I was recently asked, what is the role of media in this kind of instrumentality of representation in order to control our thoughts, our hopes and our actions?That is a good question and quite relevant in this century!First, let us deconstruct –or rather allow this to deconstruct itself—the notion of media representation. If we are to put the Foucauldian lens on this and assume that it is a discourse we are considering, then we have to necessarily unpack and deconstruct the concept of “media.” Media in the plural sense (and I always see it that way) encompasses many different forms of communication entities. The following, for example, are parts of the collective “media”:And I will break it down into OLD MEDIA and NEW MEDIAOld MediaA T-shirt is a quintessentially American medium of communication. It is part of the body/power complex and accompanied by visuals and text communicates polyvalent messages in the public sphere.Books, pamphlets, newsletters, magazines, etc. in print form—Harry Potter is a powerful agent of the discourse, whereas Orwell’s 1984 is losing its power. Mother Jones or the Nation no longer command attention, as the New York Times and Vogue continue to do so. The People magazine constructs and delivers ideology with its bio politics with only its imitators as rivals. And so on. Radio, TV, cinema, music, photography, paintings, sculptures, museums. These media have historically set the agenda for us, mostly in the visual form (even radio).  New Media(The Internet is the portal for new media and a virtual universe in its own right)Electronic postcards, e-mail, intranet, weblogs, websites, electronic journalism, graphic designs, graphic novels, social media platforms (e.g., facebook, linkedin, myspace), etc. In many ways, the body/power discourse is facilitated by the above media, particularly in the West. The “truth” is constructed by discourse mediated through above. When the body is an instrument of identity construction, then “the subject” is always inside the discourse and never outside of it. As Stuart Hall points out (see his excellent book, Representation), the subject must submit to the rules and conventions and disposition of power/knowledge discourse.What is the role of media? Absolutely essential, though one must factor in the power of the subject itself. We are “the subjects” and we too have power within the discourse…it turns out we are not such dupes, as the discourse creators would like us to become—what Foucault called “docile individuals.” Are we?Does the power of the state for example subjugate us? The extent of which may be unknown to us. Or, are we willing agents participating in forming, shaping, reshaping, resisting, and revolutionizing the discourse, and as a result creating new discourses.Is “Be the Media” an effective/affective approach to resisting subjugation, freeing ourselves from institutional existence, and so on? In this approach (i.e., be the media) what works, I think, is our exercise of “will to power” and the use of our “humanistic conscience” (I am borrowing this from Erich Fromm in his discussion of authoritative conscience vs. humanistic conscience in his book on psychology of Ethics, Man for Himself) as a compass to find paths of resistance.

Leave a Reply