Bertolt Brecht, “The Radio as an Apparatus of Communication,” 1932.
“The human essence is no abstractum inherent in the single individual. In its reality it is the ensemble of social relations.”
Karl Marx, Sixth thesis on Feuerbach, 1845
“The employment of Der Flug der Lindberghs and the use of radio in its changed form was shown by a demonstration at the Baden Baden music festival of 1929. On the left of the platform the radio orchestra was placed with its apparatus and singers, on the right the listener, who performed the Flier’s part, i.e., the pedagogical part, with a score in front of him. He read the sections to be spoken without identifying his own feelings with those contained in the text, pausing at the end of each line; in other words, in the spirit of an exercise. At the back of the platform stood the theory being demonstrated in this way.”
Brecht, An Example of Pedagogics. (Notes to Der Flug der Lindberghs), 1929
In this article Brecht criticizes the one-sided use of the medium radio. Instead of distributing from one central point to individuals, it should set out to become a communicative medium through which individuals are able to transmit as well as receive. The problem is that radio can only be used to listen to and thus can only be applied as vehicle for the sake of the dominant (i.e., capitalists). As such it lacks the possibility to educate important things and simply reformulates traditional (as opposed to modernist) principles. Brecht’s employment of his educational principles in Der Flug der Lindberghs is exactly the opposite. It is meant to educate moral and political values by allowing the individual to participate. And participation is what is missing from the medium radio. By supplying the public with participation in the performance of artworks Brecht hoped to elevate the level of the people (proletariat) to a politically engaged collectivity.
How do Brecht’s concerns with a medium as communicative instead of distributive apparatus relate to (a) Plato’s preference of speech over writing (Brecht: “We have a literature without consequences”); (b) the possibilities opened up by the internet (blogging!)?
(c) In what ways the Platonian speech/writing-divide (a fundamental? difference between internet and radio) affects the use of internet?
(d) How does my quotation of Marx relate to Brecht’s article?
(e) Why—and this a point I found hard to grasp outside the immediate application to the radio—does Brecht claim that there is a lack of consequences (Folgenlosigkeit) in almost all institutions?
(As an additional—though maybe superfluous—point, it might also be interesting to consider the relationship between Brecht’s metaphor of the ideal radio as “a vast network of pipes” and the obviously connected name “youtube.”)