Sunday, April 19, 2009

Week 14 q's from David

1) Baudrillard's simulacrum posits that power is not ideological but
simulated, that is, created through signs and models (D&K p.448). I
get the thrust of his critique, but is it possible for the simulacrum
to exist without the ideological underpinning being there in the first
place? If not, then is the simulacrum the 'sinister' element, or is
society's interpretation and use of the simulacrum (dictated by, say,
hegemonic capitalist values) the real evil? (In other words: fair to
blame Disney if the power is not ideological?)

2) Mark Poster discusses the emergence of a postmodern society which
"nurtures forms of identity different from,even opposite to those of
modernity" (D&K p. 534) in which reality becomes multiple. While the
appeal of this idea has gone mainstream, I wonder if it overstates
things just a bit. Sure, there are multiple realities, and it's fun
to imagine we'll someday be living in a 'Tron'-like world, but isn't
there a substratum 'reality' that still provides the defining
characteristics of community, identity, and other elements of virtual
reality? (In other words, isn't virtual reality rooted in the
dynamics of modernism? If so, then how much of a change are we really
talking about?) Technology itself is moving at such a pace that
Poster's essay already reads like a modern incarnation of the quaint
and innocently myopic Populuxe Futurism of the '40's and '50's.

3) By contrast, Henry Jenkins' excellent analysis "Quentin Tarantino's
Star Wars" lays out a compelling reason for defending principles of
fair use and a narrow definition of intellectual property as the only
means for preserving the 'third space' of creative production. As
grounded in capitalism as Jenkins' arguments are, I do wonder if he
idealizes the creative spirit just a bit too much. It's one thing for
George Lucas (wealthy white dude) to dream of the next little Mozart
out there somewhere...but if economic incentives (property rights) are
diluted, why should we imagine that little girl will choose to make a
career of creating stuff so good others will want to emulate and yet
that she can't profit wildly from? Why should we expect people to
create for the sake of society (much less future Tarantinos)?

4) In 'A Welcome for Blogs', Cohen takes on critics of both stripes
(assuming such criticism can be reduced to a bicameral echo
chamber...) and essentially deconstructs the criticism, noting that,
for instance, opponents are really making arguments about journalistic
'quality' (p. 167). And sure, the 'narcissism' argument is worth poo-
pooing, I suppose. An interesting deconstruction overall, but does he
propose another standard by which to judge bloggery? Is he suggesting
the place/value/significance of blogs need not be evaluated; that
blogs just 'are'??

5) Above all, what is postmodern critical theory getting at? Are we
basically talking about theories that take the 'medium is the message'
idea as a central tenet and work outward, or is the term
'postmodernism' so broad and encompassing that it, effectively becomes
a dumping ground for critiques of all types dealing in anything
related to cyber-whatnot and other otherwise unclassifiable dot-
commery? What is the thread that ties these theories together other
than modernity itself (or its imagery)?

David D. Brown

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