Category Archives: “Real-time” Web
What follows is a sequence of six Youtube clips of CNBC’s “live” coverage of the Dow crash on May 6. As one of the commentators notes, “live pictures are just part of the story,” whether they are of the chaotic streets of Athens or the frantic floor of the stock exchange. This video notebook is prefatory to further musings on the ideological underpinnings of the “real-time” Web, which may take as one example the media’s scramble to “cover” the vicissitudes of the market over several hours – or even to follow, to track or monitor them with accuracy. NB: some of this is hard to stomach.
The link below will take you to Google Books and an extract from a chapter of my first book, In the Event: Reading Journalism, Reading Theory, which appeared in 1999 as part of the “Meridian: Crossing Aesthetics” series edited by Werner Hamacher for Stanford University Press. The material in question, then, appeared in print roughly eleven years ago, which was nearly two years after I had submitted the completed manuscript for publication. At that time, the machinery of academic book publishing worked slowly, and the lag between submission and light of day was significant.
In order efficiently to provide a brief context for the specific material I want to recall, I will simply quote from the characterization that appeared – and still appears – on the back of the book.
Assuming the burden of reading imposed by the correlation of the order of language and the order of events, this book argues that the possibility of reading and writing history is tied to the endurance of traces of the past and their coming to legibility, allegorically, at a given time. Through attentive readings of a range of texts – including theoretical writings, diaries, newspaper reports, and “live” television broadcasts – In the Event elaborates the ways in which allegory disrupts our presumptions of continuity and simultaneity between the image (whatever its medium) and what we take it to represent.
The author demonstrates that a theoretical corpus must be understood not merely as a discrete set of arguments, but as work that takes place in time and on which time itself is at work. Against the temptation to regard a text (including a text of philosophical aesthetics or critical linguistics) as explained or defined by a fixed temporal context, this book emphasizes the textual operation of time. This attention to temporality opens the possibility of reading the notoriously difficult and resistant text of television.
Next comes the summary version of the part of the book most relevant to the case I hope to make over several forthcoming posts: an argument, based on what I think is a telling instance or example, about the illusory nature of the “real-time” Web, aka Web 2.0.
The book’s central chapters analyze the seductions of “live” broadcasting: an incisive account of news coverage of the [first] Gulf War, for example, reveals how the unproblematic articulation of “live” television with the real has its impulse in a broader realist ideology that finds its opportunity in the failure to reflect on the distances of space and time that characterize the medium…. Here, and throughout the book, the readings argue that what we take to be historical events are actually produced, even constituted, by an array of discursive technologies, including language itself.
[En passant, it has been my experience that copy-blogging one’s own past work leads to more wpm and fewer typos.]
Bear with me as I elaborate, over a series of posts, an argument about the ways in which a version of the realist ideology that underpins common conceptions about “live” broadcasting is also at work, in a manner and to an extent that are mostly unacknowledged, in the vaunting of the “real-time” Web.
This post is, among other things, an example of the intervention of serendipity into the workings of this weblog. I had planned to take as today’s provisional point of departure a blog post from guardian.co.uk that I had archived for future reference. Then, pretty much out of the blue, I opened my inbox last night to find an email from a dear friend, with the tantalizing subject heading “Here’s today’s version of your epistemology of media lag argument.” I clicked on the link with the sense of opening a gift, to discover another post (this one from the New York Times “Media Decoder”) that I found even more compelling than the Guardian candidate. I may (and I stress may) have found a way to align these two reference points, all unexpectedly, within the framework of this blog’s project (and much of the decades’ worth of research and writing that preceded it). The effort will require, at a minimum, a short series, beginning (barring the hand of serendipity) with my next post.