Industry, Technology and Politics
Alec Charles The Paper Menagerie: Making Sense of Soft News
In River Out of Eden the biologist Richard Dawkins (1995: 147) observed that genetic dissemination and evolution is not a matter of intentional design; it is merely that the most appropriate forms endure and proliferate: ‘It is important to understand that none of these replicating agencies is con- sciously interested in getting itself duplicated. But it will just happen that the world becomes filled with replicators that are more ef ficient’. Dawkins (1989) had famously – in his study of The Selfish Gene – also spoken of the way in which mimemes (or memes: ideas, units of cultural heritage) rep- licated themselves in similar ways to genes. The ideas and cultural forms fittest to any particular environment are those which survive and spread. It is not that these ideas or the agents which bear them are in any way conscious of their function; it is not as if they hold purpose or design. It is just that they work. For Michel Foucault (1991: 26) ‘power is exercised rather than pos- sessed’. Power structurations are self-performing and self-perpetuating; societal systematization is determined by the autonomous evolution of institutional, economic and ideological conditions. As Marshall McLuhan (2001: 51) supposed, individuals in these terms seem no more than ‘the sex organs of the machine world, as the bee of the plant world, enabling it to fecundate’. This process is not a matter of conscious design but of an ever- evolving structuration of societal relationships. Pierre Bourdieu (1977: 79) argued that the subjects of such societal...
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