[iDC] Public Sphere Polka

Ellis Godard ellis.godard at csun.edu
Sun Jul 9 20:41:19 EDT 2006

Grant Kester wrote:
>I want to second Trebor's call for "actual examples." One of the 
>drawbacks of the rise to dominance of "theory" as a venerated subject 
>position in the media arts (and the arts in general) has been an 
>emulation effect: we all yearn for the comforting mastery of the 
>theoretical voice (I'm as guilty as anyone else, I'm sure).

That mastery (and theory itself) has a home in locations were validity,
generality, testablity, simplicity, and originality are emphasized. Arts
emphasize originality, allow for validity and simplicity, and de-emphasize
(or simply ignore) generality and testibility. Artistic Theory, then, is
weak or unstable - and, arguably, not in its rightful place.

>The result 
>is an impressive breadth of writing and reflection taken from the 
>middle distance, but relatively few of the kinds of close, situational 
>readings that give real complexity to a field of inquiry (and help us 
>move past unproductive generalities).

Generalities could only help inquiry, if they are valid summaries of facts
and patterns. More helpful still would be an understanding of theoretical
change, from one summary to another and another, moving so far in the
direction of generality than the real complexity of generality itself
emerges. The reverse may also be the case: That by delving into the "real
complexity" of any field of inquiry's facts, one is as likely upon
sufficient observation and reflection to discover and report summarizable
patterns as at any less complex view of those facts, such that one may even
move so far in the direction of situational inquiry that the general (even
if generally unpredictable) nature of situations themselves emerges.

Whether inquiry, at any level of abstraction, is "unproductive" (or
considered as such, regardless of its arguable utility) is partly a function
of its content, and partly a function of its producer, audience, and social

>I would be happy to forgo further 
>invocations of the grand recits of Deleuze, the Italian autonomists, 
>etc. for a little plumpes denken or vulgar empiricism, some "thick" 
>descriptions of specific activist new media projects (not myspace, 
>youtube, or cell phone use), in all their complexity, success and 

Yes! :)


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