“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”
–Alfred North Whitehead

Media Ecology and the Blogosphere

Knowledge Ecology blogged earlier today about the difference between blogging and publishing books, which has become an issue of contention within “the speculative realist movement,” so called, since Ray Brassier’s disparaging comment in an interview last year. Graham Harman, Timothy Morton, and Levi Bryant all chimed in with responses. Below is my response:

In light of McLuhan’s theory of how new media technologies develop by swallowing prior mediums (similar to Hegel’s Aufheben, no?), perhaps we 20-somethings, whose capacity to think and to communicate can hardly be understood in isolation from electronic media like the Internet, have a unique perspective on the matter.

Were we ever, strictly speaking, literate? I don’t think so. My consciousness may still have been forged by text, but not the printed word of prior generations. Electronic texts are hyper-texts that defy the logic of linear, rational consciousness characteristic of 18th and 19th century literacy. The word has been etherealized by the electronic medium of the blog and is no longer bound to the stubborn materiality of books, nor to the ideological conservatism of the publishing industry.

Hyper-text gives the word greater freedom in time and space, linking it to an increasingly planet-wide network of contexts whose informational resources are available for consumption at the speed of light.

It’s important to recognize, however, the way the Internet represents a sort of culmination of capitalism. On a trivial level, without capitalism and the military-industrial complex, the technological infrastructure that provides the material conditions for our ethereal exchanges would not exist; but on a deeper level, the blogosphere has made truth something to be competed for within a free market (at least free to those who can afford Internet access).

Of course, academic publishing may still provide the necessary hierarchy of expertise protecting well-researched truth claims from the laissez-faire democratization that can occur online. Like the blogosphere, however, these hierarchies are still only justified by the strength of their networks and alliances.

In the end, I prefer to feel the weight of the written word in my hand. Books may not be quite as ethereal a mode of expression as blogs, but their imposing permanence sometimes makes the former seem ephemeral.





5 responses to “Media Ecology and the Blogosphere”

  1. Adam Robbert Avatar
    Adam Robbert

    Hah! I Had not read Brassier’s comments: “I don’t believe the internet is an appropriate medium for serious philosophical debate; nor do I believe it is acceptable to try to concoct a philosophical movement online by using blogs to exploit the misguided enthusiasm of impressionable graduate students. I agree with Deleuze’s remark that ultimately the most basic task of philosophy is to impede stupidity, so I see little philosophical merit in a ‘movement’ whose most signal achievement thus far is to have generated an online orgy of stupidity.”

    OK Brassier, you can have speculative realism back. I just have one question: how many times do you think he rehearsed that insult before writing it down?

    Did somebody not invite him to a party or something?

    1. Matthew David Segall Avatar

      Nihilism is alienated consciousness. McLuhan’s student, Walter Ong, said somewhere that “human beings need alienation,” but only in order to push our potential for meaning-making into a higher mode of truth-taking. I’ve responded to some of Brassier’s positions here:


  2. mary Avatar

    In my town, Borders Books is in the process of deciding whether or not to close several of its stores because people are reading words on their computers and reading words nested in books on their computers and finding books that are found in stores nested on their computers, with links and related searches provided. I now have Brassier’s book, which I suppose would please him, because of the blogs, which would not please him?
    Brassier has set up a false opposition of media, why, I do not know. I do not know why he would call the attempt to learn “stupid”; I have seen his bibliography…he has read many books during the formation of his thoughts; one can only presume that at some point, he found it necessary to admit his thoughts were contingent on the fine-tuned arguments of others. How much of those he found via the internet is anyone’s quess. I would be surprised if he could answer,” none, I went to the library building.”
    I am enjoying the warmer weather of spring. I have always enjoyed taking a book to the barn with me (great for rainy days). I can carry books in my saddle bag, and read while my horse grazes the new clover. It has to be a paper book because I make margin notes and underline and crimp corners of pages.
    But I found Brassier’s book through the net and I did not have to attend to any hierarchy, other than the value I place on my desire to learn more, which does not have to be proven before I read.

  3. The Ears, Eyes, and Mind of the Wor(l)d « Footnotes to Plato Avatar

    […] About the Author « Media Ecology and the Blogosphere […]

  4. About the blog « LindenTweaks Avatar

    […] Media Ecology and the Blogosphere (footnotes2plato.com) […]

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: