The discussion of communication platforms in class resembled G.W.F. Hegel’s ‘Dialectic’ model. Firstly there is a thesis or in the comparison a ‘media platform’, the media platform presents something, an idea, a fact, an opinion, et cetera, that requires a reaction; the reaction is the antithesis or the perception of the audience, how the audience responds to the initial offering creates a relationship; thirdly this symbiotic relation between two ideas, two things, is the dialectic, the interaction of the thesis and antithesis is itself a ‘thing’. Media platforms are somewhat like a ‘ying-yang’ in this sense. It is not that there is a blog post that has a comment section, it is the way those two interact on a somewhat ethereal plane.
If we were to analyze this with a McLuhanist lense, we would see the media platform itself as the content rather than the content that particular media platform was delivering. No one gives a shit what you post on twitter, it is the fact that you say it in 140 characters or less, often with hashtags.
The digital world plays into these narratives. Today, anyone can be a content creator, anywhere. On the first day of class we spoke of Walter Benjamin, a man who saw the mechanical reproduction of art as an act that devalued the art itself. In his late 1960’s Manifesto, For an Imperfect Cinema, Cuban Film Director, Juan García Espinosa argues for an imperfect cinema. In his words:
“perfect cinema—technically and artistically masterful—is almost always reactionary cinema. The imperfect cinema is one that strives to overcome the divisions of labor within class society. It merges art with life and science, blurring the distinction between consumer and producer, audience and author. It insists upon its own imperfection, is popular but not consumerist, committed without becoming bureaucratic.”
He saw the ability for art to be introduced to masses as an opportunity, for more producers rather than consumers. And yet, with all new means of production, unless they are socialized, they are a force of exploitation.
German filmmaker, Hito Steyerl, draws a relationship between the increasingly digitalized art world, and, the transition from societies with intellectuals and pundits, to one with celebrities and social media influencers. As she puts it:
In 1977, David Bowie releases his single “Heroes.” He sings about a new brand of hero, just in time for the neoliberal revolution. The hero is dead—long live the hero! Yet Bowie’s hero is no longer a subject, but an object: a thing, an image, a splendid fetish—a commodity soaked with desire, resurrected from beyond the squalor of its own demise. Just look at a 1977 video of the song to see why: the clip shows Bowie singing to himself from three simultaneous angles, with layering techniques tripling his image; not only has Bowie’s hero been cloned, he has above all become an image that can be reproduced, multiplied, and copied, a riff that travels effortlessly through commercials for almost anything, a fetish that packages Bowie’s glamorous and unfazed postgender look as product. Bowie’s hero is no longer a larger-than-life human being carrying out exemplary and sensational exploits, and he is not even an icon, but a shiny product endowed with posthuman beauty: an image and nothing but an image.This hero’s immortality no longer originates in the strength to survive all possible ordeals, but from its ability to be xeroxed, recycled, and reincarnated. Destruction will alter its form and appearance, yet its substance will be untouched. The immortality of the thing is its finitude, not its eternity. What happens to identification at this point? Who can we identify with? Of course, identification is always with an image. But ask anybody whether they’d actually like to be a JPEG file.
And but so. Here we are with newer and newer technologies presenting seemingly endless possibilities.