Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Virilio's Concerns

Paul Virilio, in his article titled “Indirect Light”, constructed his argument around the notion that the impact of technology has had an incredibly negative for and on society. He is primarily concerned about cinema and the more specific capability that video images and projections have to automatically transfer information from different points and locations. He argues that this is a present crisis of cinema, arguing that “it expresses a crisis in the idea of representation linked to rapid spread of the ‘live’ dimension.” In other words, Paul Virilio expresses a fear or concern about what will happen to us as human beings as a result of the effect of fast media.

I disagree with this idea that technology and technological advancement is a purely negative thing for society. I can understand the argument that human dependency on technology is not necessarily a positive notion (that we are dependant on machines and not self-sufficient) but societal advancement is a product of human intelligence. Our ability to communicate with people around the world and to receive information as it is happening is incredibly useful and constructive.

If you take a look at what the day of September 11th actually was (for many people) it was a day where we all sat in front of our televisions and computers craving more information and demanding knowledge, especially for those of us who were here on the West Coast. After that day, my grandparents told me that it was for my generation what Pearl Harbor was to theirs and what JFK’s assassination was to my parents. Without the technology that allowed us to be importantly aware of what was going on in the world, we would have been left vulnerable and susceptible. The Virilio idea that the nature, manner and time in which information is received is somehow harmful is an idea with which I cannot understand. I am not sure that Virilio's concern are completely warranted, either. I'm curious to hear what other people have to say.

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7 Comments:

Blogger Jeff said...

I believe what Virilio's trying to say is that we're becoming more dependent on machines. But most of us don't know how these machines are made we just know how to operate them. And therefore we become more reliable on machines to do the work for us. Even though it are international communications might have improved were still spending more time inside and away from human to human contact and all we see are computer optics pictures of humans instead of our own optics viewing humans which is ultimately make us more machinelike and efficient but we are human so one day we will become obsolete.

3/14/2007 10:00 PM  
Blogger Ifan Wei said...

I like what you pointed out about technology having the ability to bring people together. There was a huge change when the radio became popular and introduced the possibility of replacing the newspaper. People were able to gather around the radio whereas the newspaper required reading solitarily. The current direction of the internet is all about networking and building online communities. However, Jeff has a valid concern in pointing out the fact that these online communities can be superficial. Human contact and communication is being limited to pixels on a screen in these interactions. You might "chat" with someone without actually hearing their voice or seeing their facial expressions, the parts of a conversation that make it unique and human.

3/16/2007 12:56 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

I think Virilio was more concerned with focusing on the wrong things with media, which we're dependent on for news. The 9/11 incident is a good example of reporting on the right things, but then as events became more and more controversial, certain news channels started to change the meaning of new events. Such shaky and biased journalism can be harmful to certain people, and I think that was what Virilio was trying to warn against.

3/18/2007 9:25 AM  
Blogger Tom M said...

Faster is better? I don't know. Information is coming at us faster and faster, and our appetite for news and information is being overdeveloped just as our appetite for junk food is being overdeveloped. Take your example of technology improving our ability to emotionally deal with 9/11 -- on the contrary, we could not escape these horrible images of unthinkable evil for months and months -- retreating to our computers to scan for the latest twists and turns that this new terrorist-infested world would bring us, what new threat we need to be afraid of instead of finding healing with real community and moving on. The more plugged in we are, the more susceptible we are to being controlled! As a nation we were scared into supporting a war that had nothing to do with 9/11. Were we not glued to our computers and TV sets, we might have seen beyond the massive sales of american flags to the machinations of our leaders... but I digress. Virilio is really bad at expressing himself (or is perhaps very challenging to translate well) but he is correct to sound the warning bells.

3/18/2007 5:21 PM  
Blogger Tom M said...

One more observation - online community is an oxymoron. Freed from the consequences of deceiving the people who are truly (physically) close to us, we become completely false projections of ourselves - on the internet, nobody knows you're a dog. You are free to lie about who you are and get away with it, and more often than not people take advantage of this. With some exceptions (anonymous support groups that would normally not be possible due to social stigma), it is a fantasy world, not a true foundation for a community that you can trust.

3/18/2007 5:28 PM  
Blogger Caitlin Halsey said...

I do not think that Virilio is commenting on the nature of technology as bad or good. I think he is evaluating the changes in our values and sense of reality, and sees negative aspects in these changes.

3/18/2007 10:16 PM  
Blogger Phoebe_A said...

I agree with what Tom M said about how "we become completely false projections of ourselves" on the internet. Yet, this largely depends on the person. Also, by not showing physical traits of the user, sometimes extremely shy people are able to better express how they feel over the internet in comparison to how they would express their emotions in person. The internet could also be seen as an outlet for such people. I guess tying this into Virilio’s paper, the idea that indirect light created by the transmission of light from one place to another can also be applied to an idea of “indirect personalities,” a person projects this idea they have of themselves through space and time which is different from their original personality.

4/19/2007 11:36 AM  

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