Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Premediation on the High Seas

Today's New York Times has a front-page article detailing the competing video wars going on in the aftermath of the recent Israeli raid in international waters on the Turkish-supported aid ships heading towards Gaza. The article does a good job of laying out the competing claims made by videos on each side, the ways in which these videos participate in competing political remediations of the historical event.

But what is made less apparent here is, I think, the more interesting element of this event, the competing premediations of the event by the Israelis and the organizers of the aid mission. How one understands what happened during the raid depends upon how the situation was premediated prior to the Israeli boarding of the lead ship--aggressive attempt to violate a legal blockade or legal attempt to provide humanitarian aid to suffering Palestinians in Gaza.

From a medialogical standpoint, however, what was more interesting is the way these competing premediations were supported by sociotechnical media networks in place to make sure that whatever happened on board the ship would already have been mediated at the very moment that it emerged into the present, if not before.

Thus not only did the Israeli Army make sure the event was premediated before its commandos even dropped down from the helicopters on to the deck of the ship, but the organizers of the aid trip did the same:

"The flotilla’s organizers, from Insani Yardim Vakfi, the Free Gaza Movement and other groups, were Webcasting live from the open seas as the confrontation started, using the services of Livestream, a New York-based company that hosts free Webcasts.

"The organizers 'chose to make their trip to Gaza a media event,' said Max Haot, Livestream’s co-founder. Aboard the ship was a 'full multicamera production,' he said, uplinked to the Internet and to a satellite that allowed news channels to rebroadcast live pictures of the raid in progress."

While we have been accustomed to thinking about the immediacy of live, networked video and the competing political remediations of recent (and not so recent) historical events, we need also to bear in mind the ubiquity of premediated social media networks in our current historical moment and to begin to consider how these premediated networks might serve to impact not only our actions in the present but our understanding of the past.