In class on Wednesday, the distinction between history and historiography was brought up. This was a really interesting part of our discussion for me personally, mostly because my idea of “history” has always been the written out chapters in textbooks, the stories told by others, and the memorization of dates, names, and events. The topic of historiography versus history made me think about history as more of an abstract idea, a concept of the past and it’s purpose. This realization led to me thinking of historiography, the ‘writing down of history,’ or the choosing of what is important and noteworthy, as our way of applying history to our lives. Lately in class, we have been discussing how the media (television shows, magazines, etc.) are designed to give us what we want to see, read, and hear. Well, I think this is largely what every social and cultural construct is designed to do. This is what literature can do, and this is what history seems to be able to do as well. The difference is that written works from the past can be revisited, and we can determine from them what must have been important or new at a given time. It is argued that these works cannot capture history fully, because they were written by biased individuals who had opinions about what was important, and because these individuals cannot have possibly included everything in their work. I agree, I think that this history cannot in fact be written down, because it is abstract. We cannot make something abstract become concrete, simply because not all nouns represent something physical. How could a person paint a picture of love? They could paint their idea of love in the form of two people embracing, or of a mother holding her child. But at the end of the day neither of these things epitomize love. This is why historiography, and what we generally think of when we hear ‘history,’ is an art of its own, and it should be appreciated as such. When a work of art is critiqued, the critic may say ‘I think that the artist should have incorporated this’ or ‘I think that the piece lacks that,’ in an effort to improve or expand a work, to help it become more complete. This is how written accounts of history should be viewed and discussed, not with cynicism or even with mere doubt, but with concern for the validity and verisimilitude of it.
I’m pretty grateful that we are addressing culture and ideologies and media in an English class. Speaking about such topics gets me too worked up and upset and most importantly makes me feel like I cannot do anything to change things, so I have steadfastly avoided giving into my natural interest in the way we communicate/what this “we” is/why we need to communicate/what we communicate about/etc/etc/etc. I am as of yet unable to channel such strong emotions efficiently and productively so I’ve just let them be, but it’s futile really because avoidance isn’t really my style. So, long and short, I’ve got plenty of bottled-up thoughts about the whole mess.
The media section in particular has been on my mind a lot recently. I skim the New York Times daily because it is free where I live and the clippings make nice decorations on my wall. My first issue with this is that a recent issue of the Times– the day of Qaddafi’s death, I believe– had a front and center story about how football can damage the brain. It had an entire “Homes” section about selling large apartments with small closets for optimum profit. It had easy to snag pull-out sections for Sports and Arts (mostly movies) but you had to lug the giant front section around to find any international, national, or New York news. It just seemed despicable to me, a terrible display of priorities that I fear is representative of today’s culture. We’re really devoting front-page space to old news about sport? Maybe if we ran out of news, that would make sense, but something about the revolutionary air these days tells me that is not the case. We’re worried about helping the rich profit off of their homes when the number of homeless people in rising to perilous heights? We make it more convenient to indulge in sports and movies interests than in vital news?
Daily, I read some of the stories in the NYT, not nearly as much as I should because of those feelings of crippling helplessness, but I still end up being more politically aware then a lot of people– not just peers– and that fact saddens me. I don’t think of this as a competition or anything, but it comes back to the base fact that apathy is prevalent. I usually skim the city paper at work, and recently I handed a page I tore from it about the race for mayor to a close friend majoring in International Relations, to which he glanced at it and responded, “Ehh that’s boring, I’m just going to go Stumble for a while instead. I pick the one with the glasses.” An International Studies student can’t be bothered with local politics? A close friend who can’t even pretend to care even if just to appease me? I love Stumble as much as the next person, but the nonchalance displayed is all too wretched and common. And, yeah, nice try, but three of the five candidates were pictured in glasses.
This rant ties into our discussion of media’s reciprocal relationship with society. It brings me to the Media 2.0 section. In the past, I’ve written off social networking and all internet communication as an outlet for low culture, but recently I have decided to embrace my desire to explore how it can be used meaningfully. The TT discussed about this very notion– using social networking as a reliable source of media– and it resonated strongly with me. I can honestly say that, despite my daily NYT skimming, I have found out about more of the big news stories of the past year through Facebook statuses than headlines. It’s not a wide reality, and it’s not as though every friend I have on Facebook is constantly posting high cultured content, but I don’t see why that belittles the fact that it CAN and HAS been used productively to any real extent.
Oh, and I love the implications of the different pronunciations of “ideology.” Emphasising the “id” brings out the root word, “idea.” Emphasising the “ol” makes the “id” part sound similar to the “id” in “idiot.” Heeheehee.