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Uselessness in Reserve? An exploration of the laugh track, “media” and the frivolous


Uselessness in Reserve? An exploration of the laugh track, “media” and the frivolous

Cree, Dylan J (2017) Uselessness in Reserve? An exploration of the laugh track, “media” and the frivolous. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Uselessness in Reserve? An exploration of the laugh track, “media” and the frivolous

Dylan Cree, PhD
Concordia University, 2017

Within contemporary media studies the notion uselessness is either under-examined or given short-play as representing quantifiable loss. Registered as material waste or as mechanical deficiency measured by what is useful that which is useless gets categorically parsed and dismissed as an irrelevant by-product of a medium’s operations. However, by definition, uselessness resists being instrumentalized and assigned a knowable role. Furthermore, as the thesis argues, when considered materially, what is deemed useless to the optimal workings of a technological medium, whether wanted or not, surreptitiously impacts the reserve of procedures that delimit the workings of a media formation. Though the notion uselessness, as informed by Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction of Etienne Bonnot de Condillac’s account of the frivolous/uselessness, is paradoxical in kind and indeterminate in effect, the thesis proposes that uselessness is far more integral to media formations than contemporary discourse permit. Accordingly, media theorists need to foster other approaches that allow engaging such an aporia.
For directly exploring uselessness in media, the laugh track holds promise as an instance in which a media formation makes useless its production. However, to examine the laugh track by how it may be illogically constituted – as opposed to conventional examinations of how the laugh track functions or serves broader interests – requires deployment of certain expansive methods and discursive tools. Accordingly, Siegfried Zielinski’s media anarchaeology permits exploring the laugh track as its own paradoxical system. His approach helps to investigate the operational attributes that re-codify the laugh track’s material registry as a redundant system of archivation, a uselessness in reserve.
Ultimately, Zielinski’s anarchic approach permits drawing radical implications beyond technological and communicative-governed formulations of media. The laugh track may be explored much like how Giorgio Agamben speculates about the gesture. For Agamben the gesture may be experienced as a “pure means” or an activity liberated from content and purpose dictated by apophantic principles. Accordingly, independently of means/end instrumentalist thinking the laugh track may be encountered by how it, integral to its mediatic operations, paradoxically maintains its productivity through a gesture – of never-ending archival actions – that renders its product useless.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Communication Studies
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Cree, Dylan J
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Date:24 April 2017
Thesis Supervisor(s):Charland, Maurice
ID Code:982484
Deposited By: DYLAN CREE
Deposited On:31 May 2017 18:06
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:55
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