Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Week 3 - Postmodernism

Notes on our discussion:

(nb our discussion on Barthes and Wittgenstein was in the context of digital culture)

"... ce qui m'a toujours préoccupé [...] c'est le problème de la signification des objets culturels."

~Barthes, Mythologies 64

"Dans la vie quotidienne, j'éprouve pour tout ce que je vois et entends une sorte de curiosité, presque d'affectivité intellectuelle qui est de l'ordre du romanesque."

~Barthes, Mythologies 192

Like Barthes, we're interested in exploring and questioning the perceived *naturalness* or *objectivity* of culture (its objects and codes). We talked about Barthes view (in "Operation Margarine") of French bourgeois culture. Interpriting an ad for margarine Barthes finds negatives or problems associated with a product (like margarine) are raised in order for its benefits to be revered which then outweigh any cons. Barthes explains that this technique is mirrored in discourses of religion, capitalism, and war. To put it simply, drawbacks are noted only as a way of further demonstrating the crucial significance the object or discourse has for culture.

"The episode always begins with a cry of indignation against margarine: 'A mousse? Made with margarine? Unthinkable!' 'Margarine? Your uncle will be furious!' And then one's eyes are opened, one's conscience becomes more pliable, and margarine is a delicious food, tasty, digestible, economical, useful in all circumstances. The moral at the end is well known: 'Here you are, rid of a prejudice which cost you dearly!"


Lugwig Wittgenstein - Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

"2.12 - The picture is a model of reality."

Here we debated what the word "world" means and whether there exists a *universal* understanding of "world" and does the term world include what lies outside of our perceptions?

For Wittgenstein a picture (any picture?) is a model of reality because the objects in the image relate to each other in the same way that objects in the world relate to each other. If the relations do not correspond, then the picture is not of something in the world. (But this can still be considered reality because the world includes the "non-existence" of things).

“Given that every object must occur in some state of affairs or other (2.0121), we know that given all states of affairs, all objects are given as well. But we have already seen that given the totality of objects, all possible states of affairs are given (2.0124). In other words, given all existing states of affairs, we can construct, by way of the objects they contain, all possible states of affairs — both those that exist and those that do not exist. It is in this way that the structure of reality is implicated in the structure of the world. For quite trivial
reasons, the structure of the world is implicated in the structure of reality. Of course, it still remains a mistake to identify the world with reality, but, in the end, this is something that can be set right without undermining the basic principles of the Tractarian ontology.”

~~~R. J. Fogelin, Wittgenstein (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1976) 12.


Talking about absolutism led us back to Barthes and his "Death of the Author." We talked about images and representations and the imbued coded meanings. We talked about context (that of the *original* author and that of the reader/author).

"We know that a text does not consist of a line of words, releasing a single “theological” meaning (the “message” of the Author-God), but is a space of many dimensions, in which are wedded and contested various kinds of writing, no one of which is original: the text is a tissue of citations, resulting from the thousand sources of culture. Like Bouvard and Pecuchet, those eternal copyists, both sublime and comical and whose profound absurdity precisely designates the truth of writing, the writer can only imitate a gesture forever anterior, never original."

We kept coming back to the question of authenticity of voice and of text.

While structuralist critics would see the text as deeply related to a real-life author. As Barthes notes:
"The image of literature to be found in ordinary culture is tyrannically centred on the author, his person, his life, his tastes, his passions, while criticism still consists for the most part in saying that Baudelaire's work is the failure of Baudelaire the man, Van Gogh's his madness, Tchaikovsky's his vice. The explanation of a work is awlays sought in the man or woman who produced it, as if it were always in the end, through the more or less transparent allegory of the fiction, the voice of a single person, the author 'confiding' in us."

For Barthes, texts are tissues of quotations, patchworks of others texts. Thus, there is no organised whole constructed by an authorial presence.


Task: After collecting evidence during our walk along the canal, create a multimodal response to the notion of "authorship" in a digital culture.

(where is the apostrophe?!)

Reading for next week: Lev Manovich's The Language of New Media.


Paul Scattergood said...

you know as fast a learner as i am; i cant read french. Well not unless its about where the beach is etc.

Jess said...

"Ou est la plage?"

Ah Paul, that's the beauty of the web. See if you can't find a suitable translation online.

If you have any probs I'll e-mail you a translation.

Web Content Writer Nikki May said...

Will the language of the media be forever changing as the media (its tools & platforms) changes?

Nikki May
Web Content Writer