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[Xmca-l] Re: Unreading Althusser

Hi Michael!

Thanks for your reply!

Truth be told I am not quite sure even I understand my correlation between the video programs and the production of kitsch! :) I am functioning completely on the ribbon of intuition, so in the writing that happens here with you and others who also read and write this thread, I hope to discover that which is making me make this connection. In other words, we are in this together!

One of the observations I make in reading your reply and in Nissen's paper is the absence of the notion that the video is displayed on a website that reproduces around the world. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with Walther Benjamin and his essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction see: https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/ge/benjamin.htm)

Then there is how we look at the video post-MTV (post-post-MTV?) of Birren the drug addict singing about hope (in Turkish?) like a rockstar, and how this is expected to assuage the pain of being an addict, as a therapeutic form. I'm not sure I am representing that properly and I invite others to correct me, I won't take offense.

What resonated for me in Nissen's paper is how the addiction is not seen as a result of modern life, but on the life of the addict and her therapy. He does mention it but doesn't spend much time on it, does he? We are looking at her like a madonna (or is it Madonna?), rather than considering why does the addict exist in the first place. What made Birren who she is? How did her problems develop?

It may be that the act of doing the video has therapeutic effects, and I'm not attempting to eschew that, because really that is for Birren and her community to decide, to me that is a private affair. But we are gazing upon the video project therapy and that gaze is done in a specific way as to make it easy upon us to iconify what we want it to mean, that addicts can be rehabilitated, but into what? Into rockstars? This is what Kitsch does, it doesn't make you work, it is pleasant at first and then as you look at it more there is something disturbing, queasy, and upsetting about it. As Greenberg explains Kitsch, fulfills our desire to relax, to have things made easy and recognizable, which in a way erases all that is difficult (to think about), and what can be more difficult than facing the pain of drug addicts attempting to rebuild their lives? Or better how did they end up that way in the first place?

So that is one level I'm responding to.

Another is the notion of what is sociocultural theory and what is represented as sociocultural theory. Vygotsky is enigmatic because of his individual manner of producing texts, but also because a minority of contemporaries understood him, and then the historical reality of his death in post revolutionary Russia, and all that that follows, etc. But also the way we have come to know his texts, which has been piecemeal, like a jigsaw, and archeology of knowledges, and in the way we are all in a sense still on pins and needles to hear the riddle from the Sphinx, so that we might garner a whole picture of Vygotsky's work which is really to get to the inner sanctum of his thinking. Yet another layer of complexity is the critics that have proliferated and chastised the work as being flawed, such as looking at Da Vinci's Adoration of the Magi, which will never be finished. This is far more complex than that, because at least with the painting we sense what it was going to look like, but with Vygotsky there are many different Vygotsky's and so it would be more like if the Adoration of the Magi had been torn up into parts and flung to different parts of the world, and the fate of fates would decide if the pieces come back to make a complete whole. 

To continue, I would say that the immediacy of a kids using video to create their own stories is what I will call "true" or "authentic" forms of interaction and play, they can discover themselves in the act of doing and doing with peers to produce something meaningful to themselves, as such the results of what they create are less likely to fall into preordained categories. They might, but it isn't preordained to fall into preordained categories. In the case of reproducing the MTV simulacra it is following a script of what it is to be a rockstar singing on a video (and what is the result of that? Adoration of the Magi? and the more professional this is, the better. But is this "authentic" sociocultural theory? That is what I'm not sure about.

There is a whole lot more I might say, but I think that is good for this round. :)

Kind regards,


From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Glassman, Michael <glassman.13@osu.edu>
Sent: Sunday, February 8, 2015 8:11 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Unreading Althusser

Hi Annalise,

I am not sure I understand your correlation between the video programs and kitsch.  It seems to me Morten Nissen is critiquing the establishment view of the videos on a number of levels, while still trying to suggest that they are a better method than the more individualistic, traditional therapies of motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioral therapy.  I can really sympathize, having spent a number of years on a research project comparing motivational interviewing, CBT and treatment as usual (spoiler alert, neither of the interventions have any real impact).  And yet that is all we do.

U-turn suggests a new method, except at least it seems to me Nissen fears it falling into similar traps.  One of the traps is treating the video as an object that forces reconsideration of the user's - in this case Birren - life structure leading to drug addiction - at least I think that is what Nissen is saying.  That the video becomes something controlled by the therapy community rather than integrated into the larger life scheme of the user.  But I see this as a really complex argument.  Yes, the way that Nissen describes this - as an advanced form of video story telling with trained videographers it does easily become an object rather than part of the processes of life.  Whose video is it, the user's, the videographer's, the therapist's, the social work community establishment.  But I think much of this has to do with understanding the role of this type of video storytelling, which is more about the community, what Nissen I think refers to as the collective than the indiv
 idual (I think this point is kind of made at the end of the article).

But what if it could be a different type of video, made from start to finish by Birren and other users.  Mike's earlier request for programs where individuals can easily make videos makes much more sense.  A student working on our research project did her dissertation within a participatory action research format in which she organized the homeless youth/users (the study was about addiction among homeless youth) into a performance truth.  She also was looking to create the performance as an object that would lead to reflection on the structure of their lives, but I think in a much more grass roots, genuine way.


-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Annalisa Aguilar
Sent: Sunday, February 08, 2015 2:42 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Unreading Althusser

Hello esteemed xmcars,

I have done a quick reading of Morten Nissen's chapter and I would like to proffer that what he describes with the video production as a form of therapy for the drug addict (as sponsored by state programs), does resemble to me the very kind of interactions that happened to create the Kitsch in Art and how it came to be that Kitsch is the favorite art of dictators (see my previous post in this thread, in particularly I suggest in this context the essay by Greenberg as well as the WSJ article).

It is as if what is considered hopeful (helpful), what is considered therapeutic(empowering), which is done to transcend the past and the future by being in the present, all that is erased by collapsing what is meaningful into a formula of the unique or of sentiment (in this case, hope), a kind of Möbius strip of experience as possibility, which ends up becoming meaningless. Is the glass half full or half empty?

I'm being a more than a little intuitive here, knowing that I may not be walking on terra firma, which may not be very smart as I risk the concrete blocks of "dogma" crashing around my head: It is easy to label the original as dogma if one has adopted the stance of kitsch, I am realizing.

Despite that risk, I sense similar patterns to Nissen's paper and notions of kitsch (and how kitsch is created), and while I'm unsure at this point of time if this observation has merit, I offer it for discussion with the best of intentions.

Kind regards,