Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wark and Wedom [S03]

I was struck by the moment in McKenzie Wark’s essay wherein he makes the distinction between “Wedom” and “Theydom,” recalling Edward Said’s renowned work, “Orientalism” and discussing the ways in which the “other” plays into modern media vectors. Wark certainly admits the connections these vectors make, particularly with “weird media events” that, as we discussed in class, “crystallize relations” (between New York and Afghanistan, for example, on 9/11). Wark goes on to intimate, however, that these connections perpetuate and are founded on the distinctions of “Wedom” and “Theydom”: “...a set of everyday conventions operating to make the fate of its victims, who belong to Wedom, the subject of sympathy or mourning, and an evil Theydom.”

To consider the way distinctions of “us” and “the other” still play into modern media – quite deliberately, Wark might argue – we must reconsider the very vehicles that, in many ways, connect the world in unprecedented fashions; that, seemingly, bring “us” and “them” closer than ever, with Al Jazeera airings replayed on CNN in a matter of seconds; or cell phone videos from the Iranian revolts posted on the Internet within minutes. That the media can simultaneously connect Wedom and Theydom through its vectors, and yet, that it also seems to set in stone the distinctions between the two, begs the question, for me, of how Wedom and Theydom fit into the notion of the media’s control. If the “weird media event” – unpredictable and uncontrollable – begets the vectors that connect, say, New York and Afghanistan (making the world smaller, in a way), then where do the distinctions between the two arise from? Who labels “Us” and “Them” – the viewers or the producers of media? Which is to say, is the media playing on our inherent ideological notions of “us” and “the other,” or are these distinctions part of the framework narrative the media constructs for us (and thus uses to control us)?

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