S.O.D.A. and Rhetoric in the Post-Political Age

Morgan Giordano

Associate Professor in Commu­nication Studies at the University of Minnesota Dr. Ronald Greene ar­rived at Colgate to deliver his lecture “After Democracy: Rhetoric in the Post-Political Age” and the growing importance of Speakers, Occasions, Discourse and Audience (S.O.D.A.). Greene uses S.O.D.A. to represent a system in which people use the me­dia to move an audience to view the world differently.

Greene said that in the post-political world each element in this equation has changed. The technological surge of the past decade alone has transformed the way people receive information, thus changing the discourse.

“Every day life is awash in pic­tures, words … media surroundings,” Greene said. “You never disconnect from messages.” Greene said the trans­formation of communication has been a long process. “In Ancient Greece there was more one-on-one commu­nication due to close contact,” Greene said. “[Politicians] gave speeches to people they were likely to see every day.” Speakers today have changed their approach to where someone is just the face. There is rarely one per­son in charge today, but rather insti­tutions. The audience has changedm as well, due to the introduction of microtargeting and fragmenting.

But what does this transition mean for the political state? “States are not concerned with disagree­ments of people. States are more worried about money,” Greene said. Due to this, a “post-political” age has dawned. The state-to-citizen

relationship is largely mediated by the market. Therefore, markets are the primary modes of sovereignty. Democracy is oriented largely on market dynamics, which create consumer sovereignty rather than political sovereignty. According to Greene, representation is now based on the markets in which citizens fall in to.

Greene then fielded questions from the audience. When asked if there is a solution to media creating ones values and making a profit from it, Dr. Greene of­fered his “utopian” answer. He would like to see people attempt to disconnect from “communica­tion from above” and spend more time with “communication from below.” The presentation intensi­fied when Greene suggested per­haps one should spend less time on Facebook because “the corpo­ration takes your desire for con­nections and bombards you with advertisements … is what you want your communication to do is make money?” Greene asked.

Students also brought up the re­cent importance of Facebook in the organization of protesters in Libya and Egypt. Dr. Greene did not deny its impact but held to the idea that it is one thing for an individual to join a group on Facebook and another to go out in streets to protest.

Many left angered by Greene’s condemnation of popular sites such Facebook and YouTube due to excessive advertisements. However, the majority were pleased by the presentation. The lecture on “After Democracy: Rhetoric in the Post-Political Age” served as an excellent follow up for the students who studied related theories in classes such as Challenges of Modernity.