Posted by: Yorgos | February 26, 2008

Text 2 – A Thought on The Society of the Spectacle

I was reading yesterday The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord. While it is a very interesting book, obviously written by a learned theorist, it was not mind-blowing or utterly original. Maybe it is becoming outdated or maybe it cannot respond to the accelerated times in which we live in (which is more or less the same thing).

However, there was one thought in there that was almost an epiphany for me. He stated, in passing and by alluding to another author, that the mass media are a form of control, because they isolate people, they take people away from the streets, they, basically, cut space into little pieces so that unity is forever lost. This has so many implications that I am at a loss on where to start. I want to keep this text short, so I will only mention that Debord is not looking into the content of the media to find out how power is exercised. The fact that the media exist, on a first level, is already enough to start the workings of a capitalistic mechanism.

Now, I am no anarchist in any way and I am not a socialist, not in the traditional sense, at least. I have not read Marx and, to be honest, that day is not coming soon. I can’t help thinking, though, that the more the Internet is used the more isolated we become. To be part of a community does not only mean to do the same things or share our thoughts or even push towards the same goals. A community is much more than that and it requires not just human contact, but the sense that without yourself and any structural element of it (meaning, the people) the community would not work properly.

Right now, I am sitting alone in front of my PC, taking part in the blogging community. Will I be missed if I stopped posting? Will the Internet work less well? Is it not a form of control imposed on me, when I feel the need, instead of going out and discuss, to express my opinions in here?

Give me arguments against these thoughts. I want a reason to go on writing (or, at least, I want the argument of not writing to disappear).

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Responses

  1. This is such an interesting topic and one that I’ve thought about at length. Especially after I first read Debord, I was feeling very conflicted about things like blogging, email, leisure activities, and even apparently benign activities like watching sports.

    In a way, the internet can remove us from directly lived experience. We keep track of our friends through facebook, we talk on MSN rather than in person, we share our thoughts through blogs rather than in real live groups, and we often substitute online communities for real communities. But, though it can remove us from real life if we choose to let it, it doesn’t have to. I think we need balance and we need to use the modern tools available to us to improve the conditions of our real lives.

    There is no escaping modernity. You can’t just break any connection you have to modern communications without being somehow disconnected from the real world too. I think that online communications open up the door for us to build communities in a different way — and they don’t necessarily have to be a substitute for the real thing.

    I like the possibilities that internet communications open up, for politics, for publishing, for friendship, for all kinds of social endeavours and artistic endeavours.

    You ask if it’s a form of control that you “feel the need” to share your thoughts here rather than going out into the world to share them. I don’t think it is. I see it instead as an opportunity we have — to both share our thoughts with the real live people around us AND the people we are distant from and may not even know. Not that there isn’t some form of power being exerted on us through media and communications — but that power itself opens up the possibilities for resistance to it as well, using its self-same tools. Does that make sense?

  2. It makes sense, but I think most theorists we both have read would answer to you that this resistance is nothing but a lie that [insert contemporary system here] is using, in order to keep us within its grasp. I hope you are right, for our healths, if nothing else, but the truth is that we can never know, right? You cannot study a system by being in it and you can never be outside it. You can just go along or criticize it, entrapped (if aware) or falsely happy (if unaware).

    What are we, I wonder.

    This is a long discussion, one that will go on (through our blogs, perhaps?) and hopefully we can bring others along.


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