Monday, November 21, 2005

"Media effects without cause & effect"

I just returned from the National Communication Association's (US) annual convention in Boston, Massachusetts. It consisted, as usual, of a wide range of work; most of it was uninteresting, though a few papers and sessions stood out. One panel to which I contributed was called, "Communication in a Deleuze-Guattarian Framework: Image-Event, Deterritorialization, Difference, Assemblage." My piece, "Difference & Repetition in Harry Potter," was on the popular book series' relationship to philosophy and intellectual property law, and is a much-distilled fragment of a chapter I'm working on for my book on book culture, "Equipment for Living." I was joined by co-panelists Gordon Coonfield (Villanova U), session organizer (thank you!) Mehdi Semati (Eastern Illinois U), Greg Wise (Arizona State U-West), and respondent Greg Seigworth (Millersville U).

I have a couple of things to say: first, our session was programmed opposite of Ernesto Laclau talking about Lacan, which meant that a lot of our potential audience (understandably) got siphoned off. On top of that, though, our session was located literally in the hinterlands of one of the conference hotels: at the very end of a long, dark, circuitous hallway near an emergency exit. Perhaps that tells us something about the discipline of communication's relationship to Deleuzoguattarian thought. Sigh.

I enjoyed my co-panelists' presentations immensely, and I'm especially taken with Greg Wise's suggestion that media researchers begin writing about media effects absent the language of cause and effect. I'm not sure what that means, exactly, but it's a provocative idea that I look forward to trying on. Perhaps others of you have thought through this idea a bit and would care to chime in as well.


Glen Fuller said...

hi ted, sounds like a very niteresting panel!!

Regarding your question on Wise's work, does it relate to Deleuze's conception of the 'event' (c.f. The Logic of Sense) and how one thread of how it has been picked up (by Wark and Patton for example) within media and/or cultural studies that treats 'media events' as a kind of Deleuzian event?

Deleuze explicitly discusses cause and effect in relation to the incorporeal event and bodies or states of affairs in LoS. He writes that incorporeal events are purely effects while the mixture of bodies or a state of affairs are purely causes.

I often get a bit worried that the focus on 'media', ie treating media events as incorporeal events, explicitly overlooks the 'state of affairs' dimension of what Deleuze is saying.

Massumi's work bridges the gap between these media-centric interpretations and others (such as Colombat's work on "Deleuze's death as event").

Ted Striphas said...

Hi Glen,

Indeed it was a very interesting panel, and I was fortunate to join such a brilliant group.

With respect to the comment you raise, re: Wise's discussion of "media effects without cause and efffect."...To be honest, I'm not sure exactly of his referent. His discussion centered largely around iPods and technological assemblages. Certainly there were resonances in his discussion with Deleuze's LoS, though I don't recall his mentioning the book explicitly (which is to say nothing of the possibility of his working within the ambit of LoS). Anyway, that's a very useful referent, and I'll need to revisit the book as I continue thinking through these issues.

I've just now finished reading Massumi's "Parables," and I couldn't help but be struck by his discussion of quasi-causes. Perhaps there's another possible connection to pursue there, too.