Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Zizi Papacharissi / The virtual sphere: The internet as a public sphere – summary and review

According to Zizi Papacharissi in "The virtual sphere: The internet as a public sphere" web technology has the capacity for reestablishing the public sphere, giving the global public the possibility of freely and equally debate various issues. The problem that Papacharissi points to is the instead of promoting a new and equal behavioral patterns, it seems that the global capitalistic trend is still highly influential with the internet following it. For Papacharissi, the conditions for the constitution of a public sphere do not depend only on technology, but also on its users and owners.  
In did today's technology allows more people to engage in politics but this is still not sufficient, in Papacharissi's view, the reestablish the public sphere. At its beginning the internet seemed to hold a utopian promise of democracy. But Papacharissi says celebration were too early.
"The virtual sphere: The internet as a public sphere" tries to find out how political use of the internet will affect the public sphere. Papacharissi thinks that the internet promotes debate, which sustains a public sphere which in turn supports democracy. What Papacharissi is interested in is how internet discourse contributing to democracy.
For Papacharissi, there was never really a true public sphere in the sense that Habermas described. Be it the Greek agora of the bourgeois public sphere, they were always exclusive rather than inclusive. What Papacharissi is asking now is whether the internet is capable of creating the long dreamt of public sphere that never existed. The other option is that the internet will become just another sphere which is controlled by capitalists (Papacharissi leans towards the second option).
According to Papacharissi, access to information in the internet remained unequal and even favors apathy. The exponential growth of the internet and content in it makes it hard for single, especially weak, voices to be heard. The ability to be anonymous allows the individual to say more, but his words mean less.
Papacharissi also holds that the internet is not really a public sphere. It was established by capitalism and for capitalism. The real interesting question that Papacharissi asks in " The virtual sphere: The internet as a public sphere" is weather to new public sphere of the internet be translated into material political action, and will people give up on the anonymity and expose themselves in the public sphere.  
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Habermas' / The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society - summary

Foucault's concept of heterotopia

Heterotopia is a concept introduced by Michel Foucault in his 1966 book "Les mots et les choses" to describe the manner in which defined spaces which surround the subject in social existence can reduce his autonomy and even his sense of identity. According to Foucault a heterotopia is the manner in which society and culture, having power on the one hand and the interest of realizing this power on the other, define the subject through his differentiation from general society. Initially heterotopia was uses by Foucault to describe a non-real verbal space and he later expanded to term to refer to a physical as well as non-physical space.

People differed from the public sphere can be seen as subject, members of the social structure and as having free will, but at the same time they are subjects of a culture which examines, labels and constructs them as socially adapted entities. The heterotopia breaks apart the subject through his reconstitution, his "amendment" and "proper" disciplining.

Foucault argues the prisons, mental institutions and even schools are such types of heterotopias. This is because such sites are separated from their surroundings, control movement in and out of them and inside of them and thus these heterotopias are able to control them.

According to Foucault, heterotopias are almost invisible and perceived as natural by members of a society, but they are nevertheless measures of disciplining, controlling and punishing of the different and deviant. In other words, heterotopias are seen as natural, necessary and harmless when in fact they are a way for society to regulate out behavior.

Foucault believes that the formation of heterotopias is a critical process in the formation of social life. A heterotopia allows for the consolidation of a mass into a distinguished society which exists at a given time and space. The concept of heterotopia can be linked to the manner in which ideology is reproducing, creating and imposing its norm on its members. This process of social construction, Foucault says, has the capacity of differentiation the normal from the abnormal and through this to constitute a groups identity as well as the private identity of each of its members.       


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Habermas' / The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society - summary

  Habermas' / The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society - summary
Jürgen HabermasThe Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society is without a doubt on of the most important and constituting books in media studies.
In The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society Haberams articulates his famous notion of the public sphere. According to Habermas the 18th and 19th centuries saw the beginning of a new type of bourgeois public sphere that subsequently declined in the 20th century. Habermas explains the development of the public sphere from the monarchical and feudal forms it formerly took that were organized around symbolic representations of power and status. The liberal or bourgeois public sphere appeared when constitutional principles separated the private from the public domain. The bourgeois public sphere developed within the private sphere and gave rise to the democratically significant public opinion. The avant-garde of the bourgeois public sphere according to Habermas was intellectual activities in coffee-houses and salons that saw the inception of a critical attitude towards society. This type of public sphere grew in parallel to early capitalism and liberalism.
The second part of The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society relates to the transition from the bourgeois public sphere to modern mass society. Consumer capitalism began to invade the public sphere in the 20th century, blurring the separation between the private and the public, the state and civil society. The bourgeois public sphere underwent transformation in a dialectic machnism.
Habermas' The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society was later on criticized for supposing equal and open access to the public sphere which was in reality exclusive and reserved only for white bourgeois males. In order to take part in the public sphere one had to have education and property, leaving in fact the majority of the population outside the bounds of the public sphere.  
  Habermas' / The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society - summary



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Monday, September 19, 2011

Jürgen Habermas's Public Sphere explained (summary)

Jürgen Habermas's concept of the public sphere is a realm within social life in which public opinion can be formed and which is accessible to all. The engagement within the public sphere according to Habermas is blind to class positions and the connections between activists in the public sphere are formed through a mutual will to take part in matters that have a general interest. The public sphere, according to Habermas, is a product of democracy.
For Jürgen Habermas, the concept of "public opinion" is the control and criticism of organized political authority which is officially manifested by the public come elections.
Habermas examines the history of the public sphere and hold that in medieval times there existed no separation or distinction between the private and public sphere, due to the class pyramid of the feudal system. This system for Habermas positioned greater power at every level and to this day conventions regarding the ruler persisted, with political authority retained by the highest levels. Rulers saw themselves as the state and not as representatives of the state – meaning that they represent their power to the people and not for the people.    
According to Habermas, by the late 18th century feudal institutions were finally disappearing along with the church's rule, making way to public power which was given autonomy. Rulers become public entities and professionalism bore the first signs of the rule of the bourgeois which became autonomous in relation to the government. Representational publicity was pushed over by a public force that formed around national and territorial sentiments and individual struggling with public power found themselves outside its collective power. The term "public" did not refer to the representation of a man with authority, but rather became the legitimate power of exercising power. The public sphere, according to Habermas, was the final stage of these developments.
Habermas sees the liberal model of the public sphere as something which is unprecedented in history. Different state constitutions contain clauses specifying the liberal model of the public sphere – private people joining together to form a public and thus mediate the relationship between the state and the bourgeois society in order to supervise over and educate the political government. In the second half of the 18th century, Haberman holds, literary journalism is on the rise and it is no longer just a supplier of news but rather a weapon in the politics of parties, taking on a new journalistic vocation: editing. Information trade is now the name of the fame, trading public opinion – the quintessential symbol of the public sphere. In other words, Habermas claims that the public sphere as we know it was formed when journalism became a public institution with the aim of promoting public debate. Only after the establishment of a democratic-bourgeois constitution could newspapers deal with public opinion for the purpose of commerce and not only for taking sides in a social-political debate (we are talking 1830's onwards). Due to the flow of private interests into the newspapers and mass media did changes in the public sphere begin to take shape, such as ideological content, commercials and so forth.  
But according to Habermas, the liberal model of the public sphere does not sit well with the modern industrialized democratic state, since the ideology involved with this model of the public sphere is tied with values that have changed since the 18th century. Journalism and propaganda have expanded as well as the boundaries of the public and the public sphere. In addition, the public has lost it cohesion due to the high standards of meritocratic education which have created classes, gaps and conflicts which once resided in the private sphere but have now migrated to the public sphere. The private and public spheres have mixed with each other, social and political organizations are now invading each other. Thus, according to Habermas, a new feudalization of the public sphere is brought about.
The contemporary public sphere is characterized according to Habermas by the weathering of its critical roles and capacities. In the past publicity was used to subject people or the present political decisions to the public. Today the public sphere is recruited for the use of hidden policies by interest groups. For Habermas, the principles of the public sphere are weakening in the 20th century. The public is no longer made out of masses of individuals but of organized people that institutionally exerting their influence on the public sphere and debate.  


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Roger Silverstone - "Television, Ontological Security and Transitional Object"

In his "Television, Ontological Security and Transitional Object" Roger Silverstone argues that television protects the individual and that it is an inseparable part of him in the cognitive as well as the emotional levels, and that television fills his time and space. Silverstone's "Television, Ontological Security and Transitional Object" presents three perceptions that emphasize the importance of television: television offers ontological security – the mechanism which allows the individual to survive in society. According to Silverstone television grants us the sense of personal identity and a feeling of continuity of that identity. This security is established through "remote trust – a sense of ontological security without real life experience. Television (by means of its technological capabilities) links us to the world and gives us a sense of "remote trust" to the truth that it represents. In addition Silverstone argues that television provides us with a transitional object which allows in Winnicott's psychoanalysis to disengage from the mother and gain a sense of selfhood. Television fills the absence of the mother and the functions that she represents such as continuity, indestructibility (which caters ontological security), daily time patterns (regular viewing hours) and it organizes the domestic space with its central position in the household.
Silverstone believes that media in general and television in particular fills many function the everyday life of people. To begin with television structures our daily routine – people watch the same programs at the same hours. Furthermore, television structures the domestic space by the position it has in the house. Television, according to Silverstone, strengths the sense of ontological security in the individual and forms the basis of his personal identity and the continuity of that identity. Television also offers remote trust which helps us sustain our faith in reality without directly experiencing it. To most significant role Silverstone ascribes television in "Television, Ontological Security and Transitional Object"  is that of transitional object which is crucial for the formation of an independent identity.        

Friday, September 16, 2011

Susan Sontag - On Photography: Photographic evangels - Summary - part 2

In trying to defend the aesthetic and moral value of photography, the "Photographic Evangels" discussed by Susan Sontag in chapter 5 of "On Photography" had to fight for photography's claim to the statues of fine art (as opposed to craft) in light of its dependency on mechanical equipment.
The initial claim posed by the "photographic evangels" was the photography wasn't a mechanical coping of reality but rather a new way of seeing it which matches the aesthetic value of painting. And after being established and acclaimed as an art form, nowadays photography and its current "evangels" can deny that what they are doing is an art. Now they fight of the modernist imposition of artistic nature on photography. For art to remain art, it must oppose what was up until now considered to be art.
But modern "photographic evangels", according to Sontag, still can't shake the artistic view on photography. Moreover, the dialogue with art and especially painting continues to influence the conception of photography (like the tendency towards black and white photography, which is both "artistic" and a break from painting).
According to Sontag, various discussions on photography have had to do with its relation to art and painting – how close can photography come to painting without losing its claim to being unlimited in scope and capacities of representation. But art, Sontag holds, also shelters photography from being a devouring, coping engagement with reality and safeguards it as a selective, interpretative and unique way to represent to world.  
The debate about photography as art was publically decided when photography entered museums and galleries. This was, according to Sontag, the victory of the modern taste which sought a loser definition of what art is. However, with photography entering the museum, the problem of distinguishing the professional artistic photographer from the amateur or the functional became more critical. Deciding photography as an art form drew attention to its stylistic variance and history, which again brought about the problem of delineation. Do functionally intended photographs (such as journalistic photography) belong in the museum? Another problem that Sontag notes it that when photography becomes a part of the museum in becomes more about itself and less about its subjects, in a sense it becomes more form than content.  Another problem Sontag notes in this respect is that of photographic authorship.
Sontag argues that it is content and not form which determines the viewer's appreciation of a photograph, but it seems that form still dictates photographic taste. While photography's authority is always dependant on its relation to the object, Sontag holds that all claims to photography as art must address its subjective vision. For this, all aesthetic judgments of photography are ambivalent, which accounts for Sontag for the shifts in photographic taste. Sontag describes how an emphasis on technical ability gave way to favoring "photographic vision" in aesthetic judgments of photography.
The subjective component in the modernistic conception of art requires photography to constitute the photographer as "auteur" and his works as a part of an individual style, his own photographic vision. Another problem of photography as art is the scarce vocabulary which is used to describe photographs, a scarcity which Sontag attributes to the short millage of photography criticism. While heavily borrowing its vocabulary, photography according to Sontag cannot borrow painting's aesthetic criteria such as authenticity. Something that photography and painting still have in common in relation to judgment is novelty, and the value granted for new innovative ways of expression.
In regards to innovation, Sontag notes that museums do not offer normative judgments on photography, but rather only various ways of addressing it, refuting the idea of a photographic canon. Unlike painting, photography is very loosely governed or characterized by "schools" or periods.  With photography, painting eventually gave up attempts of accurately and realistically depicting the world (leaving this to photography) and allowed it to move on to its next challenge: abstraction.
Photography, for Sontag, changed art in the sense that the Benjeminic "aura" of originality and uniqueness is no longer so important – photography gave up the original in favor or reproduction, and art followed. Sontag furthers holds that photography is not in itself an art form, like language is not always poetry. Photography is not an art, but it has the capacity of turning virtually everything into art, and in this photography is moving art towards a growing focus on medium, not content.




Susan Sontag - On Photography:


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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Susan Sontag - On Photography: Photographic evangels - Summary

Susan Sontag -  On Photography: Photographic evangels - Summary

In part 5 of "On Photography" – "Photographic Evangels" Susan Sontag Discusses the nature of the art of photography through various claims to the nature of essence of photography and aesthetic and moral views on photography.

At the opening of "Photographic Evangels" Sontag points to two foundational views on photography – that which sees photography as a sober, minded and knowledged action and that which views photography as an act of intuitive encounter with the world. The latter speaks of a certain state of mind involved with photography which leads to what Sontag calls "an epistemological paradox" in which photography is presented as a kind of "knowledge without knowledge". The former's take on photography is that the photographic image must pre-exist in the mind of the photographer, and that photography is hence a deliberate, crafted and self-aware action. These two views presented by Sontag, it should be noted, mandate different techniques of photography  - one which spontaneously shot everything and one which requires prior planning.

Another issue treated by Sontag in "Photographic Evangels" is that of creativity in photography and photography as a means of self expression. Here Sontag discusses the gap between the notion of photography as expression and that of photography as a realist depiction of reality. Whether an individual subjective and creative practice or one which is true only to reality, Sontag notes that both takes on photography converge and the pre-assumption that photography is a unique method of discovery – a way to see reality in a way that in only possible through photography.

This brings Sontag's "Photographic Evangels" to the question of realism. Photography was often held as a realist medium, and Sontag defines photographic realism as claiming not to what there "really" is but rather to what I "really" see. The realist approach to photography as defined by Sontag stays true to the notion of photography as discovery, assuming the reality is hidden and can be revealed by photography. Photography takes on the function of estrangement, with Sontag arguing that this approach holds that representing something through photography is presenting something that is hidden. This, ironically, leads in Sontag's view to the formalist approach that fells that there must be a gap between reality and its representation in which art works. The imposition of form on the realistic, supposedly "transparent" medium of photography, is the way in which the realist vision on photography meats with its opposing theory.

For Sontag in "photographic Evangels", the subjective and objective views on photography converge in what taking a photograph is really all about. Photography depicts realities that are only discernable through photographs (which doesn't make them less of a reality). The camera is a medium for discovery, both self discovery and for discovering reality.

In "Photographic Evangels" Susan Sontag further discusses the notion widely held by the "photographic evangels", early photographers and theorists of photography, of photography as discovery, be it a realistic or formalistic discovery. Both variations deny photography as an aggressive act of exploitatively expropriating reality, objects and people. The subjective approach denies this aggressive nature of photography by emphasizing the kind a gentle gaze of the cameras while the objective realist approach stresses the abolition of the self in the depiction of reality through photography.

According to Sontag in "photographic Evangels", one result of these two ideals is the ambivalence towards means of photography. Many photographers gave up using more advanced photography equipment in order to "disarm" themselves in relation to reality and to preserve the expressional mode of photography that might be lost if photography was to become too accurate. This also leads to technological attempts to realize forsaken possibilities in the early development of photography.




On Photography:


Books by Susan Sontag and about photography you should definitely read


  

Susan Sontag -  On Photography: Photographic evangels - Summary