Sunday, April 19, 2009


So last week was fun, but this one takes the cake so far. One of the main reasons for this is the fact that we got to read something by Baudrillard. To me, this man is, along with Mattelart and Foucault, part of the reason is decided to pursue graduate studies. In any case, the editors could’ve picked a million other things from Baudrillard that are arguably better. I’m very sure they picked this particular fragment for two reasons: 1- it’s part of one of his best-known books and 2- it contains this: “It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal” (p. 453), which is, believe it or not, the closes this great thinker ever came to describing or offering a definition for his marvelous concept. Why is it that we can’t deal with abstraction in academia? Are we afraid of the freedom it grants?
I’ve heard every Baudrillard critique out there: too abstract, too poetic, too complicated, not empirical, too apocalyptic, etc. Nevertheless, I’m still waiting for someone to really prove that “symbolic extermination” (p. 460) is not real, that a more-real-than-real world has not been created via new technologies and that it has had an effect on all of us. One of this effects, and the one in which a lot of my research has focused, is what Baudrillard calls “lost sociality” (p. 462). SNS have replaced what we could call social practices and public sphere behaviors. In the same line, the “aesthetics of the hyperreal” (p. 471) have created a never-ending supply of reality shows and pseudo-reality based cultural products, which proves that “when the real is no longer what it was, nostalgia assumes its full meaning” (p. 457), but that meaning, as with all our products, has to be a little better than what that original reality was. “What every society looks for in continuing to produce, and to overproduce, is to restore the real that escapes it” (p. 468). Maybe that original real never existed, but we seem to remember it and we try to reproduce it, making it loose at its “originality.”
A could write a whole paper on ant hyperreal topic (political figures being similacrums of themselves (p. 470) strikes me as a very deserving paper at this particular moment), but I will move on to the other readings.
The McRobbie piece was another reading that made me question all my ideas about feminism. For example, I thought that feminists had a clear idea of what a woman is (I certainly don’t) and that the recognition of that particular idea was one of the things they fought so hard for. Now I have a few new questions: What is a woman? Can we talk about A Woman when cultural and sociopolitical aspects can vary greatly from Woman to Woman? Can we teach people to think about what the female body is for while erasing sexist connotations? (p. 526) How many options are there is we ask “for whom” the female body is? (p. 526).
According to McRobbie, part of the answer lies in suing that hated term that I have already defended here and everywhere else: postmodernism. “Postmodernism does not mean that we have to do away with the subject but rather we ask after the process of its construction.” (p. 527). The best thing about this, and she talks about it in the article, is that, by bringing postmodernism into the equation, we’re also bringing in all the Other Women (different colors, languages, sizes, sexual preference, etc.).
With hyperreality being one of my favorite theories, I’ve dealt with all kinds of articles that touch on it and that rub me the wrong way. We could say that Poster’s positivism clashes violently against my apocalyptical views. Even if the introduction of the article stated that he would help create a discussion, “to enact confrontation” (p. 533), I felt like his bias was clearly shown. He points out that the effect “of new media such as the Internet and virtual reality, then, is to multiply the kinds of “realities” one encounters in society” (p. 539); my idea and, to some extent, Baudrillard´s idea, is that those new realities replace the previous ones.
On his discussion on the postmodern human, too much positive emphasis is put on interactivity (p. 540-541). When are we finally going to accept that people don’t care all that much? Why is so hard to accept that the big corporations use interactivity as a smoke screen with no real impact? Do you really think that a huge percentage of Internet users are active participants?
Again, on his discussion an narratives in cyberspace, Poster brings in all the big words “encourage”, “social bond”, etc. (p. 545), even after accepting in the previous page that “Information technologies are complicit with new tendencies toward totalitarian control, not toward a decentralized, multiple “little narrative” of postmodern culture” (p. 544), which is to say that… all of this access (totally ignoring the digital divide) leads to a big whole lot of nothing. Yeah, you have a blog, cool… but I will still ignore you.
That all kind of serves as an introduction to the Cohen piece about blogs. Even if I agree that we could call this the “me generation” (p. 164), the critique of blogs using the “blogs are narcissistic” approach seems a little outdated. “Bloggers are said to be narcissistic because they persist in publicizing their boring lives.” (p. 165). Alright, you’ve got a point. Now, isn’t a blog easier to ignore than a face-to-face conversation? Is it really narcissistic when they probably know that nobody gives a crap and nobody’s reading?
The most interesting part about this whole article was the discussion of blogs replacing journalism (p. 166-167). I found that about 50% of college students think a blogger is a journalist. Also, the few that care about reading news-related content, couldn’t give less of a rat’s ass if the content comes from “professional” journalists or from their neighbor. Poster also talks about the objectivity or journalism and the subjectivity of blogs” (p. 167)…seriously? At this point in the game and while writing for scholars?
The Jenkins piece was just fun to read, although, again, a little to upbeat for my taste. I have a few short films under my belt and I’ve seen the small difference that being able to produce your own stuff has made on the industry. People are happy to know that they can build a studio right at home, but how many actually do it?
This piece was related to the Herman and Sloop article: creativity! Basically, what the two articles point at is that fact that fans like to re-create what they love… but what happened to original content? I know that articles and scholar papers about Star Wars probably surpass in length Shakespeare’s and Freud’s works combined, but this one was very well written and simply a lot of fun to read. I agree with both pieces on the fact that new media are blurring the boundaries of intellectual property, but is that a good thing? Can we say we’re better off with Island Records owning artists and their work? I guess we’ll have to wait a few more years to see where all this mess goes.
OK, so maybe I was a little negative this week, or maybe I’m just not that much into politics… or maybe I have a point, who knows? I just have a few last points to make.
1- The Goss article was boring and long. The fact that he never even hints at the fact that the people that participate in those threads are not your typical Internet users was a load. Did you see the times on the comments? Who the hell has so much time to just stay on a discussion forum trading blows all day with another writer?
2- Herman and Sloop are clearly big fans of U2… was I the only one who could tell? As a musician, U2 strikes me as a mediocre band with a great machine behind it and a messianic front man with sunglasses glued to his face.
3- Authenticity is out there, but nobody wants to go through the long, hard process of finding out. Also, no one wants the isolation that comes from finding it.

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