Friday, August 22, 2008

Premediating Obama's VP

The run-up to Obama's announcement of his VP choice is an exemplary instance of premediation at work. As I have elsewhere defined it, premediation involves the cultural desire to mediate the future before it happens. Intensifying since the events of 9/11, premediation describes the predominant media formation of the first decade of the 21st century. Premediation not only entails the incessant remediation of future events (Obama's announcement of his VP) but also entails the desire that no future event emerge that had not already been pre-mediated. It operates in part by the proliferation of media technologies, so that there appears to be no possibility of anything happening that is not instantly (or has not already been) remediated.

In the weeks leading up to the selection of Obama's VP, print, televisual, and online media have tirelessly previewed the possible candidates--ad nauseum for most of us. As the Democratic Convention approaches, these media reports have proliferated exponentially--to the point that beginning Thursday evening before the convention (August 21), CNN has had cameras outside the houses of the three presumed finalists (Bayh, Biden, and Kaine) as well as on Friday afternoon Midway airport, from where Obama would be expected to fly to Springfield for the Saturday afternoon event that has been assumed to be the place/time of the first joint appearance of Obama and his VP pick.

Of course, the Obama camp has itself engaged in premediation--particularly in their announcement that the first news of the choice would be sent to supporters via text-messaging. This plan is of course a brilliant ploy to add tens of thousands or more cellphone numbers to the campaign database, but it also participates in a logic of premediation in which the announcement is dependent upon a pre-mediated social network of telecommunication technologies.

Since 9/11 the predominant orientation of print, televisual, and online media has been toward the future. Where news media have historically aimed at the mediation of the very recent past, and then more recently of the live, immediate present, today we see the focus to be predominantly on the future. This has, of course, been always true of election coverage to a great extent, but ever since 9/11 all events have been treated as if they were elections.