Dramaturgies of Difference

Monday, February 24th, 2014 by eadodge

While reading through Chapter 9 of Zielinski’s “Deep Time of the Media,” I came across this explanation of an example: “Brecht’s Short Organum for the Theatre (1948) is a theoretical and practical plea for operational dramaturgy — that is, for a dramatic art, that does not invite its audience to illusion and catharsis but that encourages thinking to continue during pleasure” (Zielinski 259). This is found under the heading “Cultivating dramaturgies of difference is an effective remedy against the increasing ergonomization of the technical media worlds that is taking place under the banner of ostensible linear progress.” A mouthful, to be sure, and one that I want to take the time to unpack.

Part of this chapter heading is concerned with an idea that Zielinski debunks earlier on in his text, about the myth of linear technological and media progress. As well, throughout his text, Zielinski takes as an assumption that technology is highly standardized, which he laments limits some media activists’ access to information (255). As such, I find myself agreeing with Kittler that “‘media science’ (Medienwissenschaft) will remain mere ‘media history’ as long as the practitioners of cultural studies ‘know higher mathematics only from heresay'” (Kittler xiv). This was a quite disappointing and motivating realization for me. I think that studying artifacts of media is useful from a cultural studies’ perspective, but I ultimately agree that the technology itself and programming therein are even more important to study in relation to action and change. As a particular glitch artist pointed out, “Part of the process [of creating glitch art] is empowering people to understand the tools and underlying structures, you know what is going on in the computer. As soon as you understand the system enough to know why you’re breaking it then you have a better understanding of what the tool was built for” (“Glitching Files”). In order to understand the artifacts in the MAL or even in my own home, I find myself wanting to learn lines of code that result in interfaces and frames. I want to learn how to alter existing media and how to create new media that does not follow a standardized format. And I have a neighbor who creates applications for Android and Apple systems — I’ll see if I can’t get some information from her about the programs and processes that she uses and maybe learn a few things while I’m at it. (/digression)

I think that Zielinski’s idea to create dramaturgies of difference is a fitting solution. Critical thinking and awareness would seem to affront the standarization of code and components, the valorization of the magical/smooth/effortless technology, and the blackboxing that companies inflict on their products. If we agree with Jean Luc Godard that “designed or formed time must give back to people something of the time that life has stolen from them” (Zielinski 274), then we recognize that it is a danger that media consumers will simply allow the media to dazzle and occupy them without a larger thought or idea ever generated. Combatting this with awareness of internal processes and thought-provoking media could work.

I hope to continue this thought, with some basic knowledge of programming if I can manage, over the rest of the semester.

Works cited:

http://blogs.loc.gov/digitalpreservation/2012/11/glitching-files-for-understanding-avoiding-screen-essentialism-in-three-easy-steps/

Kittler, Friedrich. Gramophone, Film, Typewriter. Trans. Geoffrey Winthrop-Young. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1999.

Zielinski, Siegfried. Deep Time of the Media. Trans. Gloria Custance. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006.

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