Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Here's a story about television:

It's possible that the history of television does represent (though perhaps not in Badiou's sense,) the process of a truth; that intelligibility can operate without any particular context. The effect of commodity reproduction on the content of television, especially on advertising (where a lot of innovations were made), has been the erosion of those elements borrowed from other artforms that have proved unnecessary for the continued reproduction of television. Television has abandoned the contextualisation still found in theatre. In George Trow's phrase it presents The Context of No Context. Television almost invents, for its viewers, a second heuristics, required to understand or gain pleasure from its evolved form: a new science of interpretation. It's theatre disembowelled by the effects of competitive markets.

Instead of establishing the relevant, in relation to an established culture, television sets up a proxy context, or, more precisely, the viewer learns to construct a proxy context from habitually televisual television. A proxy context is formed by attributing, to an abstracted situation, interests or desires to whose antithetical struggle the situation relates. Television very often chronicles changes to a situation without describing this situation. The viewer learns to understand this (and of course it doesn't extirpate their normal thinking), but this system of heuristics, prompted by television, is strictly speaking illogical, and probably ends up exerting some influence on real life. The viewer is defined by an abstract necessity, a necessity without an object. And this apparent contradiction offers another angle of attack for advertising.

(All this probably dates back further, to the first mass produced newssheets. I'm tempted to date it to the point when Novalis decides to animate, as it were, Fichte's non I.)

Today's newspapers* actually do have something relevant to say, you have to skip to the respective entertainment sections to see this sort of effect. But there's some of this in Mr Blair's resignation: a discourse built around an imaginary consensus, completely divorced from the politics to which Mr Blair has directly contributed.

*i.e. the newspapers of 27th June 2007: the day of Mr Blair's resignation.

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