but I don’t think it is relevant to my argument. Quoting Gary:

You can see thae speed of the feedback loop in the way the Howard Government’s mandatory detention policy has been unravelling of late. It is changing because the events around this policy are encoded with political meanings and the Howard Government’s political responses (eg. to allow mother and new born babies to stay ouside the camps) are a reaction to those meanings).
The Howard Government understands that it has to appear to be compassionate and humane in terms of its administration of mandatory detention.This is illustrated by the release of Malaysian woman Virginia Leong and her three-year-old daughter Naomi, born in Sydney’s Villawood detention centre.
Bloggers had no role in any of this. This was largely done through the ALP Senators digging away at DIMA at Senate Estimates, the media running with the comments, the PM’s office seeing how the politics was playing against them, and then responding. Where were the bloggers? Nowhere. We don’t make the news.

The fascination that media scholars have with this notion of ‘making news’ is confusing to a poor cultural studies person like me. Anyway, to underscore that my paper was a deliberate attempt to debunk the myth that bloggers have any power at all beyond affecting the ‘media event’ of historical events (Dayan and Katz) or what I would now call the ‘media event’ as a historical event (Wark).

OK? Cleared that one up? Good.