Levy, Event, Media

Let’s assume that an election has been held in a certain country. This election occurs at a specific time and place. As such the event is inseparable from a particular “here and now.” In fact we refer to the election as having taken “place.” In this case we would say that an actual event has taken place. As a first approximation, when press agencies announce or comment on this election, they do not broadcast the event itself but a message about the event. Here we can state that while the event itself is actual, the production and distribution of messages about it constitute a virtualization of the event, one supplied with all the attributes previously associated with virtualization: The event is detached from a specific time and place, becomes public, undergoes heterogenesis. The messages that virtualize the event are at the same time its prolongation; they participate in its accomplishment, its incomplete determination. They become a part of it. Through the press and its commentary, the results of the election have a given effect on the financial market of some foreign country. Each day, on the stock market of an economic center in some city, singular transactions take place. The event continues to be actualized at other times and in other places. But this actualization itself produces new messages and new information, micro-virtualizations. We are back on the Moebius strip: The message about the event is also and indissolubly a sequence in the unfolding of the event. The map (the message) is part of the territory (the event), and the territory consists primarily of an indefinite addition, a dynamic articulation, a network of expanding maps. In other words, everything that is an event is part of a dynamic of actualization (territorialization, instantiation in the here and now, particular // solution) and virtualization (deterritorialization, detachment, sharing, elevation to a problematic). Events and information about events exchange their identities and functions at each stage of the dialectic of signifying processes. — Pierre Levy, Becoming Virtual, pp. 74-75.

This is the argument I had been developing from Massumi’s work over the last year. That’ll teach me to dilly-dally around with looking up references. At least I have a pretty good grounding in Deleuze and Guattari’s work now so I can read into and past Levy’s use of the ‘event’ and so on. The above extract also makes clear how much of Massumi’s argument in Parables of the Virtual (approx. pp. 79-83) is indebted to Levy’s arguments developed in Becoming-Virtual.

In my research it is not an election event that I am covering (although I have discussed this in my blogging paper), but cars, magazines and events, including an enthusiast car show called Summernats. The event of Summernats can be thought along normal ‘event management’ lines, but its relationship with the enthusiast media can also be thought in terms of the sort of (rhizomatically) distributed event that Levy discusses.

What is useful about Massumi’s reading (and maybe Levy’s book, but I don’t know, because I haven’t finished it yet) is that he introduces a political economy of the event precisely in terms of the distribution of the event and the catalysing effect of the event on diverse populations (what he calls a becoming-together). As the event is distributed through the mass- or niche-media, the catalysing effects also continue. However, and this is crucial, the discursive formations of such media are mutlidimensional especially now more than ever. Online media interacts with magazines with television with film with other events and so on. This is not happening on a single plane. There are resonance and dissonance effects between the various events circulating as they cascade across multiple-dimensions. The spectacularization of a given multi-dimensional media space striates such cascading events through the affective modulation of a given population. A particular ‘logic of sensation’ is used and recycled to reproduce certain economic and political markets for the sake of advertisers (the customers of the media) and the political authorities (the arbiters of dissent/resolution): “Get excited about this! This is boring! Get excited about this! This is boring!”

Suffice to say this book of Levy’s is so much better than the other one I have! The other one really does read like dot.com evangelizism. There is a bit of that here, but his utopian enthusiasm for the internet has calmed down a little bit and I think is tempered by a dose of reality.

2 replies on “Levy, Event, Media”

  1. nice to see the Levy references appearing, (laughs)… whether or not you can or should read his ‘event’ through Deleuze’s event is a different question though… Popular cultural texts like Levy’s work should not be read through the same framework that you might understand a philosophers through. The two very different concept of the ‘virtual’ are probably only related by the identical spellings of the word rather than the meanings themselves. (no matter what Levy might argue, or myself occasionally…)

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