Alphabet Soup: Social Cartography and Cultural Policy-Making in Societies of Control

Jonathan Z. Long

Advisor: Cindy Lont, PhD, Department of Communication

Committee Members: Timothy Gibson, Mark Sample

Johnson Center, #D
December 06, 2011, 03:00 PM to 12:00 PM


This dissertation illustrates how the Federal Communications Commission [FCC] operates as a key mediator of decisions involving cultural and media policy-making in the United States. Grounding the project in the emerging interdisciplinary fields of Critical Cultural Policy Studies, the project introduces Gilles Deleuze’s discussions of both ethics and “societies of control” in order to demonstrate how the current articulation of the FCC can be shown to increasingly operate within such a control society in ethically indefensible ways. Examining current limitations to such major approaches for analyzing cultural and media policy-making as Cultural Studies, Policy Studies, and especially the two “schools” of Cultural Policy Studies – Arts Management and Governmentalities, this project shows how the concepts of Deleuze and his long-time collaborator Félix Guattari can help Critical Cultural Policy Studies practitioners think about how culture and media should be regulated in the United States and, increasingly, around the world.

Utilizing what Félix Guattari has called “schizoanalytic cartographies,” the dissertation cognitively maps the operations of FCC with the aid of a number of Deleuze and Guattari’s innovative concepts, including “assemblage,” “lines,” and “territorialization.” After critically interrogating and demonstrating the utility of Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of “assemblage,” this project uses this concept to map – literally – various assemblages of cultural and media policy-making involving the FCC. Critiquing the traditional pluralist, instrumentalist, and structuralist modelizations of FCC policy-making, the project constructs social cartographies of contemporary assemblages of FCC policy-making in order to articulate how it works in our everyday lives. Concluding with two case studies illustrating how current FCC decisions involving “the public interest” and “indecency” have operated in an ethically indefensible fashion, this project is designed to help those interested in making cultural and media policy-making more ethically defensible – from academics to politicians, from students to activists – even within societies of control.