[-empyre-] screens

Kriss Ravetto kravetto at ed.ac.uk
Sun Jul 8 08:12:09 EST 2012

On Jul 7, 2012, at 7:46 AM, Ian Bogost wrote:
Hi Ian, Sean, Simon, All,
> I agree with Sean Cubitt that medium specificity is relevant—more so than ever, perhaps.
I thought Sean was suggesting something beyond just the specificity of the medium when he talks about unique assemblages.  Even your sandwich is an assemblage, but please let's not take all  take one sandwich for any other, otherwise, yes, all is one big sandwich, and maybe we can't really reduce the heatwave to a screen even though we can screen it?  I am happy to talk specificity, but curious as to why it is limited to just the medium, why doesn't the automobile, the architecture or Rob's baguette matter?    Where does the medium start and end, just with the thing itself, its materiality, which can somehow be distinguished from its environment or its assemblage (the people that mine carbon, silicon, the cargo ships that transport raw material, the waste, etc.) the decision to invest in certain technologies over others....? Seems like it is hard to extract the immaterial from the material. (Here Latour's Pasteurization of France comes to mind, anthrax has political agency, but not in and of itself, it needs the lab, the petrie dish). 

you wrote: "But I brought McLuhan up precisely because he considered TV to be active, not passive. The reasons are material, in part: the fuzzy, incompleteness of an interlaced television picture of the 1960s. Such is not the case today with the thing we call "television," which is now arguably just as hot as cinema—save for the fact that we now tend to extend TV viewing with other devices entirely."

McLuhan's cool does not offer a very interesting message about what is active — fill in the blanks, connect the dots....  But here, you too are pointing to what is screened, on screen (transmitted as a form of reception and interaction), not just the fabric or glass on the surface. Plus, wouldn't you say this is a massive generalization about TV?  This notion of "cool" active viewing was not even new, though the medium of TV might have been — here lies the real problem of the cool which we can say is already a form of remediation in couple ways.  

 I don't think it is fair to accuse media studies of not being specific, you can find plenty such thinking (yes with certain German media theorists, but also ,you  might want to look at Sean's work, Christine also mentioned Ann Freidberg.  There is always loved and hated, Lacan in his famous essay on Television who urged us not to take "the little screen for granted" but to consider the "medium of transmission" as also a structuring of address that does and does not take place on screen, transmission suggests transport which is neither here nor there.

> I worry about media and cultural studies broader tendency (I'm speaking very generally rather than in response to this thread) to melt all materials down into tropes, figures, and cultural flows, rather than to let a thousand flowers bloom in our analyses. 

I am also confused about what seems to be a contradiction here: on the one hand you are asking for specificity (which I would assume means less variables, more medium specific) but then you turn to Mao's metaphor, "let a thousand flowers bloom."  If you are happy to live and let grow, why not affect theory, agency, deleuzian fluids, flows, screen as a potential mirror, screen as possible skin, haptic, interactive etc? Not all of these forms of analysis need to be totalizing, generalizing or reductive.
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