The rise of the media-real : representation, the real and September 11, 2001

  • Jodie Florence Vaile

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    On the 11th of September 2001 the world witnessed an unparalleled type of catastrophic event; the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and the attempted attack on the White House. One of the key factors making these attacks so unprecedented was that the second plane was caught live on television as it struck the second tower, as were the subsequent collapses of the two towers. To a large degree the events of this day were broadcast live to a mass global audience and it was this mediation that set the event apart. The mediation of this event was, on so many levels, more important than the event itself. It was not the first terrorist attack on a Western country, it did not cause the greatest loss of life of any catastrophic event, in a hypermediated world it was not even the most spectacular thing to appear on a television screen, yet no other event in recent history comes close to the level of effect that September 11 has had. This is the central concern that began the journey of this thesis, how did the representation of this event shape what possible societal perceptions of reality were available? This thesis is an exploration of why this event in particular has had the impact that it has and it is through this exploration of these issues that I propose this new model of the communication of spectacular catastrophic events – the media‐real. The media‐real, arises from the conjunction of four key elements; the triadic forces of the spectacle, the ‘unheimliche’ and the abject which converge and then travel through the conduits o unpreparedness. This convergence and acceleration of convergent elements allows for the re‐emergence of the Lacanian real, that, like an eruptive wound, produces a rupture in the societal perception of reality and allows the event to escape from its representation. It is here that we find the media‐real, at the fringes of what it is possible to understand. Existing in fleeting glimpses, in moments within larger events but always a part of this process never a discreet product in its own right. The concept of the media‐real is proposed as an analytic tool for the analysis of mediated catastrophic events because of the conceptual inadequacy of current media theory to deal with the extent of the impact of such an event.
    Date of Award2010
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorBethany Anne Turner (Supervisor) & Jordan Williams (Supervisor)

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