spectacle

"Not only does the spectacle continue to seduce us into looking at it, thinking with it and living in it, but now it also looks back at us from a thousand different angles at once. The one-way communication that both Burroughs and the Situationists attacked as the reality film’s unilateral chain of command has given way to multidirectional surveillance that masquerades as democratic dialogue and informational collaboration. In a late essay, Gilles Deleuze argues that this shift demonstrates that ‘[c]ontrol societies are taking over from disciplinary societies [in Michel Foucault’s sense]. “Control” is the name proposed by Burroughs to characterize the new monster’ of technological monitoring (Deleuze, Negotiations 1972-1990, trans. M. Joughin, 1990), and thus the society of control is a further development of, if not the direct successor to, the reality film or the society of the spectacle. Unlike modern discipline, which was long-term and discontinuous (as Burroughs showed with regard to urban space in Junky), ‘[c]ontrol is short-term and rapidly shifting, but at the same time continuous and unbounded’ (Deleuze 1990:181). We have the security of holographic IDs, the convenience of credit cards, the amusement or edification of web surfing, and the spontaneity of e-mail and instant messaging, but all these forms of instantaneous information transfer leave a residue that is tirelessly collected by credit agencies, merchants, employers, police and the State in order to map our movements, plans, desires and affects.

Following Deleuze’s lead, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri also note that in the contemporary global economy of the image, ‘the freedom of self-fashioning is often indistinguishable from the powers of an all-encompassing control’ of the sort that Burroughs anatomized (Hardt and Negri, Empire, Harvard University Press, 2000). They insist as well that like Burroughs’s theory, ‘Debord’s analysis of the society of the spectacle, more than thirty years after its composition, seems ever more apt and urgent’ right now. In particular, the concept of the spectacle, like Burroughs’s notion of control, helps to explain the dematerialization of politics in the contemporary world.

"[The] spectacle is a virtual place, or more accurately, a non-place of politics. The spectacle is at once unified and diffuse in such a way that it is impossible to distinguish any inside from outside — the natural from the social, the private from the public. The liberal notion of the publlic, the place outside where we act in the presence of others, has been universalized (because we are always now under the gaze of others, monitored by safety cameras) and sublimated or de-actualized in the virtual spaces of the spectacle. The end of the outside is the end of liberal politics.”’ (Hardt and Negri, Empire, Harvard University Press, 2000)

Timothy S. Murphy, ‘Exposing the Reality Film: William S. Burroughs Among the Situationists’ published in Retaking the Universe, William S. Burroughs in the Age of Globalization, pg.66/67; edited by Davis Schneiderman and Philip Walsh (Pluto Press, 2004).

Snakes Control Blood Flow to Aid Vision

A new study from the University of Waterloo shows that snakes can optimize their vision by controlling the blood flow in their eyes when they perceive a threat.

Kevin van Doorn, PhD, and Professor Jacob Sivak, from the Faculty of Science, discovered that the coachwhip snake’s visual blood flow patterns change depending on what’s in its environment. The findings appear in the most recent issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Instead of eyelids, snakes have a clear scale called a spectacle. It works like a window, covering and protecting their eyes. When presented with a threat, the fight-or-flight response changes the spectacle’s blood flow pattern, reducing blood flow for longer periods than at rest, up to several minutes. (Credit: Kevin van Doorn)

K. van Doorn, J. G. Sivak. Blood flow dynamics in the snake spectacle. Journal of Experimental Biology, 2013; 216 (22): 4190 DOI: 10.1242/jeb.093658

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