Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Post 1: deBord and Spectacle

Guy Ernest Debord's 1967 book The Society of the Spectacle contains at least 34 popular aphorisms. Number eighteen states:

"When the real world is transformed into mere images, mere images become real beings — dynamic figments that provide the direct motivations for a hypnotic behavior. Since the spectacle’s job is to use various specialized mediations in order to show us a world that can no longer be directly grasped, it naturally elevates the sense of sight to the special preeminence once occupied by touch: the most abstract and easily deceived sense is the most readily adaptable to the generalized abstraction of present-day society. But the spectacle is not merely a matter of images, nor even of images plus sounds. It is whatever escapes people’s activity, whatever eludes their practical reconsideration and correction. It is the opposite of dialogue. Wherever representation becomes independent, the spectacle regenerates itself." (from

I interpret Debord's aphorism as a reference to popular media, namely image-heavy media such as film and television. These have the power to motivate the viewer to a certain behavior. We feel like we are participants. It can sway our emotions and get us involved in the story or issue. However, it is strictly a one-way communication. The image is presented to a person in a set form and the response is up to the viewer alone. There is no discussion involved. After all, you cannot argue with your television.

Debord's aphorism hinges on images as the driving force for the viewer (hypnosis in his words), therefore I chose the image from a silent film, 1928's The Man Who Laughs.

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