On Slogans (August 31, 2007)
NOTES: Origins and Context | See Also
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Origins of this content
This 2007 blog post is the fourth of four manifestos that I penned to commence my blog called Media Praxis. It explicitly refers to the earlier political/film manifestos of soviet filmmakers/theorists Sergei Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov, who were also thinking through the radical potentials of the new medium of their epoch: cinema. Like them, I tried to resolutely set forth my operating ideals, goals, orientation, and inclinations for thinking about radical media within radical media, including YouTube. Mediapraxis.org is also the name of an earlier, related, online publication which I produced for and with another Pitzer class that sets forth ten chronological moments where media is theorized, by someone who is making it and as a vital component of political struggle. That site archives and integrates revolutionary theoretical writing, video clips, and related web-based activity.
"The dialectic principle had its most profound effect on film theory through the writings and films by Sergei Eisenstein ... Two opposing images are cut together thereby creating a discord, the aim of which is to stimulate the viewer. The images—in themselves inert and politically neutral—can thus gain a political impetus."[cit]

Slogans " ... should be a statement of such merit about a product or service that it is worthy of continuous repetition in advertising, is worthwhile for the public to remember, and is phrased in such a way that the public is likely to remember it."[cit]

"Consumer activism is a coherent set of activities in which citizens use their consumer identity to press political claims."[cit] "Clicking links and sending pre-written faxes is The Lazy Activist way. It truly is the easiest activism on the Net."[cit] "Collectively, informed consumers can be a powerful tool for change."[cit]
"It will be the art of the direct cinema of a slogan. Of communication that is just as unobstructed and immediate as the communication of an idea through a qualified word."– Sergei Eisenstein, "Our October, Beyond the Played and the Non-Played"

This slogan written by eminent revolutionary filmmaker/theorist Sergei Eisenstein in 1928, is one of many I offer across this publication by way of incendiary introduction to my current thinking about YouTube.

Using said slogans—pithy quotes taken from longer works of media theory—I mark radical possibilities and responsibilities presented by the contemporary phenomena of documentary on YouTube, but as heralded by political media producers writing in the past about the radical possibilities for the various technologies of their distinct times and places.

Why is YouTube failing even as it is built on technical opportunities desired but unattainable for our sloganeers of the past?

"The epoch of the direct materialization of a slogan takes over from the epoch of a slogan about material."– Eisenstein

I am convinced that certain critical components of the hundred-year project of media praxis are lost in YouTube's stellar realization of "the art of the direct cinema of the slogan." What couldn't Eisenstein foresee? For it seems both prescient and also naive of this distinguished communist to harken the slogan for his developing medium, cinema.

The slogan is a form that seems so much more apt for our use eighty-years later of contemporary technological developments, particularly as displayed on YouTube: cinema-via-the-Internet.

The slogan, in its several denotations, conceptually links activism and commerce—the simplistic selling of ideas to move people to fight or to buy, no matter—in a manner perfected by and definitive of our era, and in its definitive medium: the Internet.

The slogan—"
a pithy, precise, rousing call to action or consumption, or action as consumption—seems a remarkably astute descriptor of at very least the form of YouTube media, especially in the slogan's dependence upon brevity and clarity.

I will briefly establish, through slogans, how Eisenstein's hopes for the slogan are structurally impossible given the architecture, ownership, and advertisements on YouTube.

On YouTube, our epoch of the slogan forecloses conversation, community, and complexity.

I ask you to think of the following slogans, penned by committed artists from long-past revolutions, times, and places, and then followed by my own slogan-responses, as a call to arms for how we might better muster today's technology to contribute to an ongoing project of improving the possibilities for presentation, interpretation, and abstract social evaluation, human interaction, perception, and epistemology through media praxis.