Category Archives: Media
[This is yet another presentation that I made a couple of years ago for my sociology class; I had found a textbook on gerontology at a used bookstore and wanted an excuse to read it. It has become unfashionable to mention the aging baby boomers, but the fact remains that the elderly are becoming an increasingly important element in North America, and we will likely see our political, economic, and cultural systems adjusting to this demographic shift. (See here for an idea of the impending changes.) Hence, I present to you a general description of the biological, psychological, and economic aspects of gerontology. For the accompanying slideshow presentation on the topic, the interested reader is directed here.]
In a scintillating bricolage of Žižek, Marx, The Economist, and Bloomberg (the latter two of which he critiques mercilessly), the author of Exchange Value dissects the recent trendiness of quasi-socialist sympathy in prominent business magazines. This excellent blog just started on September 10, as of now having only one post, with more promised in the near future to continue the author’s aforementioned analysis, though in the trend’s more subtle manifestations. Credit to A Grub Street Hack for the link.
On a side note, there seem to be a great deal of very well-done blogs on Tumblr, including Weltende (by a law student cum theoretician), Mattermorphosis (on media & virtual reality), The Last Mutations (a gorgeous microblog by the author of Archive Fire), and The Infinite Conversation, though there are many more to be discovered. I particularly like how Tumblr is so much more amenable to simple posts, e.g. a picture with a short comment, letting the reader use the materials at hand to construct (or at least approximate) for themselves the author’s thought. In Lyotard’s terminology, it tends more toward figure than discourse, the former being a more fluid passage of thought than the rigid conceptual thinking Lyotard feels has striated the space of philosophy throughout its history. An entirely different crowd is attracted to such figural media, and indeed an entirely different intellectual, many of whom, for better or for worse, stray away from academia (even if they are impeccably well-read), not to mention modernist lebensprojekten & the divorce of affect and rigor.
Perhaps in the future, lengthy tomes will be passé, and ‘microtheory‘ (books of maxims & pithy quotations) shall be all the rage. Currently, however, the literati still retain their hegemony in academia, for which they will fight viciously until the last ivory tower intellectual is strangled with the entrails of the last advertiser. (In other words, microtheory, if it ever becomes popular, will always be ‘vulgar’ in comparison with scholarly theory, since the latter is here to stay.) ‘Electric thinking’, as I term McLuhan’s audial-tactile paradigm, is pervading theoretical systems in a seemingly inexorable manner. (I can think of no other explanation for Bourdieu’s popularity; for example, I believe McLuhan specifically uses the word ‘field’ to describe how audial-tactile thinkers perceive the world.) There will always be a place for the intellectual who can navigate at will among paradigms, however. But of course, this is a matter of theoretical praxis; neither can suffice alone.
To anyone who will be near London, Ontario next week, Bernard Stiegler will be delivering a lecture on attentional forms. Of course, given the tendency of academic titles to be entirely unrelated to the subject matter of the lecture, it could quite frankly be about anything.
Bernard Stiegler is best known in the English-speaking world for his books Technics & Time (3 vols.) and For A New Critique of Political Economy. He is also the founder of Ars Industrialis, a political/cultural group which calls for an ”industrial politics of spirit.”
For those wishing to quickly get the gist of Stiegler’s thought, I direct you to his lecture “Contribution to a New Critique of Political Economy,” as well as Alexander Galloway’s overview of Stiegler accompanied by his handy glossary of Stiegler’s terminology.
Tuesday, October 9, 1984[―At Sean Lennon's Birthday Party]
After dinner Yoko and Sean and some of the people went over to the WNEW broadcast that they were originally going to do inside the building, but at the last minute Dakota wouldn’t let them. But most of the people stayed behind. We went into Sean’s bedroom―and there was a kid there setting up an apple computer that Sean had gotten as a present, the Macintosh model. I said that once some man had been calling me a lot wanting to give me one, but that I’d never called him back or something, and then the kid looked up and said, “Yeah, that was me. I’m Steve Jobs.” And he looked so young, like a college guy. And he told me that he would still send me one now. And then he gave me a lesson on drawing with it. It only comes in black and white now, but they’ll make it soon in color. And then Keith [Haring] and Kenny [Scharf] used it. Keith had already used it once to make a t-shirt, but Kenny was using it for the first time, and I felt so old & out of it with this young whiz guy right there who’d helped invent it.
~The Andy Warhol Diaries, pg. 607
There’s something particularly interesting about the new single from Cobra Starship, entitled ‘You Make Me Feel…’. How radically different its psychology is from most popular music can be noticed through Jean Baudrillard’s book Seduction. Baudrillard analyzes in detail the power relations of discourse and sex between men & women, and one of his points can be described in the following statement: in order to seduce someone, one should not say “I desire you,” but rather “You make me feel good”―this way the person is given the status of subject rather than object. Grammatically, at least, this is true.
The fact that popular culture objectifies people has been a cliché for decades, a phenomenon up to now having no end in sight. This song breaks with that tradition, and perhaps represents a significant shift in the way people are interacting with one another, which these artists happened to pick up on. (Artists tend to be very sensitive, on an intuitive level, to these sorts of shifts.) The kind of social perception that this non-objectification could bring about is a de-emphasis on personal qualities (e.g. beauty, humorousness, vivacity) taken as independent factors, emphasizing instead the interplay among these qualities, to the point where people are judged as a whole, rather than on whichever quality is judged in a given context. (It is not your good looks and sense of humor that make me feel good, but you, as a whole, that does so.) Philosophers might call this a shift from focusing on quiddity (‘whatness’; the qualities that make an object identifiable as an instance of a class of objects) to focusing on haeccity (‘thisness’; the qualities of a thing that make it unique) in social relations.
Extending this de-emphasis of personal qualities, perhaps we can expect a decline in consumerism, i.e. the urge to conspicuously consume brand names and fashionable ‘looks’ in order to associate certain qualities of these with your persona (e.g. I wear clothes from brand X because I want to seem edgy, but still formal). This song is a good sign for the future of discrimination as well, since ethnicity/nationality is one such quality that is merely a quiddity, but not a haeccity. As McLuhan says, contemporary people do not want fragmentary specializations, but want to have a role in life, reminiscent of the Sartrean idea of authenticity, where one need not adjust one’s way of acting to suit one’s context, but can rather act the same way all the time: you make me feel good, not just the way you act when you’re with me.
It is difficult to figure out whether this shift from emphasizing people’s qualities to emphasizing each person’s singularity fits into modernism, postmodernism, or something entirely different; while postmodernism emphasized fragmentary identity, modernism emphasized the ‘cash value’ (William James) of qualities (in James’ case, one’s beliefs) within the world. Perhaps Nicolas Bourriaud is right in saying that we have moved into a brand new stage of history, which he terms ‘Altermodern‘. At the very least, it would appear that we do live in a Deleuzian century after all.
**Note: After seeing the lyrics on a different Youtube video, it seems that it is never expressly stated exactly what ”you make me feel.” Nevertheless, the above argument still stands, so I will leave it unmodified.
[I wrote this 300-word piece for a writing contest a couple of years ago. Its theme was who you (the writer) thought was the greatest Canadian. It wasn't officially submitted due to paperwork problems. I doubt I would have won anyway, since such détournements by adolescents are rarely greeted with enthusiasm by judges.]
In medieval times, the opinion of the court jester was sought by royalty for his view on their decision and was listened to in an open and respectful manner. This may seem odd to some, but consider: very often the royal advisors were parasitic profiteers, disregarding the greater good in favour of their own ends. The jester was given permission to parody any royal proposals made, revealing their absurdities and disadvantages―in effect, expounding a disinterested point of view. The jester was an invaluable asset to the royal courts, and we Canadians have a fitting equivalent.
Rick Mercer may be looked down upon by some as being superfluous to society, yet his impact on the scope of Canadian culture must not be underestimated. As he himself has said, more Canadians receive their information regarding Canadian politics from his show than from CBC News. Now of course, some may view this statistic as shameful, as evidence of the deteriorating intellectual fabric of our generation. When considering the hectic lives of Canada’s citizens, however, can one really point a finger? After a day of work, caring for children, and the vast array of obligatory duties which each Canadian must inevitably endure, must society also expect them to submit to the operose dronings of bleak, one-dimensional propaganda? Rick Mercer provides a genuinely entertaining self and societal deprecation as well as informative news outlet; an effective multitasking for a stressed population which might otherwise be tempted to tune in to one of the surfeit of inane alternatives. Mr. Mercer provides accommodation for the vast demographic which might otherwise remain uninformed of Canada’s perspective of world events as well as its own political ineptitudes.
Indeed, Rick Mercer is one of the great Canadian social critics, and is an invaluable blessing to Canadian culture.
: My source for this information is Oech, R. (1983). A Whack on the Side of the Head. New York: Warner Books.
: I’m not sure of the specific episode on which Mercer says this, but I saw it myself.
: This is extreme, of course, to the point of being bombastic, but at the time of writing this I had recently watched an appalling documentary on Fox News which seemed to justify such sentiments.
Since writing this, my thoughts related to Mercer have become more sophisticated, but even if I had been able to articulate these ideas when I first wrote the tiny essay above, I would not have been able to sufficiently compress them into 300 words. Read the rest of this entry