"The alienation of the spectator to the profit of the contemplated object (which is the result of his own unconscious activity) is expressed in the following way: the more he contemplates the less he lives; the more he accepts recognizing himself in the dominant images of need, the less he understands his own existence and his own desires. The externality of the spectacle in relation to the active man appears in the fact that his own gestures are no longer his but those of another who represents them to him. This is why the spectator feels at home nowhere, because the spectacle is everywhere." (1)
For some time now I have become aware that our preoccupation with the momentary facets of our media culture have moved beyond mere distraction to dangerous manipulation. Our daily addiction to these cellular technologies and their proprietary structures is altogether troubling. But the barely camouflaged agendas within the media-driven services, created via corporate programmed commerce, dictate our willing enslavement for most of our waking hours.
We sign on to the Internet, a ready stand-in for Guy Debord's "Spectacle," believing that we are "just checking our Facebook," only to be prompted to some "suggested post," a disguised advertisement poised to register our "likes" for future "call lists." Our keystrokes and movements through this insidious "World Wide Web" are tracked and monitored, with the resultant "spam" steadily filling our filtered lives, and our habits and preferences traded to those corporations complicit in the deceit. Because distraction is just a click away - political scandal, celebrity misadventure, YouTube miscreants and fiascoes - our loss of time is imperceptible as we text, scroll and meme our way through the Spectacular.
This is not to say that the Internet has no function, for that would be patently absurd. The ‘Net’s usefulness as basic information source cannot be denied. From students to academics, to research scientists and authors, the ease and speed with which any topic can be accessed and explored on the Web makes it the premier tool for gathering and gaining knowledge, or at least a sense of knowing.
We could never have known how correct Debord's predictions would become. We communicate via The Spectacle, controlled by its machinations, lead to wherever it wants us to go. This may be harmless for the young, perhaps even amusing for five or six years as they sojourn through the tethers of Academia. However, the adult mind becomes besotted among the zeros and ones, drugged by the "Now," mired in the false belief that this "Media Culture" is the "Only Culture."
As I have aged, I have begun to tabulate what I have missed, what I haven't read, the things I haven't seen. The experience of Here and Now is lost to me when I am on the Web. I can no longer allow myself the sloth of wandering through meaningless gossip, innuendo, "fact" based on opinion, "truth" based on Wikipedia.
Before there were blogs and digitized media there were books; before YouTube there was cinema, before iTunes there was jazz. How many hours are left to me? How many days?
I have read only fragments of Dante, Ben Jonson, Coleridge; and I haven't read enough Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Clemens. I have seen bits of Griffith, Eisenstein, von Stroheim; and I haven't watched enough Chaplin, Ford, Kurosawa.
This is my resolve, to wisely use what moments remain, to be in the moment. My plan is simple and forthright: I will abandon the superficialities of Facebook, YouTube and the "social media." I will seek knowledge through books, art and poetry through film, to rekindle these lost art forms and the essence of their relationship to me. I will stay aware of my epistemic conditions but go deeper than The Spectacle allows. I take a chance that there is a life other than that proposition of an existence "mediated by images." I seek a social practice among humans whose being is defined by actions. The possibilities are too promising to ignore.
IMAGE: Still from Sergei Eisenstein's The Battleship Potemkin, Kino, 1925.
1. Debord, Guy. "The Society of the Spectacle," Detroit, Black & Red, 1977, #30.