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The Society of the Spectacle + The Internet = The Webceptacle.

Editing, in any medium, has always been a valorizing process with aesthetic as well as practical costs and benefits. But this is something different. There is an inevitable and incalculable loss of context and connotation involved in getting objects "into the computer," not to mention the purely technical thresholds of information density (resolution, throughput, bandwidth, etc.).

It's too slow, we forget daily that we are in the midst of a "revolution," and we are reminded of it by a million advertisers. What can it mean to say the spectacle chooses its own content? The Web[ceptacle] chooses without reference to height, width, thickness, texture, or pain.

The condition of the net is Undimensionality.

It is our condition, like Heidegger's: "What is this uniformity in which everything is neither far nor near--is, as it were, without distance? Everything gets lumped together into uniform distancelessness. How? Is not this merging of everything into the distanceless more unearthly than everything bursting apart?"

Distancelessness, like the last chapter of McLuhan's Understanding Media, is entitled Automation. Here the media theorist equates electricity with pure information and light which illuminates all it touches: electric technology, like Lyotard's 'postmodern transformation of knowledge'.

... the spectacle is by no means the outcome of a technical development perceived as natural; on the contrary, the society of the spectacle is a form that chooses its own technical content. (Debord, Thesis 24)

Contrary to our multiple choice technocratic wishful thinking, there are much deeper problems here than technical ones. For when all information is to be digitized, that which is not digitized will cease to have value, and that which is "on-line" will acquire a significance out of all proportion to its real meaning.

The nature of knowledge cannot survive unchanged within this context of general transformation. It can fit into the new channels, and become operational, only if learning is translated into quantities of information. We can predict that anything in the constituted body of knowledge that is not translatable in this way will be abandoned and that the direction of new research will be dictated by the possibility of its eventual results being translatable into computer language. (Lyotard)

But who can say what kind of distortion is taking place when all relationships are miraculously transformed into sequences of quantities?

Lyotard is concerned with the transformation of knowledge through the changing operations of language, including the rise of computer languages. In his book The Postmodern Condition, he discusses ways in which the proliferation of information-processing machines will profoundly affect the circulation of learning.

The spectacle manifests itself as an enormous positivity, out of reach and beyond dispute. All it says is: "Everything that appears is good; whatever is good will appear." (Debord, Thesis 12)

Late is the operative term in Latency.

But it's not too late. Of course a transformation of this magnitude is not unprecedented, as we know from the examination of typographic and printing technology in The Gutenberg Galaxy. (McLuhan)

Neither is it going unnoticed.

...the time of the finite world is coming to an end; we live in the beginnings of a paradoxical miniaturization of action, which others prefer to baptize automation. Andrew Stratton writes, "We commonly believe that automation suppresses the possibility of human error. In fact, it transfers that possibility from the action stage to the conception stage....
The final power would thus be less one of imagination than of anticipation, so much so that to govern would be no more than to foresee, simulate, memorize the simulations; that the present 'Research Institute' could appear to be the blueprint of this final power, the power of U[ltra]topia." (Virilio)


Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle.
Heidegger, Martin. Poetry, Language, Thought.
McLuhan, Marshall. The Gutenberg Galaxy.
Van Alstyne, Greg. "Cyberspace and the Lonely Crowd."
Virilio, Paul. Speed and Politics.