The overaffectation of the crowd

From pg 163 of Material Participation by Noortje Marres:

Among concepts of the community of the affected we could also include theories of affective politics developed in recent cultural theory (Thrift, 2008; Terranova, 2007; Blackman, 2008). Such ‘post-emotive’ conceptions of the public propose to understand the mobilization of publics in terms of the quick and intense propagation of feeling through a population that sensationalist media make possible, in a quasi-epidemological way. Importantly, the rise to prominence of such affective publics is often traced back to precisely the period in which the pragmatists wrote their books about democracy in the technological society, the 1920s, and indeed, to these very works, insofar as they also discuss the new opportunities provided by mass media for the instant proliferation of passions and the creation of sensations, and relatedly, the increased possibilities for the manipulation of public sentiments, and their deployment for partisan purposes. (Walter Lippmann, moreover, holds a special place in this history as a member of the American national public propaganda committee during the First World War.) This affective public may arguably be understood as a technologically mediated version of the crowd. I have decided to exclude this community of the affected from consideration here, as it opens up a very different set of problems of the public than the ones I will focus on. The biggest problem of affective publics is arguably that of their ‘overaffectation’, an unsustainable, unproductive form of engagement in which mobilization does not translate into action.

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