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robertogreco : subjectivation   1

Aesthetics of Dispersed Attention: Interview with German Media Theorist Petra Löffler :: net critique by Geert Lovink
"GL: You got a fascinating chapter in your habilitation about early cinema and the scattering of attention it would be responsible for. The figure of the nosy parker that gawks interests you and you contrast it to the street roaming flaneur.

PL: Yes, the gawker is a fascinating figure, because according to my research results it is the corporation of the modern spectator who is also a member of a mass audience––the flaneur never was part of it. The gawker or gazer, like the flaneur, appeared at first in the modern metropolis with its multi-sensorial sensations and attractions. According to Walter Benjamin the flaneur disappeared at the moment, when the famous passages were broken down. They had to make room for greater boulevards that were able to steer the advanced traffic in the French metropolis. Always being part of the mass of passers-by the gawker looks at the same time for diversions, for accidents and incidents in the streets. This is to say his attention is always distracted between an awareness of what happens on the streets and navigating between people and vehicles. No wonder movie theatres were often opened at locations with a high level of traffic inviting passers-by to go inside and, for a certain period of time, becoming part of an audience. Furthermore many films of the period of Early Cinema were actualities showing the modern city-life. In these films the movie-camera was positioned at busy streets or corners in order to record movements of human and non-human agents. Gawkers often went into the view of the camera gesticulating or grimacing in front of it. That’s why the gawker has become a very popular figure mirroring the modern mass audience on the screen.

Today to view one’s own face on a screen is an everyday experience. Not only CCTV-cameras at public spaces record passers-by, often without their notice. Also popular TV-shows that require life-participation such as casting shows once more offer members of the audience the opportunity to see themselves on a screen. At the same time many people post their portraits on websites of social networks. They want to be seen by others because they want to be part of a greater audience––the network community. This is what Jean Baudrillard has called connectivity. The alliance between the drive to see and to being seen establishes a new order of seeing which differs significantly from Foucault’s panoptical vision: Today no more the few see the many (panopticon) or the many see the few (popular stars)––today, because of the multiplication and connectivity of screens in public and private spaces, the many see the many. Insofar, one can conclude, the gawker or gazer is an overall-phenomenon, a non-specific subjectivity of a distributed publicity."



"GL: I can imagine that debates during the rise of mass education, the invention of film are different from ours. But is that the case? It is all pedagogy, so it seems. We never seem to leave the classroom.

PL: The question is, leaving where? Entering the other side (likewise amusement sites or absorbing fantasies)? Why not? Changing perspectives? Yes, that’s what we have to do. But for that purpose we don’t have to leave the classroom necessarily. Rather, we should rebuilt it as a room of testing modes of thinking in very concrete ways. I’m thinking of Jacques Rancière’s suggestions, in his essay Le partage du sensible, about the power relation between teachers and pupils. Maybe today teachers can learn more (for instance soft skills) from their pupils than the other way around. We need other regimes of distribution of power, also in the classroom, a differentiation of tasks, of velocities and singularities—in short: we need micropolitics.

More seriously, your question indicates a strong relationship between pedagogy and media. There’s a reason why media theorists like Friedrich Kittler had pointed to media’s affinity to propaganda and institutions of power. I think of his important book Discourse Networks, where he has revealed the relevance of mediated writing techniques for the formation of educational institutions and for subjectivation. That’s why the question is, what are the tasks we have to learn in order to exist in the world of electronic mass media? What means ‘Bildung’ for us nowadays?

GL: There is an ‘attention war’ going on, with debates across traditional print and broadcast media about the rise in distraction, in schools, at home. On the street we see people hooked on their smart phones, multitasking, everywhere they go. What do you make of this? This is just a heightened sensibility, a fashion, or is there really something at stake? Would you classify it as petit-bourgeois anxieties? Loss of attention as a metaphor for threatening poverty and status loss of the traditional middle class in the West? How do you read the use of brain research by Nicholas Carr, Frank Schirrmacher and more recently also the German psychiatrist Manfred Spitzer who came up with a few bold statement concerning the devastating consequences of computer use for the (young) human brain. Having read your study one could say: don’t worry, nothing new under the sun. But is this the right answer?

PL: Your description addresses severe debates. Nothing less than the future of our Western culture seems to be at stake. Institutions like the educational systems are under permanent critique, concerning all levels from primary schools to universities. That’s why the Pisa studies have revealed a lot of deficits and have provoked debates on what kind of education is necessary for our children. On the one hand it’s a debate on cultural values, but on the other it’s a struggle on power relations. We are living in a society of control, and how to become a subject and how this subject is related to other subjects in mediated environments are important questions.

A great uncertainty is emerged. That’s why formulas that promise easy solutions are highly welcomed. Neurological concepts are often based on one-sided models concerning the relationship between body and mind, and they often leave out the role of social and environmental factors. From historians of science such as Canguilhem and Foucault one can learn that psychiatrist models of brain defects and mental anomalies not only mirror social anxieties, but also produce knowledge about what is defined as normal. And it is up to us as observers of such discourses to name those anxieties today. Nonetheless, I would not signify distraction as a metaphor. It is in fact a concrete phase of the body, a state of the mind. It’s real. You cannot deal with it when you call it a disability or a disease and just pop pills or switch off your electronic devices."
via:litherland  attention  distraction  2013  petralöffer  geertlovink  walterbenjamin  flaneur  gawkers  cities  internet  audience  diaphanesverlag  montaigne  albertkümmel  siegfriedkracauer  frankfurterschule  kant  tibot  psychology  daydreaming  media  mediaarchaeology  richardshusterman  film  micropolitics  friederichkittler  education  subjectivation  massmedia  bildung  nicholascarr  sherryturkle  frankschirrmacher  culture  values  culturalvalues  brain  bernardstiegler  socialmedia  marketing  entertainment  propaganda  deepreading  petersloterdijk  mindfulness  self-control  mediatheory  theory  theodoradorno  weimar  history  philosophy  reading  writing  data  perception  siegfriedzielinski  wolfgangernst  bernhardsiegert  erhardschüttpelz  francoberardi  andrewkeen  jaronlanier  howardrheingold  foucault  micheldemontaigne  michelfoucault 
october 2013 by robertogreco

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