• ‘Media events’ reconsidered: from ritual theory to simulation and performativity

      Pawlett, William; Faculty of Arts, University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, UK (Taylor & Francis, 2017-09-04)
      This paper re-examines the long-established notion of ‘media events’ by contrasting and critically appraising three distinct approaches to the question of media events. These are: ritual theory associated with Daniel Dayan and Elihu Katz, secondly, Jean Baudrillard’s approach rooted in his notions of simulation and ‘non-events’ and, finally, the more recent performative approaches to media and mediation. I take Sarah Kember and Joanna Zylinska’s reading of media events presented in Life After New Media (2012) as exemplary of the performative approach. An argument is made that the accounts of media events offered by performative approaches add very little, and, indeed, lack the critical insightfulness of the earlier approaches. Both ritual theory and Baudrillard’s thought are briefly reappraised and, against Nick Couldry, I try to show that these accounts are not characterised by binary and reductive thinking. The major misunderstandings concern the nature of the sacred and profane dualism and the further dualisms developed in Baudrillard’s thought, particularly the figures of implosion and reversibility. Finally, Baudrillard’s position on technology is addressed and the paper concludes with the suggestion that his account is not solely negative, since technological developments are not only at the mercy of ironic reversals they may also enable new rituals of disappearance.