Category Archives: Slavoj Zizek

What I’ve Been Up to the Last Five Years

I recently had to write up what I’ve been working on over the last five years for my “post-tenure dossier,” so I thought I’d excerpt that here to explain how I got from Electric Dreams: Computers and American Culture to Centaur Manifesto: Mythos & Logos on the Commons. The language is pretty jargon-heavy and a little stilted, a function of the three-page limit and institutional context. One of my goals is to write the book itself in a much looser, more direct and conversational voice, closer to the way I try to be in the classroom. In fact, transcribing and editing my lectures is the next step in getting Centaur Manifesto written. I’d appreciate any feedback, either in the comments below or via Twitter, where I’m @tedfriedman.

—-

My first book, Electric Dreams, was largely inspired by the rise of “cyberpunk” science fiction in the 1980s and 1990s. It was a cyberpunk author, William Gibson, who coined the term “cyberspace,” and science fiction both influenced the development of computer technologies and provided the richest exploration of their potential consequences. By 2000, the subcultural sensibility first expressed in Gibson’s novels had become ubiquitous in the form of The Matrix and its sequels.

In the twenty-first century, however, a cultural shift appeared to be occurring. The blockbuster genre of the 2000s was not science fiction, but fantasy, in the form of the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings franchises. At the same time, the energy of cyberpunk appeared to be spent, and the most vital and influential genre writers were emerging instead out of fantasy fiction and comics.

Fascinated by this development, I began to research the history of the fantasy genre, and to search for new theoretical models to help explain the shift from science fiction to fantasy. I began my work on fantasy media with “The Politics of Magic: Fantasy, Technology & Nature,” which was published in 2009 in Scope, an online peer-reviewed media studies journal published by the University of Nottingham. I argue in the essay that the trope of magic is a powerful tool for making sense of computer technologies. A computer program is a kind of spell, deploying highly-structured language to allow the user to transcend the constraints of time, space and gravity within cyberspace. At the same time, the concept of magic is rooted in the ancient practices and beliefs of animism, and the contemporary appeal of fantasy suggests a deep cultural desire to return to a more rooted relationship to nature in the context of global environmental crisis.

In “The Politics of Magic,” I discuss the influence of feminist scholar Donna Haraway’s 1986 essay “Manifesto for Cyborgs,” which called on technophobic theorists to engage the oft-ignored genre of science fiction. I suggest that the time is ripe for a “Centaur Manifesto” to similarly address fantasy, which today is often likewise dismissed as mere escapism. Haraway picked the figure of the cyborg because it is a hybrid creature on the border between human and machine, reflecting how all of our lives are dependent upon and intertwined with technology. Similarly, the centaur is a magical hybrid of human and animal, culture and nature.

In addition to Haraway’s ideas, “The Politics of Magic” incorporates the work of historian of science Morris Berman, phenomenological ecocritic David Abram, and actor-network theorist Bruno Latour. Looking to dig deeper into the historical roots of fantasy, I began researching theories of myth, a concept which once held great sway in critical theory, but which has more recently fallen into disrepute among poststructuralist scholars wary of essentializing metanarratives. I turned first to Joseph Campbell, whose Hero with a Thousand Faces has been hugely influential on generations of Hollywood screenwriters and spiritual seekers. Frustrated with the limitations of Campbell’s approach, I concluded that what was truly distinctive about Campbell’s ideas stemmed from the influence of Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung, a student of Sigmund Freud who broke with his mentor over their differing ideas about the role of the unconscious. Freud emphasized the need for the ego to control a dangerous id, while Jung also saw in the unconscious a source of wisdom. Jung found in myths and fairy tales evidence of a “collective unconscious” rooted in deep archetypal structures.

Jung has been widely dismissed by contemporary critical theorists as irredeemably essentialist. But a new generation of “post-Jungian” scholars persuasively argues that Jung was a far more subtle, dialectical thinker than the caricature, and that his ideas remain relevant. The release last year of The Red Book, an illustrated manuscript of “active imaginations” that Jung kept private for almost 100 years, has led to a renewed interest in his ideas. In Jung’s concepts I have found new tools to help explain contemporary American culture. As I write in “Jung and Lost,” while film studies emerged in the 1950s and 1960s under the influence of Freud,

“today it is Jung’s shadow which looms over much of American culture. The most commercially successful Hollywood genres of this decade are fantasy and superhero movies, subjects which in previous generations were viewed as kids’ stuff, but today claim a larger portion of culture than ever before. These genres reject conventional models of realism and psychological depth. Instead, they embrace magical storytelling and characters of outsized dimensions and godlike powers. These qualities have led them to be largely dismissed by conventional cultural critics (beyond fan studies scholars who have tended to emphasize audience reception over the textual properties of the stories themselves). But these same qualities are well described by the Jungian language of archetypes and the collective unconscious. Their roots are in the storytelling traditions of myth and fairy tale – exactly the genres Jungian analysts have always most valued.”

Jung and Lost” is one of six invited columns I wrote from 2008-9 for Flow, an online media studies journal published by the University of Texas. In “Myth, the Numinous, and Cultural Studies,” I make the case for a renewed engagement in cultural studies with the concept of myth. In “Strat-O-Matic and the Baseball Tarot: Sense and Synchronicity in Sports and Games,” I suggest that Jung’s concept of synchronicity – “meaningful coincidence” – can help explain the power of randomness in play. And in “Vertigo,” I move beyond Jung to other models of the numinous, arguing that the parallels between poststructuralist theory and Buddhist philosophy can help critical theorists think past “the linguistic turn” to escape “the prison-house of language.”

Another of my pieces for Flow, “Tweeting the Dialectic of Technological Determinism,” addresses the role of Twitter in the Iranian protests. And in “The Play Paradigm,” I suggest “What Media Studies Can Learn from Game Studies.” I have also “curated” two pieces for In Media Res, the digital humanities site now published by Georgia State, and guest-edited a week for the site on pop music. I look forward to expanding my role in the project.

I am now in the process of turning my work of the last few years into a book, A Centaur Manifesto: Mythos & Logos on the Commons. The goal of the book is to bring together post-Marxist ideological criticism with post-Jungian depth psychology. I have published all of my recent work in open-access journals, and I hope to have the manuscript for Centaur Manifesto reviewed through the “open peer review” process, which could bring together readers from cultural studies, religious studies, depth psychology, and the fantasy community. I will regularly be blogging about the book at tedfriedman.com, and tweeting as @tedfriedman.

Summer Graduate Seminar: Post-Marxisms

This summer I’ll be teaching a graduate seminar, “Post-Marxisms.” Here’s an overview:

Is Marxism dead? If so, what other forms of critique and imagination can help us think beyond the injustices and unsustainability of global capitalism? What can we learn from the successes and failures of the Marxist project?

The goal of the course is to take stock of the value and legacy of the Marxist critical tradition for contemporary debates about culture and politics. Over the seven weeks, we’ll alternate reading Marx himself with work by Jameson, Derrida, Zizek, Hardt & Negri, and others. We’ll also rely for context on David Harvey’s online lectures on Capital and Francis Wheen’s history of its writing.

The class will be organized around a series of key terms in Marxist theory, including dialectical materialism, ideology and political economy. As we go, we’ll be looking to see how the Marxist tradition might offer fresh ways to think about contemporary concepts such as convergence culture, network theory, the high-tech gift economy, the digital commons and transhumanism.

Assignments will include presentations on the readings and a final paper. PhD students will give an additional presentation on an outside reading and write a longer paper.

I’m really excited about the chance to work through these questions with you, and eager to incorporate your own interests and concerns. So feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions, or any suggestions for readings or assignments.

Grammy Night Reflections on Projection

From tweets the night of February 13, 2011.

In Jungian terms, technological determinism is projection: giving power to machines that really belongs to ourselves.

Projection is necessary & valuable – it’s what Robert Johnson calls “carrying your gold” when you’re not ready yet to carry it yourself.

But maturity & wisdom comes when we withdraw projections. See people & things for who & what they are in themselves.

Withdrawing projections means realizing the power was within you all along. Your anima pop godess. Your puer rock star. Your Buddha-nature.

In Electric Dreams I call this “the dialectic of technological determinism.” We project onto technology our utopian visions of the future.

————-

Electric Dreams Introduction on TedFriedman.com

History in RealTime: @tedfriedman on 2/11/11 (in chronological order)

 

 

Salma Abdelaziz
In an incredibly tense moment Egyptians use their famous humor to lighten the mood and find out
Liz McLellan
RT @: RT @ If somebody can find a shirtless pic of Mubarak on Cairo Craigslist this thing will end peacefully today
mattyglesias
Mubarak really looks great for his age. He could probably make a bundle selling lifestyle advice books.
Josh Marshall
weird 2 see how prominent leader of national uprising in ME country has active twitter account @
Wyclef Jean
If u on the streets of Egypt tweet me!! Imma retweet the movement on the ground!!!
monasosh
The least the world could do for Egyptians now is allow us free entrance to any country wtout the burden of applying for a visa 😀
Liz McLellan
RT @: Uninstalling dictator COMPLETE – installing now: egypt 2.0: █░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░
monasosh
Unbelievable the metro driver is cheering wt the horn, ppl are dancing & screaming in the metro station
pourmecoffee
Perhaps what people of Egypt did will give courage to Katie Holmes.
Salma Abdelaziz
BREAKING: Switzerland freezes suspected Mubarak Financial Assets
monasosh
For everyone taking the metro home, mark out “mubarak” from metrostations plan & replace it wt “martyrs”
walter kirn
Now Egypt has done for modern civilization what it did for ancient civ. I’m calling this Osiris Friday.
the sad red earth
RT @: Photos: Celebration in After Mubarak Steps Down //Historic images.
Andy Carvin
RT @: this is most euphoric young crowd I have seen sinced overthrow of Ceauşescu during 1989 Romanian Revolution
Roger Ebert
A letter to Egypt from a Filipino: Learn from us, and do better.
Heide Kolb
: People helping in the midst of a crisis- how you can help via @: @
Frank Conniff
What kind of crazy foreign policy allows a dictator to be deposed without a long & costly war? Get it together, Obama!
Ana Marie Cox
Paul applause line: “We need to do a lot less a lot sooner, not only in Egypt but around the world.”
Wyclef Jean
The movement!! Let’s go!!! RT @: @ PROUD TO BE EGYPTIAN!!! The streets are ALIVE with freedom!!!
Heide Kolb
R @: @ protesters under attack! Police use live ammo on demonstrators NOW. Please RT!
I wish I could somehow save all of the tweets I sent and received the past weeks. This is my diary
What can we all do to make help sure they’re archived? RT @ I wish I could somehow save all of the tweets I sent and received..
tedfriedman
Students & scholars: this is history happening right now. Twitter didn’t cause this, but it’s part of a positive feedback loop. Take notes!
tedfriedman
If one was going to pick the medium with the most influence on , wonder if it would be SMS, web or satellite TV?
tedfriedman
My guess would be the most influential medium helping to create #Egypt #Jan25 has been satellite TV – specifically Al Jazeera.
Noel Kirkpatrick
noelrk Noel Kirkpatrick
But it all started with the telegraph.
So if Al Jazeera is the NGO which has done the most to make possible, credit not just the medium of sat TV, but the journalists.
Lakshmi Jagad
lockslocks Lakshmi Jagad
Agree.
Likewise, to the extent Twitter has helped accomplish this (hard to judge in the moment), credit not the medium in itself, but the tweeters.
This is where I part ways with Object Oriented Ontology – I always want to look back to the human roots. Who’s karma’s on the line?
Andy Carvin
I’ve tweeted more than 600 times today. And yet people keep following me. What is wrong with you people?!? 🙂

Media and Popular Culture, Spring 2011

Media and Popular Culture
Film 4810, Spring 2011
Mondays & Wednesdays 1:30-2:45, Aderhold 303
Office: 738 One Park Place South
Email: ted3k@me.com    Twitter: http://twitter.com/tedfriedman
Website: https://tedfriedman.com/teaching

Popular culture is often described as “escapist” entertainment. But this dismissal evades some very serious questions. What are we escaping? Where are we escaping to? Does everybody go to the same place? How might the trip affect us, once we get back? This class looks at the social consequences and political implications of mass mediated entertainment. Its goal is to develop the theoretical tools and critical perspective to interrogate the TV shows, commercials, films, books, songs, videos, and web sites that saturate our lives.

Readings
The coursepack is sold by Bestway Copy Center, 18 Decatur Street SE (on the first floor of One Park Place South). Some readings are available online through the links provided. Links to additional optional readings will be distributed via the Twitter hashtag #popcult.

Schedule

Unit I: Introducing Cultural Studies

1/19    Introduction: What Is Culture?

1/24    Barbie Nation: Culture as Struggle and Negotiation
Ted Friedman, “Introduction,” Electric Dreams: Computers and American Culture:
https://tedfriedman.com/electric-dreams/electric-dreams-introduction/
Watch The Century of Self online:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6718420906413643126#

1/26    Culture as Sentimental Education
Clifford Geertz, “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight”:
http://webhome.idirect.com/~boweevil/BaliCockGeertz.html
In Media Res theme week, Sports & Media: Football/Futbol:
http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/imr/theme-week/2010/45/sports-media-footballfutbol-november-8-12-2010

1/31    Paris Is Burning: Subcultures and Mass Culture
Dick Hebdige, “The Function of Subculture”: http://www.kirkarts.com/wiki/images/a/af/Hebdige_subculture.pdf
Malcolm Gladwell, “The Coolhunt”: http://gladwell.com/1997/1997_03_17_a_cool.htm
Gladwell, “The Science of Shopping”: http://gladwell.com/1996/1996_11_04_a_shopping.htm

Unit II: The Circuit of Culture

2/2    Regulation and Production
Thomas Schatz, “New Hollywood, New Millennium,” from Film Theory and Contemporary New Media, ed. Warren Buckland (Routledge, 2009). (CP)
Chris Anderson, “The Long Tail”: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html

2/7    Representation
Ellen Seiter, “Semiotics, Structuralism and Television,” from Channels of Discourse, Reassembled, ed. Robert Allen (UNC Press, 1992). (CP)
Roland Barthes, “Myth Today”: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~marton/myth.html

2/9    Audience, Identity and Meaning
Barbara Ehrenreich et al, “Beatlemania: Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” from The Adoring Audience: Fan Culture and Popular Media, ed. Lisa Lewis (Routledge, 1992). (CP)
Ted Friedman, “Myth, the Numious and Cultural Studies,” Flow 10.05, August 6, 2009:
http://flowtv.org/2009/08/myth-the-numinous-and-cultural-studies-ted-friedman-georgia-state-university-atlanta/
In Media Res theme week, “Science Fiction and Fandom,” September 6-10, 2010:
http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/imr/theme-week/2010/36/science-fiction-and-fandom-september-6-10-2010

Unit III: Culture and Power

2/14    Reading the Romance: Cultural Capital
Janice Radway, excerpts from Reading the Romance (UNC Press, 1984). (CP)
John Fiske, “The Cultural Economy of Fandom,” from The Adoring Audience. (CP)
Go to a bookstore. Browse for, buy, and read a romance novel.

2/16    Ideology, Hegemony and Resistance
James Kavanaugh, “Ideology,” from Critical Terms for Literary Study, ed. Frank Lentricchia and Thomas McLaughlin (U Chicago Press, 1995).
John Fiske, “British Cultural Studies and Television,” from Channels of Discourse, Reassembled.
Stuart Hall, “Encoding, Decoding,” from CCCS Stencilled Paper 7:
http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/irvinem/theory/SH-Coding.pdf

2/21    Ultimate Fighting Champsionship
In Media Res theme week, “Professional Wrestling,” August 16-20, 2010:
http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/imr/theme-week/2010/32/wrestling-august-16-20-2010

2/23    Color Adjustment: Racial Formation
Omi and Winant, excerpt from Racial Formation in the United States (Routledge 1994). (CP)

2/28    Spring Break – No Class

3/2    Spring Break – No Class

3/7    Gender
Ariel Levy, “Raunch Culture” and “The Future that Never Happened,” from Female Chauvinist Pigs (Free Press, 2006). (CP)
Alexander Doty, “There’s Something Queer Here,” from Making Things Perfectly Queer (U Minnesota Press, 1993).

3/9    Mad Men
Midterms due

Unit IV: New Media Futures

3/14    Understanding Comics
Scott McCloud, excerpt from Understanding Comics (Kitchen Sink Press, 1993).
Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield, Freakangels: http://www.freakangels.com/?p=23
(read through at least Volume 1)

3/16    Adult Swim

3/21    Game Studies
Ralph Koster, excerpts from A Theory of Fun for Game Design (Paraglyph Press, 2004).
McKenzie Wark, GAM3R 7H3ORY: http://www.futureofthebook.org/gamertheory/ (read “Agony: on The Cave,” page cards 1-25)
Ted Friedman, “The Play Paradigm: What Media Studies Can Learn from Game Studies,” Flow 9.03 (December 1, 2008): http://flowtv.org/2008/12/the-play-paradigm-what-media-studies-can-learn-from-game-studies-ted-friedman-georgia-state-university/
Ted Friedman, “Strat-O-Matic and the Baseball Tarot: Sense and Synchronicity in Sports and Games,” Flow 9.07 (February 20, 2009): http://flowtv.org/2009/02/strat-o-matic-and-the-baseball-tarot-sense-and-synchronicity-in-sports-and-games-ted-friedman-georgia-state-university-atlanta/
In Media Res theme week, “Gaming,” December 6-10, 2010: http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/imr/theme-week/2010/49/gaming-december-6-10-2010
Play World of Warcraft, Farmville, or any other MMORPG or social game of your choice.
Free 10-day trial for WoW at http://www.worldofwarcraft.com.

3/23    Game Demos

3/28    Social Media
Emily Nussbam, “Say Everything,” New York, January 15, 2009:
http://nymag.com/news/features/27341/
Ted Friedman, “Tweeting the Dialectic of Technological Determinism,” Flow 10.02, June 27, 2009:
http://flowtv.org/2009/06/tweeting-the-dialectic-of-technological-determinism

3/30     New Media Demos

Unit V: The Politics of Culture

4/4    Globalization
Benedict Anderson, from Imagined Communities (CP)
Arjun Appadurai, from Modernity at Large (CP)

4/6    Global Formats

4/11    Activism
Watch Naomi Klein, “Addicted to Risk,” online:

Watch The Story of Stuff online: http://storyofstuff.com/

4/13    Late Night TV

4/18    Posthumanism
Donna Haraway, “Manifesto for Cyborgs” from Simians, Cyborgs and Women (Routledge 1990).CP

4/20    New Media Demos

4/25    Ecocultural Studies
David Abram, “The Ecology of Magic,” from The Spell of the Sensuous (Vintage, 1996):
http://www.primitivism.com/ecology-magic.htm
Scott London, “The Ecology of Magic: An Interview with David Abram”:
http://www.scottlondon.com/interviews/abram.html
Ted Friedman, “The Politics of Magic,” Scope 14 (June 2009):
http://www.scope.nottingham.ac.uk/article.php?issue=14&id=1138
Ted Friedman, “Vertigo,” Flow 10.08 (September 19, 2009):
http://flowtv.org/2009/09/vertigoted-friedman-georgia-state-university/
Take a walk in a park.

Take-Home Final Exam due 5/2

Assignments

The class assignments add up to total of 100 possible points. Your final grade for the class is determined by adding up your grades for each assignment, adjusting for attendance, then applying the final number to the following scale:

A     100-93        B+    89-88        C+    79-78        D    70-65
A-    92-90        B    87-83        C    77-73        F    64-0
B-    82-80        C-    72-70

Take-Home Midterm – 45 points
The take-home midterm will require you to relate concepts from the readings and lectures to the films screened for the first three class units. Due in class March 17.

Take-Home Final – 45 points
The take-home final will be structured just like the midterm, covering units 4-7. Due May 5.

Presentation – 10 points
You will sign up with two partners to research the creators, economics, and audience contexts of a television program or video game. You will then choose a sample episode or gameplay experience, present your research to the class, screen the episode/game for the class, then participate in the class discussion. More information will follow in a separate handout.

Attendance Adjustment
As Woody Allen put it, “80 percent of success is showing up.” It’s less than that in this formula, but the bottom line is that you can’t contribute to the class if you’re not there. You’re allowed one unexcused absence for the semester. After that, each unexcused absence subtracts one point from your grade total. Excused absences include medical and family emergencies. You will be expected to schedule any employment responsibilities around this class, or accept the consequences of missed classes for your grade. If you do need to miss a class, please contact me ahead of time, and make arrangements to catch up on missed material.

Policies

Re-Writes and Makeup Tests
Opportunities for revision and improvement will be available for the midterm and presentations. In addition, I will look at optional drafts of the final submitted on or before the deadline listed above.

Late and Unsubmitted Papers
Late papers will be marked off by ½ point for every day overdue unless an extension is agreed upon before the due date. No work can be accepted after the deadline for the take-home final. Any unsubmitted papers will receive a 0. Likewise, any unanswered exam questions will receive a 0. So, if you answer only 2 out of 3 required exam questions, you will get a 0 on the third question.

Withdrawals
Students withdrawing on or before the midsemester point will receive a W provided they are passing the course. Students who withdraw after the midsemester point will not be eligible for a W except in cases of hardship. If you withdraw after the midsemester point, you will be assigned a WF, except in those cases in which (1) hardship status is determined by the office of the dean of students because of emergency, employment, or health reasons, and (2) you are passing the course.

Incompletes
Incompletes may be given only in special hardship cases. Incompletes will not be used merely for extending the time for completion of course requirements.

Changes to the Syllabus
This syllabus provides a general plan for the course. Deviations may be necessary.

Tedcast #3: Interviewed by Erik Davis

The third Tedcast takes a break from my Fantasy & Science Fiction lectures to present an interview with me conducted by Erik Davis. Erik hosts Expanding Minds on the Progressive Radio Network, and is author of numerous books, including a great study of Led Zeppelin IV and the new collection Nomad Codes. Erik and I go back to college, where we worked together on a zine. Here we talk about the Centaur Manifesto, critical theory, and the tensions between being an academic and a public intellectual.