Event-ization gloss

I recently posted about a symptomatic episode in the recent history of military drone R&D that involved the licensing of proprietary software developed by ESPN for its media coverage of American football (cited in Chamayou’s Theorie du drone) . I referred to Stiegler’s notion of ‘event-ization’ (événementialisation) there rather breezily, a term which deserves some further unpacking to explore its relevance to these developments in which a media coverage software system is being deployed in a different context. So, here goes…

I took the term from Technics and Time 2: Disorientation, where it is discussed in ch 3 on the ‘industrialization of memory’ (cf p. 100, and p. 115ff). It resembles similar formulations (Derrida, Virilio, Baudrillard, McLuhan, come immediately to mind) concerning the way that mass, industrial technological mediation has affected the production of ‘historical reality’ through both the speed of electronic transmission of events and, secondly, the extent to which many events are ‘co-produced’ to be media at the same time as they are ‘events’ covered by media. In terms of the first aspect, the collapse of the delay between the event and its mediated reproduction as ‘story’, report, analysis and record is what characterises the industrial, electronic media’s impact on the production of experience. The reduction of the delay between event and its representation and interpretation in some kind of media (oral account, print, newsreel, radio and tv news, to blogging, live coverage and tweets) challenges thought to comprehend the event as something that can be placed in an individual’s or collective’s memory in a way that enables it to contribute to the understanding of reality, and the evolution of one’s historical/cultural identity. Instead, events seem to appear today as already consigned a significance and an impact via their immediate processing in and as a composed, selectively synthesized mediated transmission. Stiegler calls this a ‘short-circuiting’ of the ‘transindividuation’ that otherwise passes (in longer circuits) between individuals in the collective negotiation of significance, value, identity etc.

In terms of the latter aspect of co-production of event/media coverage, sporting events assume something of an exemplary status inasmuch as those pro-sports that are heavily mediated become thoroughly permeated (in terms of rules, scheduling, ‘monetisation’ of talent, merchandising, audience, player and fan culture, etc) by commercial media logics and prerogatives. But also, since Walter Benjamin’s acute analysis of the fascist aestheticization of politics, the mediatization of parliamentary and presidential democratic politics has increasingly imposed itself as a question and a crisis of ‘liberal democracy’. And so it goes for much of social and cultural ‘experience’ which today is subject to ever-increasing and ever more pervasive industrial mediation.

What makes Stiegler’s account of event-ization different is his characterization of this media-overlapping and preemption of experience (here I would refer you to my book Gameplay Mode which develops this theme of pre-emption) as a singular transformation of what is the very basis of human spatio-temporal experience in the production and interpretation of exterior memory supports. In Stieger’s view spatiotemporality is historically and culturally conditioned, which is also to say, technically conditioned. It is always already a technically mediated (from flint stone to cave or sand graphics to play, book, radio, video to computer) processing of an always already exteriorised memory–exterior forms being co-constitutive of what we like to understand is our species specific interior consciousness.

Let me say 2 things then about how ‘eventization’ which is about mainstream media’s impact on lived culture/experience relates here to the military adoption of a mainstream media programming of sporting eventfulness. 1. The ‘audience’ is initially here restricted to the military drone operator/command and personnel and those reviewing it in the field or higher up in the military-political complex (even if these videos and ones simulating them also populate video-sharing sites; something which certainly needs to be addressed as a further aspect of the transformation of eventfulness, that is of historical reality and the production of its political significance…but not for this post…). So this eventization may not be the production of war as media in any general, propagandistic manner initially, but it is about accumulating ‘audience credit’ for what is a major military-industrial business. Drones in operation are always also part of what are major R&D cycles of testing and improvement, maximising the enormous capitalization advantages provided by the government investment in these automatic weapons systems. ‘Audience credit’ is what Stiegler identifies as the lynchpin of contemporary commercial eventization; securing attention and belief of the minds of consumers (and in this case innovators and tech speculators) is at the heart of the unprecedented and problematic domination of the mediation of eventfulness by capitalist (and here militaro-corporate) interests today in Stiegler’s analysis. (We should add without developing this further here that this also has routes into major military-entertainment leverage potential in virtual entertainments of all kinds–to go with the military-entertainment dimensions of the drone developments in general.)

2. What Stiegler characterizes as the ‘forceful recounting’ of the event in contemporary electronic, realtime eventization–by which events are forcefully produced according to the logics of audience capture/management noted above–takes on a particular sense with drone eventizing of the overflown territory. And this is one which insists with lethal force on its pre-interpretation of human activity subject to surveillance and action as counter-insurgent/counter-terrorist instance. This has effects on the lives not only of those targeted–and this is not even to get into the hotly contested arguments about the numbers of ‘civilian’ vs ‘insurgent’ or ‘terrorist’ casualties– but operates as a powerful determinant of the experience of living under the permanent and would-be ubiquitous surveillance that requires the mobilization of such an eventization software package so well suited to the pro football arena. The ‘experiential costs’ of the thoroughgoing mediatization of the ‘arena’ are more difficult to quantify but no less significant for people who must live with the forceful eventizing of their existence as one coming within ‘insurgent’ or terrorist inhabited battle arena. See for instance, this story publicising a recent visit to the US congress by civilian victims of a drone strike in Pakistan sponsored by politicians sympathetic to human rights initiatives against drone use.

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