[iDC] Public Sphere Polka

Bas van Heur basvanheur at gmx.net
Mon Jul 10 06:09:00 EDT 2006

The original discussion on the networked public sphere seems to be 
branching off in a number of directions, but in relation to the 
discussion on the usefulness of theory, it seems to me that some of the 
remarks so far tend to adopt a rather problematic distinction between 
"oh, we're so tired off theory" and "yes, let's embrace thick 
descriptions". Just to take a few quotes:

>> 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).
>> 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 
>> compromise.
In many ways I agree that there should be a ban on Deleuze quotes for 
the simple reason that it has become too predictable, but I'm not sure 
if a "little plumpes denken" solves anything. My own solution to this 
problem would be not too reject theory, but to embed theory much more 
strongly in a historical perspective. Simply referring to the shift from 
Fordism to post-Fordism isn't enough, but this needs to be concretised 
in much more sophisticated ways. My own solution is to rely much more 
heavily on the work being done from a historical geographical 
perspective, but there are certainly other ways. Media theorists, 
however, have so far been rather reluctant to seriously historicise 
their own arguments. (and even those few Germans that do adopt an 
historical perspective - such as Zielinski - tend to prioritise the 
discursive aspect of media production).

As I see it, two directions need to be taken therefore simultaneously: 
1) a clearer acknowledgment of the status of one's preferred empirical 
data in relation to a specific time and space; 2) a thinking through the 
historical nature of theory.


PS Since this is my first post to this list, a brief introduction: I am 
currently working on my PhD at Goldsmiths College, University of London, 
on the interrelations between (electronic) music and the political 
economy of the city. Besides that, I earn my money with teaching at 
Goldsmiths on BA-level courses on the culture/creative industries, 
music, and social and cultural theory. More information can be found on 
my site - http://www.ordnungsreste.net - and my blog - 

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