I had a weird moment today when someone said to me, “Remember that the magazines have only representations of enthusiasm.”
It was a throwaway line, but I am working extremely hard to escape from the text-based sign-signifier symbolic-ideology sender-message-receiver version of media. I felt ill. My thesis felt like it was being dismissed.
Media texts are indeed ‘texts’ with all these possible dimensions to them — signs, symbols and messages — and such texts are certainly ideological. However, to remain at this level is to fetishise the text and abstract it from the practical and material contexts in which it is consumed. Yes, consuming texts takes learning, practice, time. The practical dimension, that is, the specific circumstances in which a text is consumed, is important, but extremely difficult to research unless you observe someone or a group intimately or you ask a cleverly constructed bunch of questions of someone who is switched on enough to be able to answer them or you carry out a research program mixture of the two in the form of diaries and so on.
The material dimension is less tricky, especially for heavily commodified texts such as magazines. Magazines are one form of maintaining the consistency of niche markets in mass culture. Magazines are a market-based machine. They actually do someting in the world rather than merely represent it. That is, magazines do not only represent the practices and events of an enthusiasm, they are part of the enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm here is meant as an ‘affective complex’ — primarily interest-excitement, but other affects as well, joy, sadness, etc. The work of the magazine machines is to select, organize and territorialize certain words, phrases and terms and take these bits of language to their absolute limit, so the language becomes something else. It becomes a technical language and it becomes an ideological language, sure, but technology and ideology in themselves do not make people interested. Ideological belief has to be individuated and become as such. By definition it is interest that accelerates in the body as excitement, something that cannot be sustained, but can be readily triggered. What does the triggering? Territorialising affective material signs. The language has to become affective, or rather the affects of language and the interest need to be combined in certain ways. Common words become argot and technical words become emotive. Deleuze and Guattari call it a ‘minor language’. It is this transformation that produces the magazine as machine and inserts and connects enthusiast magazines in the collective assemblage of enunciation of an enthusiast culture.
It is an ongoing experimentation, they never get it entirely right. Interest, like any affect, is a fickle thing, it cannot be controlled or programed. They can only every now and then hope to capture one’s interest.