- David Cronenberg’s Videodrome premiered in February 1983. To mark the 30th anniversary of the film’s release, Cyborgology co-founder Nathan Jurgenson reflects on the New Flesh in relation to contemporary social media:
Videodrome’s depiction of techno-body synthesis is, to be sure, intense; Cronenberg has the unusual talent of making violent, disgusting, and erotic things seem even more so. The technology is veiny and lubed. It breaths and moans; after watching the film, I want to cut my phone open just to see if it will bleed. Fittingly, the film was originally titled “Network of Blood,” which is precisely how we should understand social media, as a technology not just of wires and circuits, but of bodies and politics. There’s nothing anti-human about technology: the smartphone that you rub and take to bed is a technology of flesh. Information penetrates the body in increasingly more intimate ways.
- I also came across this short piece by Joseph Matheny at Alterati on Videodrome and YouTube:
Videodrome is even more relevant now that YouTube is delivering what cable television promised to in the 80s: a world where everyone has their own television station. Although digital video tools began to democratize video creation, it’s taken the further proliferation of broadband Internet and the emergence of convenient platforms like YouTube and Google Video to democratize video distribution.
- There’s also my Videodrome-centric post from a couple of years ago. Coincidentally, I watched eXistenZ for the first time last week. I didn’t know much about the film going in, and initially I was enthusiastic that it seemed to be a spiritual successor to Videodrome, updating the media metaphor for the New Flesh from television to video games. I remained engaged throughout the movie (although about two thirds into the film I turned to my fiancee and asked “Do you have any idea what’s going on?”), and there were elements that I enjoyed but ultimately I was disappointed. I had a similar reaction at the ending of Cronenberg’s Spider, thinking “What was the point of all that?” when the closing credits started to roll, though it was much easier to stay awake during eXistenZ.
Either way, it’s not only the “video” of “Videodrome” itself that spreads like a virus; the individual’s psyche is also affected. And this points to the more nuanced ways that the standardization of viral media has changed our perception of it – we become less patient with long-form media, our work lives are regularly interrupted by these viral representations which changes our routines, and our social lives are often characterized by the inclusive/exclusive practice of disseminating viral media, which makes for a rather different form of water cooler socialization than, say, traditional media like the last episode of MASH.
Blurring of Hot and Cool media
This readymade understanding of media technology speaks more readily to our current digital moment than to 1983. We no longer think of technologies or media artifacts as a given in terms of the way they’re presented to us: smart phones can be retooled for unintended use, movies can be re-edited and distributed on the web, and the supposed obsolescence of “older” technologies and media delivery formats only provide more opportunities for rethinking them. Thus, hot and cool mediums become more and more difficult to distinguish. The option for participation is not so much determined by the design of the media itself, but whether or not we choose to activate our own agency.
Technology is not only modeled as an extension of the human body; it is the human body. Renn’s fingers become an abject flesh-machine hybrid that fires bullets, and his lower chest is transformed into a vaginal cavity for both consuming and delivering media. Now, while the reign of all things Apple may not mean that we’ll all develop electromechanical chest-vaginas, that distinctions between flesh and technology will continue to blur is certain, and this fact has both hopeful and strange implications.
Read the full post here.