Tag Archives: drugs

The rhetoric of drugs. I mean blogs.

The title of AU CIO Dr Brian Stewart’s recent blog post (“Addicted to blog,” 13 Feb. 2011) frames a discussion of the desire to blog as a question of addiction. This detail (whose explication here is not totally tangential to the substance of Brian’s post about another post by GMU prof Bryan Caplan) points to an interesting symptom of new media culture generally, and, more specifically, of the continuing, uphill battle for blogging to gain academic legitimacy of the kind that has been conventionally accorded peer-reviewed work.

The rhetoric of addiction informs (or infects) much popular discourse about new media in general (not just about clinically recognized forms of dependency like IAD, which is not my subject here). I’ve always found it fascinating that the characteristically modern subjectivity of the user is most closely and consistently connected not only with drugs but also with computing (as in the terminology of “graphic user interface”). “The notion of drug addiction as a disease,” Jacques Derrida remarked in a 1989 interview, “is contemporaneous with modernity and with modern science. Electronic circuitry got hooked up in the argot of drugs and the addict got wired” (¶8).

So the various reasons often given for denying to blogging the legitimacy of peer-reviewed research trade in no small part on modern Western culture’s deep association of new media usage with substance dependency (a variation on its associations of techne with death). Note how well the following quotation from that Derrida interview holds up, if you substitute “drug addict” with “academic blogger”:

What do we hold against the drug addict? Something we never, at least never to the same degree, hold against the alcoholic or the smoker: that he cuts himself off from the world, in exile from reality, far from objective reality and the real life of the city and the community; that he escapes into a world of simulacrum and fiction. (¶21)

Work Cited
Derrida, Jacques. “The Rhetoric of Drugs: An Interview” [1989]. differences 5.1 (1993): 1-25.

Cross-posted from my Athabasca U Landing blog