Monday, July 24, 2017

"Digital Realism"

The opening paragraphs from today's e-flux architecture editorial:

"The later work of Walter Benjamin was largely dedicated to understanding the constitutive elements of nineteenth century Paris; not a physical city, but as the phantasmagoric construct that gave it the right to be called "Capital.” Phantasmagoria is, in short, the idea that the image projected onto the back of our retina is that of the world itself; that the allegory of the cave is not an allegory; that the shadows on the wall are more real than the objects casting them and their source of light. The internet today is, if nothing else, the phantasmagoric apparatus of the twenty-first century. Today we do not just identify with, but as our social media profiles; mistaking the it for the I and losing ourselves everywhere in between.
The internet has, since its cultural inception, been conceived of as an emancipatory technology. If, according to Benjamin, the invention of iron and glass predicated the nineteenth century paradigm of phantasmagoria through the “emancipation" of forms of construction from art—a historical trajectory that progressed onwards with the intervention of photography, montage, and the like—what, then, has the internet has emancipated from what? Conversely, the "accidents” of the internet—surveillance, fake news, the propagation of ideological evil, doxing, etc.—forces us to critically call into question the value of this emancipation; for who, and at what cost? 
The first decades of the twenty-first century has been marked by both a proliferation of psychopathological diagnosis and the financial instrumentation of the city. While both of these contemporary phenomena can be traced back to the infrastructural affordances and sociological transformations wrought by the internet with relative ease, they are nothing particularly new as categories of historical transformation. Parallel to the overrun of Haussmann’s Paris by fraudulent real estate speculation was a medical discourse acutely aware and sensitive to the perceived impacts of the metropolis on its population’s nervous systems, from anxiety to depression, fatigue, headache, heart palpitations, high blood pressure and the like."

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