Media and Democracy

I’ve been reading Margaret Morse’s book, Virtualities: Television, Media Art, and Cyberculture, in order to refocus my energies on the “Blogging and the Everyday” paper (more details on the paper here), and I’ve been intrigued by her discussion of “television democracy” and her reflection on television and temporality.

I’m not quite ready to work through her discussion of American TV news as antithesis of duration (55), but her reflection on “television democaracy” (the term was used by Ted Koppel in a Nightline analysis of the popularization of camcorders, VCRs, and home computers). The suggestion that these technologies “democratize” the media seems to me a somewhat generous fiction, and not just because of the economics of access. In part, it is the “policing” that Koppel himself performs in this report, recasting the video footage of the Romanian revolution (the event that prompted Koppel’s report) as only tenuously reliable, leading Morse to ask

Why is such amateur footage of disasters, uprisings, riots, and hostage situations used as the sign of the real so often discussed as potential fraud?

This might seem like a rather long detour for my paper about blogging (and quite frankly, it might be off topic), but I think blogging enacts a similar dynamic albeit within a specifically digital space.

Blogging speaks in part to the desire for reciprocity in an increasingly homogeneous media landscape. The media filter function of blogging represents a kind of public sphere, and one can easily imagine Ted Koppel doing an episode of Nightline on blogging (maybe he has?) and making similar comments about democratizing the media. In many ways, blogging (especially in this media filter function) represent a response to the erosion of faith in traditional media.

Blogs also face similar policing techniques (to camcorders, VCRs) when readers, from various positions, question the reliability of certain blogs. in my old blog (scroll down, no permalinks on Blogger), I speculated on Salam’s Pax’s “real” identity, for example, but the more explicit policing comes during the supposed conflicts raised by reporters keeping blogs (I’m thinking of the Kevin Sites controversy, can’t find a link). More specifically, these major media outlets cannot control how what they say will be used; their writing is set adrift, beyond the control of the original author. Of course, the mainstream media doesn’t really suffer: all those political bloggers bring traffic to their website.

I don’t have an explicit conclusion. These observations, I’m hoping, are closer to a starting point. I do think my questions about temporality are explicitly connected to these points about the public sphere, especially through the polyvalence of “immediacy” (as “realism,” as “here-and-now”) within the blogosphere.

2 Comments »

  1. acline Said,

    September 30, 2003 @ 6:52 pm

    Chuck…you might find this interesting for your article:

    http://rhetorica.net/archives/000780.html

  2. chuck Said,

    September 30, 2003 @ 10:36 pm

    Thanks for the link. There’s certainly a connection. I’ll certainly be taking a closer look.

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