on 9 March 2010
Right at the beginning of this book, Virilio characterises contemporary science as techno-science, obsessed with operational matters rather than exploratory research. Science has lost its way and its resolutory truth has given way to an operational reality; this decline is hidden by the very success of its devices and tools.
In particular, current technological development has meant the introduction of instantaneity into our experience of the world: virtual reality involves a delocalisation of the world, a foreshortening of geography and thereby the destruction of cultures that exist in a separate physical space. Everything is continuously in the light of a false day and our temporal location is in 'world time' so that time as well as space is condensed in our experience. All this is created by the temporal compression of both transport and the transmission of information and is facilitated by the spread of tele-surveillance.
The socio-cultural effects of these developments (television, internet, mobile phones) include fading individuality, 'memories turned into junkshops of images,' an obsession with the immediate, immaturity (infantilism), universal voyeurism, a revolution in the notion of neighbourhood so that it is divorced from the temporal and spatial unity of physical cohabitation. The gaze of the single eye becomes globalised.
Hence the book's title. The information bomb follows the atomic bomb and everything is globalised and flattened. Interactivity is to information as radioactivity is to energy. The work/private life distinction disappears. It is impossible to distinguish between information and disinformation. Politics and the democratic regulation of markets and science disappear and we are left with the cybernetic control of states and communities. The life sciences threaten the species through a resurrection of eugenics, thereby controlling the origin of the individual.
This summary probably doesn't do justice to the profound implications of Virilio's analysis. The book could perhaps do with some structuring but that's not really Virilio's way; it's an extended essay full of interesting observations and arresting sentences and phrases, thus a pleasure to read despite the melancholy subject matter.
on 16 July 2010
Virilo writes with great power and moral purpose. This is a book from what looks like to me his transitional stage, that is, marking the earlier more tightly written works, out from the later more overtly emotional more obscure texts.