Tagged: guydebord

Watching (and reading) the Society of the Spectacle

  • Youtuber Azorek79 has a video in 2 parts based on The Society of the Spectacle, narrated with excerpts from Debord’s book as well as selections from McLuhan’s The Medium is the Massage and John Berger’s Ways of Seeing.
  • Also, I just stumbled across a subreddit organized for a book-club-style reading of Society of the Spectacle. They began reading on Dec. 19 and are just over halfway done (they are ending by reading Comments on the Society of the Spectacle and The Revolution of Everyday Life). Check it out here.
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Media Coverage: Turkle talk, more Debord, learning to code and more…

  • A couple of weeks back I linked to the Guardian’s discussion of Debord’s Society of the Spectacle, and I just came across another article from their site that I had overlooked: “What Debord can teach us about protest”:

The danger with this reading – the spectacle as a retroactive name for the social alienation of modern media culture – is that it turns Debord into a prophet who simply confirms everything we already know and further cements its inevitability. In other words, it is to make The Society of the Spectacle into precisely the kind of spectacle that Debord warns us of in thesis five, where he insists that the spectacle is not a simple product of mass media, but “a weltanschauung that has been actualised, translated into the material realm – a world view transformed into an objective force”.

The author, Meghan Sutherland, comments on the diminishing funding for humanities departments in her discussion of resistance to the spectacle:

It will also require that we redouble our efforts to challenge the systematic elimination of philosophy departments and humanities funding from university programmes all over the world – a project of austerity economics that deems the study of ideas simultaneously elitist, irrelevant to the “real” world and without market value. For as Debord makes clear, when we allow the pleasures of living and acting to become severed from the pleasures of thinking and looking, The Society of the Spectacle can mean only one thing. And it will do so until we learn to reconnect them.

  • An Atlantic article by Scott Meslow titled “Boys can love ‘Titanic,’ too” quotes an older interview with media effects researcher Mary Beth Oliver discussing sex differences in responses to sad film:

“There are certain arenas where male crying is deemed appropriate, like the loss of a favorite sporting team, the death of a parent, or war,” said Mary Beth Oliver, a media professor at Penn State, in 2010 interview with the BBC about the tear-jerking effects of a different film. “For many men, there is a great deal of pressure to avoid expression of ‘female’ emotions like sadness and fear. From a very young age, males are taught that it is inappropriate to cry, and these lessons are often accompanied by a great deal of ridicule when the lessons aren’t followed.”

Every generation uses the technology of its time as a metaphor to better understand itself, and in the zeitgeist-examining docu-essay “Welcome to the Machine,” director Avi Zev Weider ponders the degree to which man’s present and future are dominated by his inventions. Philosophically speaking, it’s fascinating stuff, though film hardly seems the most conducive way for Weider to present his arguments, with an overreliance on baby photos and the failure to deliver a key interview making the whole inquiry feel smaller than it is.

  • Co. Create published an interview with Douglas Rushkoff in advance of an upcoming keynote address in NYC. His comments on the function of the artist echo McLuhan:

I think the artist, even more than government, has become the one who is doing long-term thinking about what’s happening, what are the implications, what are we doing to ourselves? And they’re some of the only ones, really. An artist’s job is to sit outside what’s happening and reflect back to us where the human is in this. I think it’s a very valuable exercise. It’s just the opposite exercise of what most people probably think it is. It’s not for technologists to realize the visions of artists. It feels much more like it’s for artists to contextualize the visions of technologists.

  • One of my goals for summer 2012 is to learn a programming language. Multiple factors motivated this decision, one of them being Rushkoff’s articles on coding and his recent book “Program or be programmed”. Turns out I wasn’t the only one: I learned about web site Codeacademy from a post by Juliet Waters titled “My code year, so far“:

I was hooked by the headline of an article by Douglas Rushkoff on CNN.com. “Learn to Code, Get a Job!”  Coding, he argued, was a skill that not enough people had,  and companies were paying big money to find people who were “code literate.”

Debord around the web

Situationist Guy Debord and his thoughts on the Spectacle are enjoying a sustained social currency, having popped up around the web recently.

I think Debord underestimated the more basic systems of control which underlie the “spectacle,” paying less attention to how the basic disciplines of work and worklessness keep capitalism together. The corporate emperors’ grip on society relies on the way they control bread as well as circuses.

In my opinion Society of the Spectacle is evergreen, as relevant in 2012 as it was in 1968. Technology changes, and the specific content of the media diversions and distractions changes, but the social relation of the Spectacle remains constant.