De Certeau: Notes

De Certeau, Michel. "Reading as Poaching." The Practice of Everyday Life. Trans. Steven F. Rendall. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984. 165-176.

The growing presence of the media, as if they now control not only the means but the modes of consumption, audience as "sheep" immobilized by the media (165); the freedom left is only "that of grazing on the ration of simulacra the system distributes to each individual" (166). This is the view De Certeau opposes.



consumer/reader a fiction (Ong)

Even those who protest the media, believe that "its own cultural models are necessary for the people in order to educate their minds" etc. But the public is not to be moulded: a difference between being appropriated vs. appropriating (166).  
Enlightenment vision of education, remodelling a nation. But now the "means of diffusion" dominate, replacing the message; effect of sidelining the institutions that developed the means and eliminating the older Enlightenment goals (166) [cf. Lord Reith; Greenblatt's complaint] John Reith became the BBC's first director-general in 1926 [resigned 1938]. In this position Reith was adamant that the BBC should become a national broadcaster, allowing news and events that had previously been accessible only to a minority of people, to become an everyday part of British life. He called it 'making the nation as one man'. At a time when most adult listeners had no formal education beyond the age of 14, Reith also sought to use the BBC for education and improvement, forming strong links with adult education services and firmly inculcating the BBC with its public service ethic.
Despite this change, the model of the public as "essentially passive" not challenged (167). The model of consumption as a receptacle, privileges producers over consumers (167). [everything now marketed as "product," including rock concerts]
Oral communication precedes, makes written possible; prepares expectations, anticipations, that written text will modify (168-9). Authority granted to read scriptural texts but not to write, transfers to modern media: watching TV programmes but not interactively (169). Thus reading seen as passive, whereas in practice it is a constructive activity, the reader creates something unknown (169). Calls for study of acts of reading. Despite theoretical models, Barthes, et al., "the story of man's travels through his own texts remains in large measure unknown" (170).

compare early phases of radio, Internet



seems to call for empirical studies of reading

Reading: the text "is ordered in accord with codes of perception that it does not control" (170). But text meaning seen as behind a Great Wall of China. Controlled by social institution of interpretation, a secret of the privileged reader, sanctioned by the academy (171).

against interpretation: cf. Susan Sontag, et al.


The realities of reading thus concealed, "the silent, transgressive, ironic or poetic activity of readers" (172). Reading socially stratified, making reading into an unknown (172). bubbles rising (172): cf. Oprah Winfrey's readers; customer reviews on
The secret other places of reading (173). To read: deterritorializing; exiles the self (173). Readers as travellers, poaching (174).  
Reading involves the body: that we should recover this; although silent reading appears to dispense with the body (175-6). "withdrawal of the body" (176) body: e.g., Esrock, "Embodying Literature." Journal of Consciousness Studies 11.5-6 (2004): 79-89.

Document prepared November 24th 2004 / Updated January 29th 2011