Sunday, February 15, 2009

Theory Wars

I’d like to start with Theory Wars and the Cultural Studies, Multiculturalism, and Media Culture article because I found them to be very, very interesting and almost identical in some aspects.
Kellner has a way of critiquing that is based on balance and a previous judgment of all potential outcomes. On page 16 of the Theory Wars he has some very simple statements that more or less serve as a description for the conundrums we face today as communication researchers and the need for new theory. When he states that technology has “changed the patterns of everyday life and powerfully restructured work and leisure” or accepts bravely that computers and other “electronic eyes and systems” are the new Big Brother, I can’t help but read more attentively in order to fish out the possible remedies he might offer.
With ongoing internal struggle in academia about postmodernism depicted by Kellner, I was surprised at the ease with which he handles the concept. In fact, I believe he describes the concept perfectly and then ends the chapter overthinking it a just a tad, or at least bringing into play what can only be considered some of the regular practices in academia.
It also gave me the sense throughout that he has a very positive outlook, a hope for “more positive futures” (p.19). As far as I’m concerned, that positivism collides a bit with my apocalyptic outlook. Earlier discussion on how academia has turned out molds and fallen into the repetitive practices that characterize cultural industries, my first question would be: where can we expect new theory (not just re-worked theory or theory applied in a slightly different way) to come from?
Next, Kellner states that “postmodern nihilism enunciates the experience of defeat, of disappointment, of despair, over the failures of the 1960s movements to more radically transform social and cultural life” but that there also is a “more positive version” of it (p.23). My first reaction was to agree, but as I kept thinking about it, I couldn’t help but feeling like most of what I read from Barthes, Lacan, Foucault, Derrida and Baudrillard were things that definitely hovered over whatever the results of the 60s were. All these men contributed knowledge that is still applicable and important to postmodern theory… and semiotics, sexuality, psychology, linguistics, etc. Are theorists today as specialized as doctors? Are we looking at a new era of one-idea thinkers?
Are my scientifically/quantitatively inclined friends in class thinking about the utter immeasurableness of this? Just wondering…
Next, we read this: “Contemporary societies require constant mappings and remappings because of the intensity of change and speed of current social transformations” (p. 26). How can we make theory develop just as fast? If we compare the time it takes for an idea to become a recognized and tested theory to the sheer velocity at which society evolves, how can we ever hope to develop “new” theories that are bound to be almost obsolete by the time they’re out?
Further down on that chapter, Kellner goes on to discuss all the shortcomings of critical theory. I agree with all of them. So how do we fix it? On our individual research or should we make our work the fixing per se?
Another point I want to discuss is the fact that the way society has (and had even before the coming of critical theory) arranged culture in a way that certain things are forced to be related to money and certain social hierarchy is still very much in practice today. How do we tackle this? How do we come up with new theory for culture if, as the gap between rich and poor grows, so does the “difference” between high/low culture in the media (and the media further pushes this idea with its practices)?
Moving on, the idea that “pleasure is learned” (p. 39) is very important when we look at Cultivation. Maybe we have been focusing too much on the fear of an evil world and we’ve forgotten a bit about other things?
My last issue is with the idea that “difference sells” (p. 40). Granted, it does. The again, cultural industries, as is discussed in the readings, also re-create the same thing over and over again if it worked the first time. For the love of God, we just resurrected Jason!!!!!!!
The last part of the reading, the postmodern dilemma, could’ve been shorter. It was a nice critique of how a historically real thing can become a buzzword, but some many pages on it was kind of overkill for my taste.
The Hall article was fun to read. The ideas of such an original man on a thing that was born right in front of him let us know that maybe we’re heading in the wrong direction. One thing that is kind of odd for me is the apparent need to contrast British and American cultural studies. My guess would be that different cultures have very different ways of looking at culture.
On the Hearing Ordinary Voices I don’t have much to say other than the author seemed to be romanticizing digital storytelling. Other than that, the introduction and lit review were amazing and I’m even looking for a few of the readings cited for my own work. Redemocratization is something we should really deconstruct in class under the scope of certain realities.

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