|Snapshot/Takashi Miike: a missed telephone call|
Communauté d'émotions - le instant domine - la tyrannie du temps réel - la confiance demamde du temps, il n'y a pas de démocratie instantanée - enchaînement de catastrophes, c'est ça l'actualité
Community of emotions - the all embracing moment - the tyranny of real time - confidence is built over time, instant democracy is a delusion - a chain of catastrophes, that is the news
Repost/ the Watson Institute
Red alert in Cyberspace
by Paul Virilio
The twin phenomena of immediacy and of instantaneity are presently one of the most pressing problems confronting political and military strategists alike. Real time now prevails above both real space and the geosphere. The primacy of real time, of immediacy, over and above space and surface is a fait accompli and has inaugural value (ushers a new epoch). Something nicely conjured up in a French advertisement praising cellular phones with the words: "Planet Earth has never been this small." This is a very dramatic moment in our relation with the world and for our vision of the world.
Three physical barriers are given: sound, heat, and light. The first two have already been felled. The sound barrier has been cut across by the super- and hypersonic aircraft, while the heat barrier is penetrated by the rocket taking human beings outside the Earth’s orbit in order to land them on the moon. But the third barrier, that of light, is not something one can cross: you crash into it. It is precisely this barrier of time which confronts history in the present day. To have reached the light barrier, to have reached the speed of light, is a historical event which throws history in disarray and jumbles up the relation of the living being towards the world. The polity that does not make this explicit, misinforms and cheats its citizenry. We have to acknowledge here a major shift which affects geopolitics, geostrategy, but of course also democracy, since the latter is so much dependent upon a concrete place, the "city".
The big event looming upon the 21st century in connection with this absolute speed, is the invention of a perspective of real time, that will supersede the perspective of real space, which in its turn was invented by Italian artists in the Quattrocento. It has still not been emphasized enough how profoundly the city, the politics, the war, and the economy of the medieval world were revolutionized by the invention of perspective.
Cyberspace is a new form of perspective. It does not coincide with the audio-visual perspective which we already know. It is a fully new perspective, free of any previous reference: it is a tactile perspective. To see at a distance, to hear at a distance: that was the essence of the audio-visual perspective of old. But to reach at a distance, to feel at a distance, that amounts to shifting the perspective towards a domain it did not yet encompass: that of contact, of contact-at-a-distance: tele-contact.
A Fundamental Loss of Orientation
Together with the build-up of information superhighways we are facing a new phenomenon: loss of orientation. A fundamental loss of orientation complementing and concluding the societal liberalization and the deregulation of financial markets whose nefarious effects are well-known. A duplication of sensible reality, into reality and virtuality, is in the making. A stereo-reality of sorts threatens. A total loss of the bearings of the individual looms large. To exist, is to exist in situ, here and now, hic et nunc. This is precisely what is being threatened by cyberspace and instantaneous, globalized information flows.
What lies ahead is a disturbance in the perception of what reality is; it is a shock, a mental concussion. And this outcome ought to interest us. Why? Because never has any progress in a technique been achieved without addressing its specific negative aspects. The specific negative aspect of these information superhighways is precisely this loss of orientation regarding alterity (the other), this disturbance in the relationship with the other and with the world. It is obvious that this loss of orientation, this non-situation, is going to usher a deep crisis which will affect society and hence, democracy.
The dictatorship of speed at the limit will increasingly clash with representative democracy. When some essayists address us in terms of "cyber-democracy", of virtual democracy; when others state that "opinion democracy" is going to replace "political parties democracy", one cannot fail to see anything but this loss of orientation in matters political, of which the March 1994 "media-coup" by Mr. Silvio Berlusconi was an Italian-style prefiguration. The advent of the age of viewer-counts and opinion polls reigning supreme will necessarily be advanced by this type of technology.
The very word "globalization" is a fake. There is no such thing as globalization, there is only virtualization. What is being effectively globalized by instantaneity is time. Everything now happens within the perspective of real time: henceforth we are deemed to live in a "one-time-system".
For the first time, history is going to unfold within a one-time-system: global time. Up to now, history has taken place within local times, local frames, regions and nations. But now, in a certain way, globalization and virtualization are inaugurating a global time that prefigures a new form of tyranny. If history is so rich, it is because it was local, it was thanks to the existence of spatially bounded times which overrode something that up to now occurred only in astronomy: universal time. But in the very near future, our history will happen in universal time, itself the outcome of instantaneity—and there only.
Thus we see on one side real time superseding real space. A phenomenon that is making both distances and surfaces irrelevant in favor of the time-span, and an extremely short time-span at that. And on the other hand, we have global time, belonging to the multimedia, to cyberspace, increasingly dominating the local time-frame of our cities, our neighborhoods. So much so, that there is talk of substituting the term "global" by "glocal", a concatenation of the words local and global. This emerges from the idea that the local has, by definition, become global, and the global, local. Such a deconstruction of the relationship with the world is not without consequences for the relationship among the citizens themselves.
Nothing is ever obtained without a loss of something else. What will be gained from electronic information and electronic communication will necessarily result in a loss somewhere else. If we are not aware of this loss, and do not account for it, our gain will be of no value. This is the lesson to be had from the previous development of transport technologies. The realization of high velocity railway service has been possible only because engineers of the 19th century had invented the block system, that is a method to regulate traffic so that trains are speeded up without risk of railway catastrophes. But so far, traffic control engineering on the information (super)highways is conspicuous by its absence.
There is something else of great importance here: no information exists without dis-information. And now a new type of dis-information is raising its head, and it is totally different than voluntary censorship. It has to do with some kind of choking of the senses, a loss of control over reason of sorts. Here lies a new and major risk for humanity stemming from multimedia and computers. Albert Einstein, in fact, had already prophesized as much in the 1950s, when talking about "the second bomb". The electronic bomb, after the atomic one. A bomb whereby real-time interaction would be to information what radioactivity is to energy. The disintegration then will not merely affect the particles of matter, but also the very people of which our societies consist. This is precisely what can be seen at work with mass unemployment, wired jobs, and the rash of delocalizations of enterprises.
One may surmise that, just as the emergence of the atomic bomb made very quickly the elaboration of a policy of military dissuasion imperative in order to avoid a nuclear catastrophe, the information bomb will also need a new form of dissuasion adapted to the 21st century. This shall be a societal form of dissuasion to counter the damage caused by the explosion of unlimited information. This will be the great accident of the future, the one that comes after the succession of accidents that was specific to the industrial age (as ships, trains, planes or nuclear power plants were invented, shipwrecks, derailments, plane crashes and the meltdown at Chernobyl were invented at the same time too...)
After the globalization of telecommunications... (read the rest at the source: www.watsoninstitute.org/infopeace/ )
Paul Virilio, urbanist and militant, lives in Paris. He has published, among other works, Speed and Politics, War and Cinema, Pure War (with Sylvère Lotringer), Popular Defense & Ecological Struggles, The Aesthetics of Disappearance, The Vision Machine, The Art of the Motor, Open Sky, and The Politics of the Very Worst. Reviews of The Art of the Motor and Open Sky by James Der Derian and Ian R. Douglas respectively appear in the dialogues directory of this site. Virilio is currently working on two projects: a book his notion of "the accident", and a book on media and Kosovo. He is best known as the protagonist of what he calls "dromology"; the science of, and study of speed.