Media, Information and Technoculture 3214F/G Lecture Notes - Lecture 10: Res Publica

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MIT 1200 Lecture “ Why Study Media in University?” March 30, 2011
Jacques Derrida + Why Study Media in University?
Jacques Derrida
-renowned French philosopher, died in 2004
-Arendt and Derrida were public intellectuals. They tried to speak about things that were going on around
-Derrida is a professional philosopher about technology.
-Derrida’s paper broken down into 5 points, him describing what an intellectual is to him.
-1. Expressing his dislike in the way in which he was asked a question. He says that the format of
the survey mimics the medias authorities which he is being asked to take a stand on. We often
just submit to the way that we are being asked a question. He doesn’t want to deal with these
“rules”. Derrida’s model is a response. Think about the ways in which you are asked for pre-
shaped questions and answer, and you have to speak in easily definable, short space provided
definitions. Derrida wants to revolt against representing ourselves in this way. The Status
Update, the language of Facebook, is exactly this. Forcing ourselves into a pre-shaped form of
reply. Sound biting is another form of this; clipping interviews into 20 second clips. Politicians
know that the media does this. They know this and they are writing speeches that contain sound
bites. Derrida is drawing our attention to the fact that this way of speaking (status updates,
sound bites) has infiltrated more than political speaking. Politicians used to speak for a long
time, Hitler didn’t speak in sound bites. The rise of mass media has changed the way we
speak politically. When Derrida doesn’t want to answer this survey in this way, he is
suggesting that the compression and impoverishment of language has infiltrated our day to day
communication. He might have talked about Facebook and the way in which our speech
amongst friends has changed through this new technology. Status updates are derivatives of
sound bites.
-We study media in university to gain some purchase on this change. You might study media is to
think about the ways in which political speech has changed as part of the rise of mass media. We
have much more access to speak these days with Internet. Paradox here though in the way in
which we might not be saying anything of great importance. The more opportunities we have to
speak, the less we are saying to each other. We have to express our state of being in 140
characters or less (twitter). We are exercising our freedoms of speech everyday, but we have to
think about the way that this is played out.
-2. An intellectual is someone who has acquired certain skills made legitimate by some sort of
authority. This assumes a division between intellectual classes and labour classes, which he
wants to do away with because your bus driver may also be an intellectual.
-4. The King in the King’s speech has the ultimate level of authority but he can’t speak for
himself. He has to lean upon someone of the lower class in order to speak, even though he has all
the legitimation he needs. How does someone find their voice? He has legitimacy, but he doesn’t
have authority.
-Another reason to study media: to learn to acquire this. It’s about spending the time here
learning how to have an authority, how to speak, how to think. What is at stake when someone
says “I think?” what is inscribed under this work, to think? This thought cannot be reduced to
knowledge or info or philosophy or literature or politics.
-Media Studies as a discipline of humanities is a place that tries and risks thinking.
-5. He describes media as affecting change in the nature of the res publica (public sphere, public
matters) Mass media has changed the nature of the public sphere. We would like to think that
media is part of society, but he is suggesting that mass media is the venue of public life. Mass
media is the thing where there has been a revolution in the public sphere. Mass media is the
thing that has revolutionized the res publica. Now the mass media is the debate of public
-You should study media if you are interested in social justice because this is the venue where
these things are considered.
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