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Speech With Out Response

May 9, 2008

Speech without Response[1]


Baudrillard points out a very good point in his definition of communication as a two way exchange rather than the emission of a point without ability to respond in a synchronous way.  Historically television, newspapers, and to a lesser extent radio were like this, certainly in 1988 when Baudrillard writes.  Granted people could write the editor and in some instances “call in” to live television and radio, but even in this context not everyone who wanted to “respond” could do so.  Time and location limited this true exchange that defines a communication dialog.  The computer was once that way for most users.  However the computer with e-mail, texting, blogs, and chat has changed this to a large degree.  Still this ability is not available to all the masses.  Some people do not have Internet.  Another change since 1988 is the proliferation of new audio/visual content exchange on the Internet.  Examples are Current TV, Link TV and interactive websites.  Recently I was able to (supposedly) text with Queen Rania of Jordan during her virtual time at her Facebook website.


In reading The Masses: The Implosion of the Social in the Media I can see why Webster[2] writes as he does and seems to say that to Baudrillard the world is inauthentic or at least fails to convey a productive reality that can be used.  Baudrillard seems to portray society as a “lost society” (P. 210).  He uses the example of polls to explain his position but I am not sure I agree whole heartedly with him.  In saying this I do agree that much of the “data” published is a poor reflection of what it was to measure, but not all of it so.  He notes (P. 210) that reality is obscured by simulation and this leads to uncertainty “which results not from the lack of information but from information itself and even from an excess of information.  It is information itself which produces uncertainty, and so this uncertainty, unlike the traditional uncertainty which could always be resolved, is irreparable.”  But rather than be useless, there is need to highly scrutinize.  Rather than being an inevitable stifling of society there need to be more educated and questioning.  Baudrillard rather implies that society will become entertained and placid in the obscene waste of the social. 


Perhaps his analysis is maintainable.  Perhaps the masses are or will become docile, ignorant of truth/fact and non-opinionated (other than in satisfying their own self-centered desires) that the masses will be stratified to a new social low leaving a social stratum of intellectuals and discerning individuals to direct social order!  Perhaps this is at the heart of the reference to Beau Brummel (P.216).  However, do people really want “someone” to specifically tell them what to think, do, and when?  Perhaps the rebellion of such direct delivery of course would be the result.  Perhaps a more indirect and subtle method of management and manipulation (or more acceptably “persuasion”) would be acceptable to the masses?  Baudrillard’s discussion of the moral law and need to know personal will, choice, liberty, deliberation, desire is interesting.  Knowing your own will (or even a society or group knowing its own collective will) is integral in a technological sense to innovation.  Has media collectively harnessed, restricted and limited the range of the “will” and clouded ability to determine desire, choice and liberty (P 214)?   Perhaps the query about indirect methodology deserves an affirmative answer.

[1] Baudrillard, Jean F. 1988.  “The Masses: The Implosion of the Social in the Media.” Pp. 207-19 in Selected Writings.  Edited and with an introduction by Mark Poster.  Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.

[2] Webster, Frank. 2006. Theories of the Information Society. 3rd ed. London: Routledge.

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