It’s weird because the whole time I was studying Communications Studies I thought I was involved in a critical project whose purpose was to provide societies, and the individuals in them, with the intellectual tools to withstand institutional pressure to toe the line and know your place.
I just didn’t know that in practice, Communication Studies is taught as just another way to buy your way into the middle classes. I don’t even mind that, really. You get into better restaurants with a middle class salary. Probably, you can afford to travel the world a lot more, fire up the Sea-doo or whatever--all the fun things Canadians like to do while ignoring the collapse of the country all around them. I have seen no evidence that a partially completely arts degree at a junior college leads to anything but negative affect. It is not, according to Affect Theory, likely to lead to anything but a deepening of individual despair, and its broader dissemination. For fun, we take kids’ money and show them all the Utopian societies humanity has ever conceived, and that they can never have. This individual enlightenment cannot help but slide over into cynicism as it becomes clear that, even amongst those who teach these theories, no evidence can be provided for the claims being made. Once people stop believing positive change is at all possible, that’s when they turn to twitter and trolling.
This class has no pedagogy. It was never developed by a faculty member. Every year, students who enroll in this class create propaganda for the college and for the department. Without any statistics to support them, without any attempt to contact former students who have not succeeded as a result of taking courses through our department (a far greater number, far more easy to contact because you can see these kids working retail up and down the valley) a Communication Studies “Professor” forces students to engage in labour that is not only unpaid, but for which the students are themselves paying. The conclusion this class must reach each and every year is that studying the Arts, and Communications Studies, in particular, is a great social good that must never be questioned. The professors who teach it know this: to justify it to themselves, they point out that they want to keep their jobs, and anyway, students have fun in the course. Not much in the way of readings, plus you get to tinker around on the computers all class.
The college should use its own marketing and professional communications department to do its propaganda. Stories are the lowest form of evidence. Offered in isolation, uncoupled from statistics based on rigorous research, they are not evidence at all: they are intentional obfuscation and misdirection. Shame that it's Communications Studies--which, to reiterate, I thought was the last bastion of critical thought left in the country--that has capitulated so quickly. Cruel Optimism is making kids believe in, and hope for, a system that has already failed.
Politics of Affectation: I tried to take a selfie of me holding these books--because, why not?--and it's true what they say, affect theory really is the heaviest of them all. My book-holding arm kept shaking, creating that cool as blurred effect on the bookcase behind me. No, but seriously...it just wasn't happening. The New Yorker article talks about Berlant, but I'd recommend reading Massumi, at least with it, if not before it.
I sighted Brian Massumi, like, three times, just out and about in Mile End. Once, I waited behind him waiting for the light to change at the corner of Parc and Bernard with another doctoral candidate and as soon as he was out of earshot we squealed to each other, "Ohmigodohmigodohmahgerd, do you know who that was?" I wanted to say something to show my appreciation but there was nothing. Like, what what was I going to say? "You had me at "When micropolitical flourishings proliferate to produce a singularity, in the sense of a macrosystemic tipping point, that's a revolution" ?(Massumi, PofA, p. 82).
Brian Massumi is a distinctive-looking man, ok!?--I was not following him for hours at a time, often in the rain, just hoping to soak up some stray greatness. I miss the time when most professors looked like this, what about you? We need more, not less, motherfucking Professor Tergusons. Also, even though Terguson and Massumi are here sharing this footnote, they have nothing at all in common, let me say that clearly-like.