Media Theory for the 21st Century

February 26, 2008

Media Process

Filed under: Discussion — jjpulizzi @ 8:06 pm
Tags: , ,

I found the Fuller reading useful in its process oriented ontology, as opposed to a subject and object oriented one. Just to take the shipping container in Chapter 3 as an example, the material components that comprise the container do not entirely define it in the sense that the container’s dimensions and other attributes were decided by an international standards commission. That commission in turn only bothered to set standards to increase trade volume, which required more efficient means of storing, loading, shipping, and unloading goods. As a guide for those standards, the commission had to take into account existing technology, including the dimensions of ships and ports, as well as the average weights and sizes of shipped goods. Improved trade demands more containers, and eventually refinements to the existing ones. So the system feeds back into itself while also changing itself.

That Fuller draws on Deleuze and Whitehead, among others, to sketch this version of process philosophy for media systems means he is abandoning a definition of Pirate Radio, for example, as a stable, definable thing. Instead something like Pirate Radio is the result of and part of an ongoing set of interactions between government, law enforcement, mass media corporations, and citizens. What Pirate Radio is, where it is, and how it works are constantly changing in reaction to moves by other parts of the system.

The only problem with this approach, perhaps as my post demonstrates, is writing about it in a coherent way; especially considering that nouns are popular parts of speech. Fuller tries to get around this by giving examples, that is by showing (a process) rather than explaining or defining. We might ask to what extent he actually succeeds in that project?

When memes appeared in chapter 4, I began to wonder whether Fuller had not taken a step away from his process oriented philosophy—showing rather than telling. If one were truly committed to a process oriented philosophy, what good would be gained by personifying the medium of the process as a meme? I would think much of what Fuller discusses could be just as easily addressed without recourse to memes or a similar concept. Indeed, that personification makes the process seem even more abstract and allows one to forget about the physical bodies through which and on which said processes function.

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