Saturday, November 17, 2007
An Impossible Choice
In the monstrous reorganisation of society as population management, and of knowledge as data flow, we face an impossible choice. We may succumb to the slack-jawed immersion in spectacle, from Vegas to the Sydney Olympics., or accede to the fragmented and ephemeral world of connectivity. I characterise these two positions, respectively the hi-res and lo-res paths, as the impossible choice between the sublime and despair. To paraphrase Adorno, despair and the sublime are the two torn halves of a single oppression: the removal of the object of contemplation from the realm of what can be communicated. In the immersive sublime, what we gaze upon is other, wordless and worldless, beyond history or debate. In the connective despair, what we seek to communicate, the very content of cellular networks, is ourselves, but that is the one thing that cannot be communicated in a world of hyperindividuation. Choose, we seem to be told, between the cinematic spectacle of 9/11 or the connective mobile images from Abu Ghraib. Choose between the unspeakable, sublime icon created by Islamists whose faith does not allow icons. Or pick the degraded and degrading mobile images from Abu Ghraib, where connectivity becomes an extension of the humiliation which is the goal of torturers. The binarism of hi-res and lo-res takes us to the sick heart of the contemporary world.