More Listening To The Furnace Thoughts

Tonight I am reading Berger's Media Analysis Techniques (1991), and there is this about editing:
"...the order in which events take place in a narrative is of great importance. There is logic to narrative texts and the arrangement of elements in a story greatly affects our perception of what anything "means." That, in fact, is what editing is." (p. 18) 
And, so, what of a piece of video that is not edited, such as Duckett Cookie? What happens to the meaning when the arrangement of elements is structured simply by the passage of time? Are the members of the audience free, or freer, to rework the meaning of a text in terms of their own peculiar context? (cf. White, p. 10). It seems a case could be made for this. Bruns, et al, would say this is a healthy development, a good move away from gatekeepers. So far, so good. What next?

Maybe Carey (2009) comes in at this point. Maybe this is the place to explain the two alternative conceptions of communication. First there is the transmission view, which is defined by terms such as imparting, sending, transmitting or giving information. "Communication is a process whereby messages are transmitted and distributed in space for the control of distance and people," (p. 13) Carey writes in Communication As Culture. Under a ritual view, however, news is not information, but drama. "It does not describe the world but portrays but portrays an arena of dramatic forces and action; it exists solely in historic time [Stelmach: 'I think everyone in Alberta watched and saw the offensive comments. I'll just leave it at that.']; and it invites our participation [YouTube's prompts to like or dislike, and to share, add to, and leave a comment here, and then the quieter invitations to mashup] on the basis of our assuming, often vicariously, social roles within in" (p. 17). Okay, so, what next? *

At this point, reception theory emerges from the past and finds a role in my study. Reception theory, after all, speaks of media "not in terms of transport of information but as a text which reveals the cultural meanings we are creating in any given historical period" (p. 10).

And, so, what are the cultural meanings that are revealed when the Duckett Cookie episode is viewed through this perspective?

Is it the importance of humour as a channel of political communication? Berger's typology could be used here.

Is it the importance of story? Inspired by Labov, we can say that the Duckett Cookie video represents a breach of Grice's cooperative principle of conversation. This breach, this departure from the norm, is, by definition, more tellable than the norm. The terrifying, dangerous, weird, wild, crazy, amusing, hilarious, wonderful, and, we might add, the ridiculous, are the breaches, disjunctions.

Is it the "enduringness" of story. Pratt can help here. We have in the Duckett Cookie Episode video an abstract (actually a battle over an abstract), an orientation, complicating actions, evaluations, a result or resolution, a coda. Or is that just what I put on it? Or is that okay? Is it permissible to demonstrate that the meaning of the Duckett video can be created by imposing on the raw video the principles of story?

Is it the oldness and newness of what the audience can do? Watching the Duckett video means, by definition, relinquishing the floor. Stelmach is right. We watched and saw. As Pratt says, participants who become an audience temporarily waive their access rights (p. 113). That's the oldness. The newness belied by Stelmach's "I'll just leave it at that" is that there is a lot more to do, and that social media technology returns these access rights in a very new, compelling, powerful way. In the remembering technology we have at hand we have the means of sharing our evaluations in a radically powerful (speed and image) way.

I do have one a question at the end of this brainblogstorming: and that's, do I have to figure out what the Duckett video means, or show how the new communications techology allows more people to figure out what it means, publicly?

*It's Jan. 14, and a thought that will flee occurs to me. I have somehow under the spell of Google Scholar come up with this short discussion of humour:
Researchers view verbal humor as text composed of two or more overlapping interpretations. Anthony Chapman and Hugh Foot called humor "a process initiated by a humorous stimulus, such as a joke or cartoon, and terminating with some response indicative of experienced pleasure, such as laughter." Charles Winnick suggested that a joke is any communication (witticism, pun, cartoon, etc/) with a witty of funny intent known in advance by the teller. These definitions converge on two points: humor is a form of communication and it is intended to elicit laughter.

61-OCT Disp. Resol. J. 33
Dispute Resolution Journal
August-October, 2006
Feature Article
Kevin W. Cruthirdsa1
Copyright © 2006 by the American Arbitration Association; Kevin W. Cruthirds

Here is my thought: is it correct to say that, for the most part, we see laughter as communication in the transmission conception? After all, a joke is delivered. There is a punch line. Control = laughter. It is a process that terminates. But that conception of humour may not be completely satisfying when it comes to the Duckett video. Double after all, there is nobody really delivering the joke as much as viewers somehow find humour in it themselves. Maybe quickly reread Carey's ritual conception of communication to determine if there is something illuminating there. Do we assume social roles when watching the Duckett video? Do we somehow participate in a modern ritual when we laugh?


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