Thursday, April 10, 2008

On Ang

My post will be on "Audiences and Global Culture" because I feel it was the most difficult reading and I have the most open questions with it.

While I struggled for a long time with this article, Ang describes an elegant framework for understanding the uncertainty of the 'capitalist postmodernity' that we live in. This sentence itself is quite loaded-- what exactly is capitalist postmodernity? I may be wrong, but it seems to be a really convoluted way of saying 'globalization'. Anyway, Ang shows that what is at stake is understanding who has power. She argues that we must move away from thinking about traditional communication models where there exists a 'closed feedback loop', free of external influences, and towards a model where there are essentially unbounded external variables. Thus it makes more sense to talk not about the mistakes made during perfect communication, but rather the successful communications in a (what might as well be) a sea of noise. It is inverting the typical communications model to talk about what actually gets communicated rather than what doesn't. This makes sense in the 'capitalist postmodernity' because there is so much noise and so much information that so few communications make it compared to the number that fail. So far, this is all quite theoretical, but Ang gives the example of the 'passive people meter' and how it will fail because it "is based on the implicit assumption that there is such a thing as an 'audience' as a finite totality..." (p173).

Ang had so few concrete examples of her lofty ideas, and this crucial one didn't quite sit right with me. I agree that it is quite difficult to actually measure an entire audience -- in fact, given our current technology, it is probably impossible, but I don't agree with the statement that an audience doesn't exist as a finite totality. Sure, there are incredible complications which must be taken into consideration when understanding an audience, but how can it be infinite? It seems that so much of her argument rests on the idea that the audience is an infinite, or at least an unbounded group. Additionally, are the systems that she is describing simply chaotic because we don't yet have the technology to properly model them? Will we ever have the technology? Lastly, as a mathematician I have to take argument with her statement that "in the postmodern episteme 'there is no fixed site of truth, no absolute presence; there are just multiple representations, an infinite number of rewritings." It seems to me that this applies to mathematics as well, as mathematics exists within our episteme. Does she argue that math is not a truth, or am I not understanding her?

This article was really hard to get through, I'm probably just mistaken.

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