Dr. Samuel Breidenbach
Research project as a ZeM scholarship recipient
Theory and Practice of Reflection and Subversion of Individual and Social Episteme
By describing reflection and subversion, this dissertation aims to cast light on two initial factors in the alternation of individual and social epistemes. It will be shown how such factors can provide stimuli for the transformation of discursive meaning fixation in society and in the mass media. Based on a systems-theoretical perspective in combination with Foucault’s discourse theory, mass media are regarded as the social memory of society. However, because they observe reality only to a limited extent, they construct a mass media reality and reproduce discursive power in this way. By describing reflection and subversion, I want to illustrate the permanent transformation to which (mass) media realities are subject.
Through reflection, current dispositions of the ‘self’ can be observed and their contingency made visible. Progressive self-description – the orientation towards the ‘other’ – demands an alternation of existing structures. At the same time, the self-description referring to the ‘own’ can also lead to a conservative attitude. By subversion, on the other hand, individual and collective imaginary worlds are consciously and intentionally subverted in anyway, when performative dualisms are deconstructed through styilization and hybridization in order to generate diversity precisely in this respect.
As practical examples, the actions of the ‘Center for Political Beauty’ or various forms of activism by means of online communication illustrate the theoretical characterization of subversion. The description of subversive practices is meant to analyze their critical potential in fragmenting, recombining and restaging social reality and its mediality through them.
I illustrate the mode of reflection by the example of self-thematization in the perspective of ‘new media’: Multimediaity and the network of the WWW offer the individual multiple variants for defining his identity through self-narration and interconnection with others. Likewise, social reflection changes through constructions of reality on the WWW and discourses in social media: these must be considered purely functional (just like reports in conventional mass media) as self-descriptions of society. Using different reflections on the new public domain created by weblogs and social media, I examine the forms of individual and social identity construction on the WWW. This is to show that (progressive) reflection is not only able to transform dispositions of the ‘self’, but also how the modes of individual and social reflection transform themselves.
Dr. des. Samuel Breidenbach, née Schilling, M.A., has been an Academic Assistant at the Brandenburg University of Technology at the Chair of Applied Media Studies since April 2021. From 2017 to 2018, he was a fellow at the Brandenburg Center for Media Studies (ZeM), from 2019 to 2020 a project collaborator at the Cognitive Systems Research Cluster at Brandenburg University of Technology, and in 2020 a fellow at the Graduate Research School there. His research interests include topics in media sociology and media cultural studies, especially the social and cultural practices of social self-reflection in social media.
You can visit the personal page of Dr. Samuel Breidenbach on the website of the Brandenburg University of Technology here (in German).