1. War at the speed of light: artists and drone warfare by Nicola Triscott 15 November 2012 www.cultureandconflict.org.uk

    "Killing is still a personal and human experience, even when mediated by speed-of-light telepresence."

     

  2. There are 3 kinds of sign : the ICON, the INDEX and the SYMBOL.

    • from philosopher Charles S. Peirce in the late 19th century.
    • sign is a stimulus pattern that has a meaning.
    • The difference is in how the meaning happens to be attached to (or associated with) the pattern.

    ICON

    The icon is the simplest since it is a pattern that physically resembles what it `stands for’.

    • picture of your face is an icon of you.
    • The little square with a picture of a printer on your computer screen is an icon for the print function.
    • The picture of a smoking cigarette with a diagonal bar across the picture is an icon that directly represents `Smoking? Don’t do it’ (at least it does with appropriate cultural experience).
    • Your cat is preparing to jump up on your lap, so you put out the palm of your hand over the cat.
    • Words can be partly iconic too. Bow-wow, splash and hiccup. And the bird called the whippoorwill. (These are also called onomotopoetic words.)
    • Also words can be pronounced iconically:
      • His nose grew wa-a-a-ay out to here.
      • Julia Childes grabbed that carrot and went CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP.
      • Aw, poor widdow ba-by!

    Problems:

    • what IS `physical resemblance’? How similar it must be?
    • just because we can recognize a picture doesn’t mean any other animal could.

    INDEX

    Defined by some sensory feature, A(directly visible, audible, smellable, etc) that correlates with and thus implies or `points to’ B, something of interest to an animal.

    • All animals exploit various kinds of indexical signs
    • Less sophisticated animals acquire them by natural selection.
    • More intelligent animals learn them.

    Thus,

    • dark clouds in the west are an index of impending rain,
    • for a fish in the sea, the direction of greater light is the direction of warmer water,
    • limping gait is a sign that an animal is physically impaired,
    • scowling facial expression is an index of displeasure or concern (to a human),
    • sensing a pheremone in the air is an indexical sign (for some insects) that a sexually receptive member of its own species is located upwind,
    • a particular alarm call in certain monkeys is a sign that
      • the animal directly sensed a particular type of predator
      • OR has heard another monkey give this predator alarm call.
    • a particular pronunciation of a word can index a particular geographic place or social group.

    Signs have :

    • signal aspect, some physical pattern (eg, a sound or visible shape) and
    • meaning - some semantic content that is implied or `brought to mind’

    Where:

    • Icons have a physical resemblance between the signal and the meaning
    • Indices have a correlation in space and time with its meaning.
    • Symbols (content words like nouns, verbs and adjectives) are (sound) patterns) that get meaning:
      • primarily from its mental association with other symbolsand
      • secondarily from its correlation with environmental patterns.
     

  3. Cinema Action - Not A Penny on the Rents 1969

     

  4. Peter Nestler - Rheinstrom 1965

     

  5. Groupe Dziga Vertov - Letter to Jane 1972

     

  6. Bruce Conner - A Movie

    Conner, who had twice announced his own death as a conceptual art event or prank,[11] died on 7 July 2008, and is survived by his wife, American artist Jean Sandstedt Conner, and his son, Robert.

     

  7. Martin Arnold 

    Arnold’s films are intensely cut sequences in which several seconds of found footage are taken and stretched out into much longer works. The figures on the screen flip back and forth between frames, as the motion is repeated, reversed, and numerous single frame cuts are made. His intent is to create, or possibly unearth, narratives concealed within the mundane films from which he samples. Passage à l’acte(1993) uses several seconds of the film To Kill a Mockingbird to create a bizarre story of aggression and tension within a traditional American family.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Arnold

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edit_decision_list

     

  8. Martin Arnold Alone. Life Wastes Andy Hardy

    "Arnold has constructed, in his films PIECE TOUCHÉE (1989), PASSAGE A L’ACTE (1993) and LIFE WASTES ANDY HARDY (1998), a cinema machine - not simply a custom optical printer or recycling system, but a kind of mnemographic machine, an apparatus that writes and rewrites memories on the surfaces of film. Arnold’s cinema functions by incorporating exterior forces, an outside source of energy that presses upon the projected images. In turn, the machine exports text, forming a kind of open economy. …

    "Arnold’s cinema, however, is not a smooth machine. The breakdowns, short-circuits and gasps that define his cinema create a violently neurotic machine. (Neurotics, Freud reminds us, distrust their memories to a remarkable extent.) Arnold’s machine stutters and twitches from the moment it is turned on. This is due, in part, to the fact that Arnold’s cinema barely holds together under the strain of a constant tension between its elements. It is a machine that thematizes even as it reproduces the scene of its own breakdown, obsessively and compulsively." - Akira M. Lippit 

    http://canyoncinema.com/catalog/filmmaker/?i=13

     

  9.  

  10. Video edited/effected by Logan Owlbeemoth
    tachyonsplus.tumblr.com/

    Filmed by Gary McQuiggin 
    gary.mcquiggin.co.uk/

     

  11. Jean Rouch : Les maîtres fous - The mad masters

    Sarah Cooper’s monograph Selfless Cinema?: Ethics and French Documentary

     

  12. Peter Kubelka’s Unsere Afrikareise

    "Kubelka’s aim in Unsere Afrikareisewas to “try to tear the emotions loose from the people, so that they would gain distance to their emotions, to their feelings.” 

     Catherine Russell revisits Unsere Afrikareise: http://www.filmstudies.ca/journal/pdf/cj-film-studies71_Russell_dystopian.pdf

     

  13. The Grassroots Video Pioneers

    by Dara Greenwald

    Ed.’s note: The following is adapted from Dara Greenwald’s chapter in Realizing the Impossible: Art Against Authority, edited by Josh MacPhee and Erik Reuland, which was recently published by AK Press.

    Images of street medics with home-made red crosses adorning their clothes, protest marching bands, cops in riot gear, tear gas in the streets; ideas and practices of decentralized organizations, anti-copyright, shared resources, networked communications, ecstatic experience, DIY media, pirate broadcasting, communal living, participatory culture, collective process. I’m not talking about the twenty-first century alternative globalization movement, but rather the documents and practices of the early 1970s video movement in the United States. These tendencies and images which, in recent years (since the 1999 “Battle of Seattle” and the birth of Indymedia.org) have emerged as an exciting aspect of current Left political movements were also here in the USA in the late 1960s and early ’70s, and were documented and practiced by a little known, but highly productive media democracy and experimental art movement. This movement focused its experiments with social relations and cultural production around the use of portable video technology.

    I first became interested in video groups from the early ’70s in 1999 when the Video Data Bank (VDB) in Chicago (where I worked) acquired the collection of the Videofreex, one of the early video collectives. This was an incredible collection made up of over 1,300 videotapes, the majority of which were on obsolete tape formats. These tapes were mostly raw footage shot between 1969–78 and some edited programs. After seeing the first tape we preserved and converted to a viable format, an interview with Black Panther leader Fred Hampton from the fall of 1969 just before he was murdered by the Chicago Police Department—it became apparent that this collection would have significance and resonate with today’s media activists, as well as anyone interested in the history of radical culture. Upon further investigation, I found that it wasn’t just the video documents themselves that would resonate with anti-authoritarian media makers, but also the communal context and non-hierarchical process by which they were produced as well as the video movement’s practice-based critique of centralized communication structures. They weren’t just criticizing the media, they were making their own.

    Video’s origins are in radio and broadcast technologies, rather than in film or photography, thus early video users and critics were responding more to television than to cinema. By the 1950s, televisions were becoming basic furniture in people’s homes. By the late 1960s, when portable video equipment became available, many people in their early twenties had experienced TV both as ambient noise/images in their living rooms and as a focal point of their family and social development. Unlike cinema, rarely was there a focused viewing in a darkened theater surrounded by strangers; TV watching was an intimate experience in the private sphere. Unlike film, video was quick to process and easy to reproduce. When people shot video, they could immediately watch it, talk about it, and get feedback. Videotape’s ability to be cheaply and infinitely copied, and thus distributed and screened in multiple contexts was crucial to the development of ideas about the medium’s democratic potential.

    Sony Corporation introduced the Portapak (its generic name was VTR for Video Tape Recorder) to the US market in 1965. By 1968, Sony was widely advertising the technology to educators, artists, and general consumers. The Portapak was one of the first portable and relatively affordable video cameras. Before that, video technologies were quite heavy, expensive, and only used by broadcast professionals and the military. But this was 1968, and counter culture and revolutionary thought and movement were gaining momentum. Quickly, these video technologies got into the hands of artists, activists, and participants in the counter culture. By 1969, several video collectives had formed, including: The Videofreex, Commediation, People’s Video Theater, Raindance, Revolutionary People’s Communication Project, Ant Farm, and Global Village. Some began using the technology as a focal point for their experiments in social organization as well as to document the changing world around them. Essential to many of the alternative video makers of the time was a critique of communication structures and a desire to challenge corporate TV broadcasting’s tendency toward the centralization of information and one-way communication from the corporation to the viewer, but not vice versa. Some video users were also interested in challenging what was represented or rather excluded from representation on corporate television.

    The Videofreex

    Three people (David Cort, Parry Teasdale, and Mary Curtis Ratcliff) founded the Videofreex in 1969 and their numbers quickly grew to ten (to include Skip Blumberg, Nancy Cain, Bart Friedman, Davidson Gigliotti, Chuck Kennedy, Carol Vontobel, and Ann Woodward). Although they did not share a defined ideology, they did share the belief that, “placing video cameras…in the hands of ordinary people would make the world a better, more just, and beautiful place.” In 1971, they moved from New York City to Maple Tree Farm in the upstate NY town of Lanesville to live communally and make videos. This context helped them continue to develop a collective support system to make individual and group video projects. At Maple Tree Farm, the Videofreex began a pirate TV station called Lanesville TV. In the beginning, they broadcast three times a week, later reducing to one. Lanesville TV was on air from 1972–1977, making it the longest running pirate TV station in the US (I have been unable to find evidence of any other US-based pirate TV broadcasts.) The Videofreex programmed both their own experimental work and local content such as town hall meetings or news from the local farms. They believed media should be interactive and participatory, and broadcast their phone number so that viewers could call in and comment on the broadcast. They also had plans for a media bus—a kind of touring video production studio—but this remained unrealized. The collective’s practice was informed by a do-it-yourself, self-sufficiency ethic and a belief that users of technology should be empowered to fix it. They did not want the movement to have to rely on Sony to repair their machines, so they published a book on how to use and repair video equipment called the Spaghetti City Video Manual. They also had a production studio on their farm which was visited by up to 200 people a year. These visitors would come to learn video skills and contribute to Lanesville TV programming.

    Each member of the Videofreex brought different skills and interests to the collective, and their documents reflect their diversity (from art to social action from community building to video erotica, among other things). In addition to the TV station, they made their work available to viewers through screenings in NYC and through what was called “bicycling” the tapes, meaning trading tapes through the mail via a network of other collectives and through listings in the movement periodical Radical Software.

    Their documents were often raw unedited footage, shot hand-held without voiceover. The footage is gritty, black and white—the technical limitations were incorporated into the style. Their aesthetics were influenced by learning the new technology while using it and by a belief in process over product. Some members saw themselves as artists with cameras who were making TV experiments.

    I asked Parry Teasdale, a founding member of the Videofreex and author of Videofreex: America’s First Pirate TV Station and the Catskills Collective That Turned It On (1999) about the politics of the video collectives. He responded:

    I think the Beatles, Stones, and possibly Dylan were far better known and more frequently quoted than Marx (except for Groucho). I can’t claim to have read Das Kapital and certainly wasn’t a Marxist. I had read McLuhan and did read Michael Harrington’s Socialism, and later Wilson’s To the Finland Station, but theoretical politics was not a topic of discussion at Videofreex or among the other groups that we knew, at least to the degree I am aware of their internal dialogues. Certainly none of the video groups in and around New York City were modeled on any particular social experiment or based on a particular theory as I understand them. You should check with the others, though. This is not to say that we had no political outlook. But most of it was colored by a universal (among the groups) opposition to the war in Vietnam. I suppose we accepted the language of the political people that the war was in pursuit of American imperial ambitions. But anyone who went around spouting doctrinaire phrases like that would have been ridiculed or been made the subject of a tape. We did spend a lot of time in the early days taping Abbie Hoffman and other Yippies. And we had shot some footage of Tom Hayden, who was probably the most politically articulate of the anti-war movement people. But they were grist for tapes, and what we did we did in the service of furthering a more liberated television medium, not in service of a broader political purpose. Or so I see it.

    Even in Teasdale’s reporting of history he takes an anti-authoritative position—revealing his subjectivity, encouraging me to ask others for their version of that history.

    Other Groups and Tendencies

    The Videofreex were just one group from this period, and they often collaborated with other video collectives. In 1971, the May Day Video Collective came together in Washington, DC to document the protests against the Vietnam War. People from around the country participated in the May Day Video Collective (including members of the Videofreex) by traveling to DC, shooting tape, and sharing footage. There was a cultural rejection of individual authorship; everyone was able to use any of the footage that was shot. This convergent and shared media practice to document the streets from an on-the-ground perspective evokes the atmosphere in Indymedia Centers during recent national protests (1999–2004). The documents created from these different historical moments not only overlap in their confrontational imagery of protest and repression, but also by the collaborative process in which they were created.

    Many of the 1970s groups worked in a style termed “street tapes,” interviewing passersby on the streets, in their homes, or on doorsteps. As Deirdre Boyle writes in Subject to Change: Guerrilla Television Revisited (1997), the goal of street tapes was to create an “interactive information loop” with the subject in order to contest the one-way communication model of network television. One collective, The People’s Video Theater, were specifically interested in the social possibilities of video. On the streets of NYC, they would interview people and then invite them back to their loft to watch the tapes that night. This fit into the theoretical framework that groups were working with at the time, the idea of feedback. Feedback was considered both a technological and social idea. As already stated, they saw a danger in the one-way communication structure of mainstream television, and street tapes allowed for direct people-to-people communications. Some media makers were also interested in feeding back the medium itself in the way that musicians have experimented with amp feedback; jamming communication and creating interference or noise in the communications structures.

    Video was also used to mediate between groups in disagreement or in social conflict. Instead of talking back to the television, some groups attempted to talk through it. One example of video’s use as a mediation tool in the early 70s was a project of the students at the Media Co-op at NYU. They taped interviews with squatters and disgruntled neighbors and then had each party view the other’s tape for better understanding. The students believed they were encouraging a more “real” dialogue than a face-to-face encounter would allow because the conflicting parties had an easier time expressing their position and communicating when the other was not in the same room.

    Groups were not only interested in making their own media but also in distributing it. At Antioch College, the Antioch Free Library (1966–1978) was set up so people could distribute their tapes by sending them in and requesting tapes in exchange. During its time, the Antioch Free Library copied thousands of tapes for free, sending out twenty-five to fifty a week.

    Theories of a Guerrilla Television

    Many of the ideas these video groups were working with influenced or were influenced by the periodical Radical Software started in 1970 and the book Guerrilla Television, authored by Michael Shamberg in 1971. Both of these publications were developed by the group Raindance. Raindance got its name from R & D (research and development) and after the influential think tank, The Rand Corporation. They fancied themselves a think tank for the early video movement. Raindance was supported financially through the donation of $70,000 from a member’s family money. Its mission was promoting video as a tool for change. Raindance and other participants in the movement were heavily influenced by the theoretical work of Marshall McLuhan, Buckminster Fuller, and Gregory Bateson.

    Eleven issues of Radical Software were published between 1970–1974. The magazine acted as a networking tool for these media collectives. In the first issue alone, there was contact information for over thirty groups and individuals. Every issue included lists of available tape titles for sale and trade, contacts of video enthusiasts who had resources such as cameras or editing equipment to share, and articles crucial to the theoretical development of the community. Some of the ideas written about in the pages of Radical Software included: media ecology, the information economy, technological utopianism, media democracy, and video’s therapeutic potential. In this space, art, cultural theory, community media, and activism all came together.

    Michael Shamberg’s Guerrilla Television borrows heavily from different theories expressed in Radical Software, but claims that the movement is not political at all. He argues that, “In Media America, real power is generated by information tools not by opinion. The information environment is inherently post-political.” Guerrilla Television places a strong emphasis not on replacing content on broadcast TV (old structures) but actually transforming information structures of both production and transmission and building alternative support system for information. He states, “No social change can take place without new designs in information architecture.” And only through “radical re-design of its information structures to incorporate two way decentralized inputs can Media America optimize the feedback it needs to come back to its senses.”

    The aesthetics of guerrilla TV documentary or “do-it-yourself TV” differed from broadcast news in that there was no spokesperson or mediator, it was mostly shot from inside events not outside, it included environmental sound, was from a first person perspective, and didn’t have the traditional documentary “voice of god” voiceover (which was considered authoritarian). There was an emphasis on a multiplicity of voices. There was concern with not exploiting the subjects and giving the subject the option to destroy any footage they did not want recorded. In Shamberg’s words, “a participant should be given maximum control over his own feedback.”

    Some of the concrete suggestions the book offers for decentralized communication projects include storefront information centers, wiring apartment buildings for closed circuit TV, pirate TV, micro broadcasts, mobile shows, taping police behavior, taping broadcast TV crews, having festivals in domes and inflatables (challenging dominant architectural structures), using tape to decode bureaucratic structures, multi-monitor juxtapositions, and using tape to analyze behavior for therapeutic purposes. There is also a section in the book that attempts to help the reader figure out how to access enough money to make videos, which includes, among other suggestions, “sell your car.”

    Connecting to Today

    There seems to be some continuity in thought of the media democracy movement over the past thirty years. Tendencies in thematic content include that regular people’s voices, countercultural voices, and social movements matter. Engaged media attempts to include the subject as a participant and allows the participant to have a say in how they are represented. Process is as important as content; it is not just that alternative media is being made that is important, but how it is being made. Sharing resources, technological knowledge, and video footage is crucial to the process. Distribution is important. Non-institutional spaces for communication and information sharing are crucial. These may include storefront theaters and infoshops, artist-run spaces or community centers, bicycling/mailing media through informal countercultural networks, and pirate broadcasting. Publishing journals and magazines also supports the alternative social networks. Media should be decentralized and both localized and internationalized—reflecting local lived experience and struggle, and at the same time being shared through a global network with other groups interested in survival.

    The media landscape has shifted dramatically since the introduction of the portable videotape recorder, but surviving in the information environment is no easier. The media democracy movement has grown alongside access to the tools of media production at lower costs (i.e. digital cameras, personal computers, copy machines, the World Wide Web, etc.), yet corporations still seem to have a hold on our media, and the art market often absorbs our experimental cultures. The dream of the early video collectives is far from realized but it is still informative. Flipping through the dozens of channels on cable TV, there are certainly more offerings than the 1970s, but nonetheless, a monoculture of expressive forms and commercial values persist. The one-way communication structure of mainstream television itself has not changed dramatically. The World Wide Web has been the strongest threat to corporate controlled, one-way communication structures, and anti-authoritarians have been quick to pick up and participate in this medium. Interactive communication structures on a global scale have finally seemed possible, yet currently a battle rages with corporations (and the State) attempting to control access and use of the Internet. Like their early ’70s forerunners, media activists today must continue critiquing the coercive power of dominant media structures and representations while at the same time creating alternatives that prefigure a media world we want to live in.

    About the Author

    Dara Greenwald is a writer, social artist, and media maker. You can check out her work at www.daragreenwald.com.

    From: http://www.brooklynrail.org/2007/05/express/video

     

  14. by Umberto Eco

    Not long ago, if you wanted to seize political power in a country, you had merely to control the army and the police. Today it is only in the most backward countries that fascist generals, in carrying out a coup d’etat, still use tanks. If a country has reached a high level of industrialization the whole scene changes. The day after the fall of Khrushchev, the editors of Pravda, Izvestiia, the heads of the radio and television were replaced; the army wasn’t called out. Today a country belongs to the person who controls communications.

    I’m not saying anything new; by now not only students of communication but also the general public is aware that we are living in the Age of Communication. As Professor McLuhan has suggested, information is no longer an instrument for producing economic merchandise, but has itself become the chief merchandise. Communication has been transformed into heavy industry. When economic power passes from the hands of those who control the means of production to those who not only control information media but can also control the means of production, the problem of alienation also alters its meaning. Faced by the prospect of a communications network that expands to embrace the universe, every citizen of the world becomes a member of a new proletariat. But no revolutionary manifesto could rally this proletariat with the words: “Workers of the world, unite!” Because, even if the communications media, as means of production, were to change masters, the situation of subjection would not change. We can legitimately suspect that the communications media would be alienating even if they belonged to the community.

    What makes the newspaper something to fear is not (or, at least, is not only) the economic and political power that runs it. The newspaper was already defined as a medium for conditioning public opinion when the first gazettes came into being. When someone every day has to write as much news as his space allows, and it has to appear readable to an audience of diverse tastes, social class, education, throughout a country, the writer’s freedom is already finished. The contents of the message will not depend on the author but on the technical and sociological characteristics of the medium.

    For some time the severest critics of mass culture have been aware of all this, and they agree: “‘The mass media do not transmit ideologies; they are themselves an ideology!” This position, which I defined as “apocalyptic” in a previous book of mine, implies this further argument: It doesn’t matter what you say via the channels of mass communication; when the recipient is surrounded by a series of communications which reach him via various channels at the same time, in a given form, the nature of all this disparate information is of scant significance. The important thing is the gradual, uniform bombardment of information, where the different contents are leveled and lose their differences.

    You will have observed that this is also the familiar position expressed by Marshall McLuhan in his Understanding Media. But, for the so-called apocalyptics, McLuhan’s conviction was translated into a tragic consequence: Liberated from the contents of communication, the addressee of the messages of the mass media receives only a global ideological lesson, the call to narcotic passiveness. When the mass media triumph, the human being dies.

    But Marshall McLuhan, on the contrary, setting out from the same premises, concludes that, when the mass media triumph, the Gutenbergian human being dies, and a new man is born, accustomed to perceive the world in another way. We don’t know if this man will be better or worse, but we know he is new. Where the apocalyptics saw the end of the world, McLuhan sees the beginning of a new phase of history. This is exactly what happens when a prim vegetarian argues with a user of LSD: The former sees the drug as the end of reason, the latter as the beginning of a new sensitivity. Both agree on the chemical composition of psychedelics.

    But the communications scholar must ask himself this question: Is the chemical composition of every communicative act the same?

    Naturally there are educators who display a simpler optimism, derived from the Enlightenment; they have firm faith in the power of the message’s contents. They are confident that they can effect a transformation of consciousness by transforming television programs, increasing the amount of truth-in-advertising spots, the precision of the news in the columns of the newspaper.

    Both to them and to those who believe that “the medium is the message,” I would like to recall an image we have seen in many cartoons and comic strips, a slightly obsolete image, rather racist, but a splendidly suitable example in this situation. It is the image of the cannibal chief who is wearing an alarm clock as a necklace. I don’t believe that cannibals so adorned exist any longer, but we can translate the original into various other experiences of our everyday lives. The world of communications, for example, is full of cannibals who transform an instrument for measuring time into an “op” jewel.

    If this is then it is not true that the medium is the message; it may be that the invention of the clock, accustoming us to think of time in the form of space divided into regular parts, changed some people’s way of perception, but there are undoubtedly others for whom the clock message has a different meaning.

    But if this is so, it is still equally untrue that acting on the form and contents of the message can convert the person receiving it. For the receiver of the message seems to have a residual freedom: the freedom to read it in a different way. I say “different” and not “mistaken.” A brief look at the mechanics of communication can tell us something more precise on this subject.

    The communication chain assumes a Source that, through a Transmitter, emits a Signal via a Channel. At the end of the Channel the Signal, through a Receiver, is transformed into a Message for the Addressee. Since the Signal, while traveling through the Channel, can be disturbed by Noise, one must make the Message redundant, so that the information is transmitted clearly. But the other fundamental requirement of this chain is a Code, shared by the Source and the Addressee. A Code is an established system of probabilities, and only on the basis of the Code can we decide whether the elements of the message are intentional (desired by the Source) or the result of Noise. It seems to me very important to bear in mind the various links in this chain, because when they are overlooked there are misunderstandings that prevent us from observing the phenomenon with attention. For example, many of Marshall McLuhan’s theses on the nature of the media stem from the fact that he uses the term “media” broadly, for phenomena that can be at times reduced to the Channel, and at other times to the Code, or to the form of the message. Through criteria of economy, the alphabet reduces the possibilities of the sound-making organs but, in doing so, provides a Code for communicating experience; the street provides me with a Channel along which it is possible to send any communication. To say that the alphabet and the street are “media” is lumping a Code together with a Channel. To say that Euclidian geometry and a suit of clothes are media is lumping together a Code (the elements of Euclid are a way of formalizing experience and making it communicable) and a Message (a given suit, through codes of dress — conventions accepted by society — communicates an attitude of mine towards my fellows). To say that light is a medium is a refusal to realize that there are at least three definitions of “light.” Light can be a Signal of information (I use electricity to transmit impulses that, in Morse code, mean particular messages); light can be a Message (if my girlfriend puts a light in the window, it means her husband has gone out); and light can be a Channel (if I have the light on in my room I can read the message-book). In each of these cases the impact of a phenomenon on the social body varies according to the role it plays in the communication chain.

    But, to stay with the example of light, in each of these three cases the meaning of the message changes according to the code with which I interpret it. The fact that light, when I use Morse code to transmit luminous signals, is a signal — and that this signal is light and not something else — has, on the Addressee, far less impact than the fact that the Addressee knows Morse code. If, for example, in the second of my hypothetical cases, my girlfriend uses light as a signal to transmit in Morse code the message “my husband is home” but I continue to refer to our previously established code, whereby “light” means “husband absent,” my behavior (with all the ensuing unpleasant consequences) is determined not by the form of the message or its contents according to the Emitting Source but by the code I am using. It is the code used that gives the light-signal a specific content. The move from the Gutenberg Galaxy to the New Village of Total Communication will not prevent the eternal drama of infidelity and jealousy from exploding for me, my girlfriend, and her husband.

    And so the communication chain outlined above will have to be modified as follows: The Receiver transforms the Signal into Message, but this message is still the empty form to which the Addressee can attribute various meanings depending on the Code he applies to it.

    If I write the phrase “no more,” you who interpret it according to the English-language code will read it in the sense that seems most obvious to you; but I assure you that, read by an Italian, the same words would mean “not blackberries,” or else “No, I prefer blackberries”; and further, if, instead of a botanical frame of reference, my Italian reader used a legal one, he would take the words to mean “No, respires,” or, in an erotic frame of reference, as a reply: “No. brunettes” to the question “Do gentlemen prefer blondes?”

    Naturally, in normal communication, between one human being and another, for purposes connected with everyday life, such misunderstandings are few; the codes are established in advance. But there are extreme cases, and first among them is that of aesthetic communication, where the message is deliberately ambiguous precisely to foster the use of different codes by those who, in different times and places, will encounter the work of art.

    If in everyday communication ambiguity is excluded, in aesthetic communication it is deliberate; and in mass communication ambiguity, even if ignored, is always present. We have mass communication when the Source is one, central, structured according to the methods of industrial organization; the Channel is a technological invention that affects the very form of the signal; and the Addressees are the total number (or, anyway, a very large number) of the human beings in various parts of the globe. American scholars have realized what a Technicolor love movie, conceived for ladies in the suburbs, means when it is shown in a Third World village. In countries like Italy, where the TV message is developed by a centralized industrial Source and reaches simultaneously a northern industrial city and a remote rural village of the South, social settings divided by centuries of history, this phenomenon occurs daily.

    But paradoxical reflection also is enough to convince us on this score. The American magazine Eros published famous photographs of a white woman and a black man, naked, kissing; if those images had been broadcast over a popular TV channel, I presume that the significance attributed to the message by the governor of Alabama would be different from that of Allen Ginsberg. For a California hippie, for a Greenwich Village radical, the image would have meant the promise of a new community; for a Klansman, the message would have signified a terrible threat of rape.

    The mass communication universe is full of these discordant interpretations; I would say that variability of interpretation is the constant law of mass communications. The messages set out from the Source and arrive in distinct sociological situations, where different codes operate. For a Milanese bank clerk a TV ad for a refrigerator represents a stimulus to buy, but for an unemployed peasant in Calabria the same image means the confirmation of a world of prosperity that doesn’t belong to him and that he must conquer. This is why 1 believe TV advertising in depressed countries functions as a revolutionary message.

    The problem of mass communications is that until now this variability of interpretation has been random. Nobody regulates the way in which the addressee uses the message — except in a few rare cases. And here, even if we shift the problem, even if we say “the medium is not the message” but rather “the message depends on the code,” we do not solve the problem of the communications era. If the apocalyptic says, “The medium does not transmit ideologies: It itself is ideology; television is the form of communication that takes on the ideology of advanced industrial society,” we could now only reply: “The medium transmits those ideologies which the addressee receives according to codes originating in his social situation, in his previous education, and in the psychological tendencies of the moment.” In this case the phenomenon of mass communication would remain unchanged. There exists an extremely powerful instrument that none of us will ever manage to regulate; there exist means of communication that, unlike means of production, are not controllable either by private will or by the community. In confronting them, all of us, from the head of CBS to the president of the United States, from Martin Heidegger to the poorest fellah of the Nile delta, all of us are the proletariat.

    And yet I believe it is wrong to consider the battle of man against the technological universe of communication as a strategic affair. It is a matter of tactics.

    As a rule, politicians, educators, communications scientists believe that to control the power of the media you must control two communicating moments of the chain: the Source and the Channel. In this way they believe they can control the message. Alas, they control only an empty form that each addressee will till with the meanings provided by his own cultural models. The strategic solution is summed up in the sentence “We must occupy the chair of the Minister of Information” or even “We must occupy the chair of the publisher of The New York Times." I will not deny that this strategic view can produce excellent results for someone aiming at political and economic success, but I begin to fear it produces very skimpy results for anyone hoping to restore to human beings a certain freedom in the face of the total phenomenon of Communication.

    So for the strategic solution it will be necessary, tomorrow, to employ a guerrilla solution. What must be occupied, in every part of the world, is the first chair in front of every TV set (and naturally, the chair of the group leader in front of every movie screen, every transistor, every page of newspaper). If you want a less paradoxical formulation, I will put it like this: The battle for the survival of man as a responsible being in the Communications Era is not to be won where the communication originates, but where it arrives. I mention guerrilla warfare because a paradoxical and difficult fate lies in store for us — I mean for us scholars and technicians of communication. Precisely when the communication systems envisage a single industrialized source and a single message that will reach an audience scattered all over the world, we should be capable of imagining systems of complementary communication that allow us to reach every individual human group, every individual member of the universal audience, to discuss the arriving message in the light of the codes at the destination, comparing them with the codes at the source.

    A political party that knows how to set up a grass-roots action that will reach all the groups that follow TV and can bring them to discuss the message they receive can change the meaning that the Source had attributed to this message. An educational organization that succeeds in making a given audience discuss the message it is receiving could reverse the meaning of that message. Or else show that the message can be interpreted in different ways.

    Mind you: I am not proposing a new and more terrible form of control of public opinion. I am proposing an action to urge the audience to control the message and its multiple possibilities of interpretation.

    The idea that we must ask the scholars and educators of tomorrow to abandon the TV studios or the offices of the newspapers, to fight a door-to-door guerrilla battle like provos of Critical Reception can be frightening, and can also seem utopian. But if the Communications Era proceeds in the direction that today seems to us the most probable, this will be the only salvation for free people. The methods of this cultural guerrilla have to be worked out. Probably in the interrelation of the various communications media, one medium can be employed to communicate a series of opinions on another medium. To some extent this is what a newspaper does when it criticizes a TV program. But who can assure us that the newspaper article will be read in the way we wish? Will we have to have recourse to another medium to teach people how to read the newspaper in a critical fashion?

    Certain phenomena of “mass dissent” (hippies, beatniks, new Bohemias, student movements) today seem to us negative replies to the industrial society: The society of Technological Communication is rejected in order to look for alternative forms, using the means of the technological society (television, press, record companies …). So there is no leaving the circle; you are trapped in it willy-nilly. Revolutions are often resolved in more picturesque forms of integration.

    But it could be that these nonindustrial forms of communication (from the love-in to the rally of students seated on the grass of the campus) can become the forms of a future communications guerrilla warfare — a manifestation complementary to the manifestations of Technological Communication, the constant correction of perspectives, the checking of codes, the ever renewed interpretations of mass messages. The universe of Technological Communication would then be patrolled by groups of communications guerrillas, who would restore a critical dimension to passive reception. The threat that “the medium is the message” could then become, for both medium and message, the return to individual responsibility. To the anonymous divinity of Technological Communication our answer could be: “Not Thy, but our will be done.”

     

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