To explain the concept of Postmedia in a dictionary form, which Felix Guattari first coined in the 90s, is quite a convenient option. However, there’s a danger that some important details that make up its complexity might impair the significance and meaning behind the concept. From this awareness, I thought of approaching the concept from its context in history, importance, relevance, and of course contention in the present. With this in mind, I want to define the concept briefly without being too simple and difficult. To do this I came up with the idea of partitioning Guattari into a timeline in relation to Postmedia as a concept.
Historically when mass media was first invented it coincided with the development of Nation-States. Following Benedict Anderson’s study of the origins of nationalism, Mass Media was one among the instrumental elements that ushered for its possibility. Through the printed form of mass media, for instance, books, newspapers, calendars and posters Anderson argued that they have become the tools of distribution for the Imagined Community. However, upon the development of mass media in the turn of the century its electronic form like radio and television has become a very powerful medium of controlling human sensory-perception; thus, the mass medium as a massage, as Marshall McLuhan would argue and describe it.
Furthermore, the accessibility of electronic mass medium saw the emergence of a cyborg where all media, as McLuhan further argued, has become extensions of our human body, sense, and mind. However, this was imagined by McLuhan from the context where mass media is controlled either by big corporations or totalitarian states. But during this time there were many developments going on that will dramatically change the hegemonic characteristics of mass media.
When Felix Guattari wrote “Towards a Postmedia Era (1990)” it was the moment when the military funded research on computer networks was already taking form. However, according to media theorist Michael Goddard, the text implied Guattari’s theoretical reflection on independent media and free radios practiced by the anti-work and post-left Autonomia movement in 1970s Europe, partially due to the accessibility of these technologies. It should also be noted that Guattari was imagining a non-hegemonic form of media technology from his keen support to French Minitel (1978) – a device that combines television, telematics, and informatics preceding the Internet.
Guattari speculated that through this interactive technological device once appropriated by minoritarian groups could possibly lead to an assemblage of collective-individuals that are different yet connected – a possibility that a few years later was turned into a reality by the Internet. For instance, the Zapatista uprising in 1994 and later on it took form as the grassroots-led network of independent media centers during the anti-WTO uprising in Seattle. Furthermore, his idea of “laboratories of thought and experimentation for future forms of subjectivation” took form in the Arab Spring, Occupy movements, Sunflower and Umbrella revolutions, and so on.
The consequent Postmedia examples mentioned were truly inspiring. It gave me an impression of unfaltering qualities of Postmedia technology replacing the monolithic and hegemonic mass media. But Guattari himself also saw the corresponding madness behind this technology, considering the fact that this essay was written during the Persian Gulf War where the same technologies were utilised.
Furthermore, upon the introduction of Web 2.0, there was a different shift in Postmedia ecology. Social media was born and mass media has to give way for its dominance, however, they managed to adapt to this new development. From my understanding, the power has shifted from the ownership of transmitters to the ownership of servers and data. Today the media giants are also the internet giants such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon in north America and in Asia are Rakuten, Yahoo Japan, Naver and Alibaba from China. These Internet giants own the data generated by its users like us – they have the authority over these data, therefore they have the authority and control over us. Paul Virilio the dromologist warned that every technological invention of speed has a subsequent accident.
I think Guattari’s Postmedia concept also warns us of its subsequent accident which we can see nowadays as Post-truth – the “menace of unreality – which is that nobody believes in anything anymore.” as infotech researcher Kate Starbird from the University of Washington would describe the becoming disaster of a crisis of informatics.