Tuesday, March 13, 2007

“Virilio’s insights on Speed and Live Television”

Overall, “Indirect Light” is a series of insights on how technology has changed our lives and sense of reality through the increased speed at which images are transmitted. Virilio distinguishes indirect light, which uses electro-optical lighting, from direct light, which uses natural or artificial light sources such as sunlight or floodlights (35). In particular, Virilio makes two comments on speed and live television coverage that I found very interesting.

In Virilio’s essay, he argues that speed has replaced time of duration as a means of determining validity. Virilio states that Einstein believed that the only way to distinguish a correct theory from an incorrect theory was the length of time that it remained valid. Under this example, value is derived from the duration of time in which an idea remains valid. However, Virilio also argues that this method of determining value is no longer used. Instead, Virilio says that, “The real value of the object or subject instantaneously present at a distance entirely depends upon the passage, that is, the speed, of its image, the speed of light of contemporary electro-optics”(33). Our use of technology has encouraged individuals to value speed over duration of time.

Towards the end of his essay, Virilio discusses the role of live television coverage in the Tiananmen Square massacre. The demonstrators demanded live coverage of their protest, but the Chinese government denied their request. After the massacre, the government displayed previously recorded film of individuals violating vehicles and soldiers. Virilio describes this act as a new type of censorship. Instead of refusing to disclose information, “It is the replaying of recorded material, the retarded ignition of the living light of events”(36). This kind of censorship keeps certain elements of an event secret through a manipulative calculation of which images to show.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Felix Wong said...

Speaking of Einstein, IT HIS BIRTHDAY TODAY. WOOO. Anyhow. Regarding Einstein, he has created several interesting theories regarding time and relativity. We were talking about this today in physics. In Einstein's specific theory of relativity, he basically says that we can travel forward into time and not backwards if we can reach high velocities. Say if you left for outer space, flying at 12341515 m/s for one year according to your watch and come back to earth, earth would have gen through hundreds and if not thousands of years. So, as Virilio says that its real value depends on its speed is somewhat convoluted because time is relative to speed. Its kind of like comparing 2 things that are linked together but can be seen in many ways.

3/14/2007 1:35 AM  
Blogger Nehal N said...

It is amazing how the entire class so far has focused on the effect that the duration of time has on people and society. Then here comes Virilio turning things upside down by providing a more contemporary look at time. It is true that we expect speed over duration of time. We can even look at how mad we get when our internet speed is relatively slow. A comparison could even be made between the mid 1990s and now where internet speed then was about 56kb/s and now we are used to about 2 Mb/s, a huge increase. So the concept of slow internet speed is seen as horrible. As for live TV, you're right how if TV is not live, many see it as censorship. In today's era, we may have moved on more, such as in Iraq where we still receive live tv feeds, but we change the perspective of the camera. This was done through "embedding" media crews in military divisions. Maybe the future holds that the perspective of live tv influences society more than the speed of information.

3/14/2007 8:11 AM  
Blogger Sean Carr said...

I really disagree with Virilio on most points. In this particular case I don't think he takes an adequate look at the censorship issue. It is true that these new high speed communication channels can be manipulated and censored, but this was always the case with information. If anything, I think the increase in these high speed communication mediums has democratized information. As Time magazine's person of the year last year ("You") was supposed to show, individuals are generating and distributing more content online than ever before. Before the invent of communication devices such as the telegraph and eventually the phone, information was passed around much slower if at all. Something like the Tiananmen Square massacre probably would have not been known about by the rest of the world, particularly the normal citizens. Yes there is censorship using these new mediums, but that is because of human nature, not the mediums being used. Also, seeing live/recent images from Tiananmen Square has a lot more impact on people than reading about it after the fact.

3/15/2007 12:21 AM  
Blogger Jane said...

The act of distinguishing a correct theory from an incorrect theory (Einstein's belief) seems unnecessary to me. My understanding (from what our CAL education has taught) is that a theory is never actually true because it can be proven false (with a matter of time, what Einstein was probably getting at). But if a theory is proven incorrect, doesn't that prove that it was never valid to begin with? I agree that our advancing technology has increased our appetite for speed rather than the quality of a lasting effect. Our culture and society now demands a fast-paced lifestyle, with little time to ponder over the purpose of life and how to live it.
The live coverage issue does seem to be sticky. Even with a live airing of events, it can be a censorship in camera angles framing a certain perspective the broadcasting wants you to have.

3/16/2007 3:33 PM  

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