READING DIARY: Voice (Wolfgang Süetzl)
Couldry, Why Voice Matters, ch 1, 5, 7
Andrew Robinson, In Theory Bakhtin: Dialogism, Polyphony and Heteroglossia
The power of the human need to express ideas is something I have considered at length over the past few years. However, upon reading the selection of chapters from the book, Why Voice Matters, by Nick Couldry it became clearer that what is far greater than a voice being heard is the value placed on that voice. A voice that is heard can be ignored, dismissed or humored. A voice that is valued is taken into consideration through reflection and potentially as an exchange of ideas. This is where the problem arises in current political agendas. There is a ‘crisis of voice' as Couldry states in the opening chapter, and this crisis has far reaching philosophical and psychological effects across all areas of politics, economics, culture, and society. The dichotomy is that we have never had so many platforms in which to express our voice and yet people are increasingly disillusioned with the perception of not being heard. Pierre Rosanvallon states in Couldry's book that "what contemporary democracies lack…is, not opportunities for citizens to express their dissatisfaction with government, but the means by which those voices can be valued within the wider process of policy development." p.143
Technology has significantly elevated the ability to express a voice through platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. however, increasingly there is very little room for these voices to be valued. This is particularly true if you hold a minority perspective – immigrants, minorities and alternative world-views within a society are often shamed into silence through not only the blatant act of trolling, which is prevalent in the web environment but also through the far more reductive and often overlooked Neoliberalism. This has created an environment in which contemporary society is heavily entrenched within an unequal distribution of value. There is a deep denial of voice through oppression and forcing people to always look at oneself through the eyes of other (more valued) perspectives. This is what W.B. Dubois terms ‘double consciousness' in Couldry's reading. This political agenda has created an accepted idea that the free market works in our best interest when there is an inequality of representation. It is commonly accepted that fewer and fewer voices are required…just let the market speak on our behalf.
Reading the section on New Technologies of voice was interesting… (Chapter 7) – I am not sure when this book was published – sometime after the Obama election so maybe 2009/10. It was so interesting to consider how much as changed in the current political climate, particularly from a technological point of view. The mention of Twitter as a voice platform in the current political dialogue has come to mean so much more in the social conscience of the Trump era. Imagine the world where you mention twitter and politics in the same sentence, and there is no mention of Trump. How quickly things have changed, and yet we remain deeply entrenched in the same neoliberal political sphere. The need for change that this book calls for is far from being set into motion. In chapter 6 where Charles Tilly suggests that it is often far quicker to de-democratise then democratize a society seems prophetic in the current climate. Also, the idea of alternative voices being heard through new social media platforms has eventuated faster than presumably predicted in 2009. However, it has been used by an advocate of the neoliberal world view rather than by those that call for an alternative.
What I found most interesting when reading this book is that a lot of the ideas presented had been exactly Trump's strategy to gain power. In his pre-election campaign, there is footage of Trump stating that his tactic will be to:
- By pass all forms of traditional media (redirection of voice)
- Say the most controversial comments so that all his opponents can't get a word in (restriction of voice)
- Suck all the air [media] away from the opponents until they all slowly drop away from the competition – (voice-denying rationality)
Very few other voices could be heard amongst the controversy of Trump.
There are three levels of understanding when we consider the power of a voice – there is the voice of persistent dialogue within our heads, the voice that we articulate to others and then there is the interpretation by those that listen. All three play a pivotal role in the dynamics of perception. There is, however, one fundamental aspect that unites all forms of voice - language. The structure of language is at the foundation of voice. The human ability to communicate through language creates paths of understanding that we perceive in our mind and conversely that which we project to the outside world. From this, we choose to interpret and reflect upon aspects of this dialogue, and it is within this exchange that voice develops value.
The philosophy of mind has played a significant role in the philosophical discussion for centuries and to which there no definitive conclusion. I found the essay, In Theory, Bakhtin: Dialogism, Polyphony, and Heteroglossia, to be enlightening regarding the value of discussions with no end, no right or wrong, no single perspective that is of a higher value than another.
I find the power of voice discussed in this context to be a powerful tool with the potential capability of creating an alternative to the capitalist domination of a finite planet. The philosophy of voice is particularly interesting when considering what frame of reference the possible alternative could cast over society, communities, groups and the individual. The silencing of voice, the ignoring of voice and the loss of value in voice is creating an undercurrent of discontent swelling under the surface of neoliberal societies.