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'your objectivity will be televised. ecology, economy and affect in news media.'

The title of this project is problematic in more than one way. First, it raises the question of objectivity and promises to televise the very objectivity it seeks to outline, but also refers to three other notions that have a pre-established meaning and relates these to the topic of news media.

Although ambivalent, this is nevertheless intended to describe the problematic the project seeks to examine in the context of news media and new media art. The notion of objectivity is brought in here because it is regarded as critical in a trend that has been bemoaned by media professionals and media and communications scholars alike, what they dubbed the “commodification of news”. The commonplace interpretation of this description means that the news, previously regarded as the independent (i.e. not state-controlled) bearers of public opinion, increasingly engage in a trend which emphasizes style over substance opposite to what is regarded as the actual duty of the news companies and corporations, namely to deliver quality, that is, in-depth coverage, in public information rather than quantity, meaning a sheer superficiality in news reporting.

From a theoretical perspective, the ‘commodification’ claim is debatable because its methodology and genealogy are inconsistent. The argument assumes that in order to raise profits, news corporations around the world, especially the ones which expanded into transnational media conglomerates, put less investment and effort in ‘actual’ reporting and more effort into appeasement of the consumer, such as human interest stories and fancy layouts, therefore turning it more and more into a ‘sheer’ commodity, a consumer product. This backtracing of the current state of news media to its non-commodified origin is contradicotry from a historical perspective, since the first emergence of a commercial mail system with a regularity in occurrence of delivered messages, out of which the forerunners of the modern newspapers arose, took place during the time of the mercantilist states of Venice and the beginning of long-distance trade between European kingdoms during the late middle ages and the earliest onset of the Renaissance. The technology of transport and the delays in the shipping of goods required the merchants at the time to not only have detailed lists about the contents of each shipment that was sent out, it also required them to gather meta-data about non-local events that might affect their ability to trade.

In that sense, the “news” has always been little more than a commodity, a virtualized system of information relating to transactions of commodity trade and their distribution. Rather than trying to account the news for being responsible of current shifts in the commodity relation towards news media, one has to examine and understand what motivated contemporary culture to regard news media not as “just” another commodity and why some individuals (among them media professionals and scholars) perceive that the commodity relation of the news media has changed in the past few decades. The underlying reason for that is not so much that the commodity relation of the news media towards society and culture has changed due to novel ways of its distribution, which is a case of cum hoc ergo propter hoc, but that the conditions of emergence for the commodity relation of news media have undergone shifts in two ways, economically and politically, which do not only affect the news, but the whole commodity relation in general and therefore contemporary capitalist culture throughout all strata and nuances.

The underlying idea of this project is that these shifts formulate and organise themselves in procedures which operate on the basis of affect towards the individual human perception and therefore are able not only to create a teleological event or a series of them, since this would imply that these events could be separated from an instance or period of their absence. The virtualization, repetition and recursion of affective strategies create an ecology, a “climate” of events which perturbate and overlap each other in a way which is no longer clearly traceable on the individual receiving end and in the collective further processing of these pieces of information within the culture itself.

The current range of media types and formats in terms of news media, even by giving credit to the critics of the increasing conglomeration of news companies, and the way the information distribution operates on a commercial level create a complex system of interacting, overlapping and recursive moments of affect, a system which might be called an ecology in the absence of a linear causality which would have the ability to clearly trace every cause to its effect, a methodology of observation which by default inherits its own limits and inaccuracies when related to empirical analysis.           

It is not only along the lines of the commonplace knowledge that “only bad news are good news”, meaning that only the coverage of catastrophes sell, it is their simultaneity and the reiteration of the sound- and video-bites that contribute to an interwoven memory imprint in the individual out of which new the possibilities of new communication emerge. The tsunami threat and the global appeal for funds thereafter, the missile threats of North Korea and of the Hezbollah and Israeli armies, the daily war casualties in Iraq, sporadic features on Afghanistan and the closing down of international airports, the rising prices for crude oil and the falling dollar along with the latest medical breakthroughs in stem cell research and face transplantation. To analyze these incidents as isolated events in the context of an analysis of news media and affect would not do justice to the initial concept of the scheme. It is the clustering and overlapping of these pieces of information and the complexity of their entanglement that necessitate a different methodology in terms of an observation under the notion of an ecology to be able to address the phenomena of pattern-forming or the emergence of what Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari called a machinic phylum.

For that reason, it is important to not only identify the components and their relations of such mechanism independent phenomena, because in order to relate this back to a notion of a informational ecology and to analyse its consequences of reception it is also necessary not to completely reduce the moment of perception and reception of information to an act disembodiment and intangibility. As stated above in the context of neurosciences, it is the reception of information in terms of its breaking down and filtering as a bodily function that constitutes the act of receiving, decision-making and feeding back into the communication system.

If the relation of information towards its own environment and the feedback of the human body and the gap in its perception, which, as it has been stated above, should be taken into account in an analysis of the process of individual processing of information and decision-making, can be seen as a system which possesses the characteristics of an ecology, then, in turn, it is not too far fetched to relate the informational characteristic, be it in the form of binary language, text, film or even an image, back to the interpretation of the body itself.