[iDC] Alan's questions about media theory/ies

Dean, Jodi JDEAN at hws.edu
Tue Jul 21 15:32:56 UTC 2009

I appreciate Sean's remarks here. My own views differ on a number of points.

(for clarity, the points are numbered; directly after the number is Sean's point, my point follows)

1.  Axiomatically, there is mediation. ... Mediation is a name for the fundamental connection between (and within) everything. 

I don't agree that mediation is prior to anything else: things which will be mediated come before that. I'd say that mediation is a way that humans respond/react to fundamental division/antagonism. (This entails, then, that animals communicate but that their inter-relations are not mediated. So, the view I suggest is one rooted in human antagonism--mediation is a response.

2.  The biggest question for any historical theory of media is: how come, in a universe where mediation is the law, there is such concentration, delay, detouring, and hoarding of  it?

This seems to me to be asking why is there antagonism--it doesn't follow well from the axiom of fundamental mediality, although it would follow from a supposition of antagonism. But the
question would need to be more precise, looking at the relation between economic production and different media.

3. Wealth, for example, is a form of mediation. Goods and social obligations flow round in gift economies and in commodity economies, but in the latter (and quite possibly in the former) they do not flow constantly or evenly. Same thing is true of other flows like love, food, news, words, pictures. 

Barabasi (and, now, hosts of others) analyze these inequalities in social networks in terms of powerlaws. 

4.  There are media theories (plural) because we do not agree on what media are. I propose that if a theory is a media theory, it should take as axiomatic that mediation is primary, and that everything else (sex, power, exploitation) are effects of mediation and its vicissitudes.

There are media theories because people disagree on many things--not just on what media are. As I've mentioned, I take the view that mediation isn't primary but a reaction to antagonism. In some ways, though, this question of priority or the axiomatic is misleading insofar as media are recursive.

5.   If everything from architecture to sunshine mediates, we have the critical agenda mapped for us – issue sof reciprocation and mutuality, solidarity, dependence and contingency. 

I don't think this follows or makes much sense. One could just as easily say that if architecture mediates the goal is controlling architecture by establishing myths and rituals around building (Freemasons rule the world!)

6. ... precisely because they are no longer central arms of governance and ideology, narrative and ilusion are once again open to innovation and experiment, precisely in the fields where contemporary governmentality no longer operates such as the inner life...

Living in the US, it seems to me that narrative and illusion clearly are central arms of governance and ideology and that the biggest ideological mystification of the present is that somehow we are
post ideology: that's the ideological form of neoliberalism. Additionally, governmentality certainly does operate on inner life--whether in the form of competitiveness, bodily insecurity, compulsions to enjoy, reveal, and display, fear and the perceived need for security, the demands placed on the individual to secure for herself what was formerly provided by collectives, and, why not, forms of fundamentalist religion.


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