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Draft review notes #3

Author: joe

Saturday, 12 September, 2009 - 15:17

[Some contextual notes for my PhD, regarding the status of participatory media in academia and industry]

So the everyday is always written off: the mass produce trash culture without quality; they fail to rise up and revolt and against the elites; and they are deceived by machinations against which they have no real defence.

A key characteristic of the critiques of the everyday is their insistance on the schism between the real and the ideal, or between appearance and reality. Marxist thought constantly seeks to portray the common man as a duped fool, a donkey of a man suffering under false consciousness: if only we could make him see the world as it truly is, without the miasma of ideology to cloud and befuddle his judgement and ability to act, then he might rise up and take for himself the world that is truly his.

The critique of propaganda and ideology also hinges on the notion that the popular consciousness cannot adequately grasp the real forces, determining events behind the scenes, hidden from view, available only to the most critically engaged and forensically committed minds. Chomsky's line is exemplary of this - his work is largely characterised by 'exposures' of hidden motives and explanatory forces which most other people fail to notice, presumably because they either choose to ignore the evidence or are too taken up in the ideological hegemony to be able to transcend the deceit.

The paragon of this mode of critique is Habermas, who seems determined to project an image of a utopian world - the world as it might be - which can only be reached by the most stringently impossible means. Citizens must be competent, capable, engaged, critically objective and rational, yet willing to listen to and understand other subjective views. The object of this rational-critical discourse is a endpoint at which disagreements will have been ironed out, intersubjectivities achieved - and presumably we will all just sit around gazing at each other in a stupor of silence since we'll have no differences to speak of or dialectical positions to bother articulating.

At the heart of Habermas' vision of rational progress to some humanistic utopia is Enlightenment: the rejection of tradition and any authority that is handed down, seen as so much dogma, in favour of rationally justifiable positions and truths which are available to us to produce without reference to the tyranny of conservatism and prejudice. What an attractive notion - the worldview of science itself, which takes no article on faith, but only on falsifiable and empirical merit!

I find it almost irresistable - the restive rejection of the chains of the past, and the embrace of a world made of iron ration and reason... and yet, yet... why must we constantly fall for this notion that the world is or should be other than it is? What is it about the way of the world that we must always feel it is inadequate? Why must we diagnose the life of the everyday world as somehow being wrong?

Categories: reality, appearance, idealism, Habermas, ration, reason, utopia, Chomsky, Marx, media, phd, politics, propaganda, ideology, revolution,
Comments: 0


Author: joe

Thursday, 16 February, 2006 - 00:53

Last Sunday morning I went to the British Museum's exhibition on the Enlightenment. I found it a quite profound experience, and only partly because I'd had only 3 hours' kip :)

Seeing Linneaus' sketches of different kinds of plants and the way he developed a taxonomy to describe them is just an awesome thing - a whole collection of people, who devoured swathes of their lives in the pursuit of finding ways to organise and explain the world.

Of course, in a fairly reflexive way, the museum draws attention to their part in some of the things we tend to criticise about the Enlightenment - the cultural imperialism, orientalism, the use of Classical Art as a yard-stick by which to measure the cultural achievement of other cultures, the plunder of riches, the subjugation of nations...

But nevertheless, man! what people they were. The orreries are something to see - and imagine trying to build your own astrolabe. I dare anyone to find the maker of an astrolabe and tell them they're misguided imperialists exercising arbitrary discursive power over oppressed peoples.

Pondering this, I came home and reread Foucault's essay, 'What is Enlightenment' (hey it's my job, okay!). Something struck me in a way it hadn't before - Foucault talks of the 'modern' perspective as being transformational, about the way in which the real becomes 'more than real', the beautiful 'more than beautiful', and the changing interplay between the constraints of reality, and the exercise of freedom.

Seeing those fossils, not just the literal fossils displayed there, but the fossilised remains of a era which totally transformed the real world and man's freedom within it, really made me admire them even more.

I recommend it :)

Categories: enlightenment, exhibition, museum, reason, classicism, Foucault, Linnaeus,
Comments: 4

Richard Dawkins for president of the world

Author: joe

Monday, 09 January, 2006 - 21:41

I have just finished watching the first episode of Richard Dawkins' new series on Channel 4, The Root of All Evil.

Firstly, the most pressing thing to say is that this is the best and most important piece of programming I have seen on the Television since Adam Curtis' The Power of Nightmares.

Secondly, Dawkins must be congratulated for having the courage of his convictions and pressing his views home in the face of undoubted risk from fundamentalist fascists who may now consider him a target.

Thirdly, why did the editors of this programme feel the need to switch a to 'fly-on-the-wall' documentary style whenever Dawkins' exposition veered towards blasphemy? Channel 4 would have shown real conviction by allowing Dawkins to lay out his arguments in the same way that Robert Winston is allowed to present his, or likewise Schama is able to expound on his subject. By using editing techniques to signify that Dawkins is presenting a 'point-of-view', they defeat the entire object of his argument.

Fourthly, I would like to see the BBC dare to produce programming like this in a prime-time slot.

Finally, why are there only two episodes, and not an entire digital channel?

That aside, hurrah, bravo, make the man a mullah, etc

Categories: science, fundamentalism, religion, education, media, fascism, politics, documentary, television, faith, reason,
Comments: 0