Kritische Medienereignisse: Eine Theorie der politischen Zeugenschaft von Web Videos

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This book examines how the mass distribution of web videos influences the relationship between audio-visual witnessing and media events: How can we describe the interplay between media, social dynamics and events? What becomes an event, when does it become an event under which (media) conditions, and how? Who gets to define an event and its meaning, and how do you get that authority? Are there privileged forms of testimony? And under what circumstances do these testimonies have political relevance? None of these questions are new, yet they arise with new urgency and significance within digital cultures. By mediatising distribution and proliferating media production and reception social media platforms multiply the aesthetic, narrative, and institutional contexts of events. While this increases the possibilities of media participation, established social actors and media forms simultaneously lose credibility and validity. The resulting crises of media and social representation destabilise the field of media witnessing. At the same time, these crises also form a sounding board for Critical Media Events. Under this title, the book outlines a concept of socio-medial events that neither antagonises media against event nor degrades the event to a mass-media genre, but instead captures social and media-aesthetic dynamics in an equal interplay – assuming that media and social forms have more in common than the frequently supposed incompatibility of media and social apriority might suggest. Comparing Rainer Leschke's theory of media forms with Pierre Bourdieu's theory of practice shows, that critical media events occur when similar crises in fields of social forces on the one hand and media forms on the other escalate simultaneously – as can currently be observed while both political representatives (actors) and media representations (forms) lose credibility. In the sense of a media-morphologically trained Bourdieu reading, critical media events are media events not because they are represented by media, but rather because they are the publicly visible expression of media upheavals in which social and media field dynamics are synchronised and the re-distribution of the sensible coincides with that of the social. In this context, web videos play a privileged role because – as audio-visual and communicative prostheses – they both expand the scope of action of eyewitnesses and address and involve the audience in a new way: The spectator no longer just acts a distanced observer of a live coverage, but actively participates in the event and its authentication. These new participatory forms of witnessing are thus not exhausted in a documentary function, but always call for participation in the respective event. They are characterised by a radically subjective aesthetic of authenticity that aims less at objectivity than at affective mobilisation.

In this way, web videos change the established relationship of power and trust in the socio-medial field of testimony in epistemological, ethical, and political respects, because they open this field to (new) forms and actors that – more or less consciously – question the hegemonic position of mass media institutions and forms. These shocks to the socio-aesthetic order in the field of witnessing reveal a fundamentally political character of web videos that emerges explicitly whenever web videos articulate dissent and protest against prevailing relations of power. Therefore, in critical media events such as the (failed) Green Revolution in Iran, the political potential of web videos is actualised and comes to light.

Against this backdrop, web videos turn their viewers into witnesses in two ways: Firstly, they document events and render synchronised crises in and of social and media fields observable. Secondly, they function as forms of symbolic exchange through which symbolic capital is revalued in these fields. Thus, because web videos are both expressions and catalysts of these losses of legitimacy, they currently function as both controversial and privileged testimonies of critical media events.
Original languageGerman
Place of PublicationLüneburg
Number of pages323
Publication statusPublished - 12.10.2017