This afternoon I met with a friend of mine, Don Moore, who has just defended his PhD in English Literature and has just completed his teaching for the semester so is now available to come and entertain me. In preparation for a course he will be teaching in the fall, we have decided to read Jacques Derrida and Bernard Stiegler’s Echographies of Television (Malden: Polity Press, 2002), which means that I may well be writing on this text off and on over the next few months.
Our conversation today only brushed on the text itself, focusing more on the course that Don is preparing, but we did discuss briefly one of the ideas in the first section of the volume, “Artifactualities”, which is an interview with Derrida. The idea relates to one of my recent posts, “Writing for the Web“, where I suggest that writing for the web is driven primarily by the need for speed and currency. Derrida, speaking more broadly of technological media, which he calls teletechnologies, makes a similar suggestion. He says, “The least acceptable thing on television, on the radio, or in the newspapers today is for intellectuals to take their time, or to waste other people’s time there.” This demand for haste, he argues, “can reduce certain intellectuals to silence,” as they “refuse to adapt the complexity of things to the conditions imposed on their discussion.” In other words, the choice before the intellectual is to simplify the complexities of thought to the speed, the brevity, and the utility that teletechnologies require, or to be silent.
I would affirm Derrida’s analysis here, and also his solution, which involves, in part, a decision not to be of this present time, to be anachronistic, untimely, and disadjusted, in order to “not necessarily miss what is most present today.” This mode of writing and thinking in ways that are out of their time and place in order to reveal the question’s that their time and place conceal is exactly what I want to accomplish in this space that is not a blog. I want to write in ways that, while certainly not escaping the teletechnologies that structure and enable it, call attention precisely to the question of how these technologies impose a certain structure and rhythm on public discourse. I want to write slowly and lengthily, so that what I write requests that you read slowly and lengthily, so that perhaps together we can begin to ask what we have lost by acceding to the demand that writing be always in haste, in brief, and in utility.