Remnant Considerations

Sorry to cut in on the McLuhan discussion (and thank you, Nicholas, for getting a conversation started so early), so take this as an optional diversion.

In sorting through the notes from our last class I came across a couple of questions that I thought worth pulling along with us as we move from MEDIUM FORM through ECOLOGY (and toward AUDIENCE).

The first relates to VISUALITY. It begins with Benjamin’s conception of “OPTICAL UNCONSCIOUS”. Recall that his claim was that photography exposed movements and dimensions of reality hitherto unknown (that is, not acknowledged by perception). This (purportedly) has the effect of overlooking aspects of reality (or perhaps restricting those aspects to the realm of the unconscious). If this is true, thinking about our image-saturated society of today, do you think this idea still holds? Are there aspects of “reality” that often go undetected; that are not retained or perhaps not processed by the person engaging with the medium?

A second point about VISUALITY is inspired by Ong. As you know, his writing focuses our attention on cultures that are predicated on and evolve consistent with ORALITY or LITERACY. The question is what about VISUALITY? Similar to the oral and written, does IMAGE have (any or the same sort of profound) influence on:

  • consciousness
  • communication
  • interaction
  • social organization
  • action

In this way, might we talk about a “CULTURE OF VISUALITY” the way that we discuss a CULTURE OF ORALITY and CULTURE OF WRITING?

Finally, and part of this latter discussion, if PRIMARY ORALITY fosters personality structures that in certain ways are more communal, externalized and less introspective than those common among literates–in short, if oral communication unites people in groups–and if writing and reading are solitary activities that throw the psyche back on itself–what does VISUALITY do? Is it simply a variation on SECONDARY ORALITY, or is it something else entirely? If the latter, does it pose (psychological, social, structural, behavioral, phenomenological, moral) issues that require a different sort of social theorization than Ong forwarded?

Just a few extra possibilities for you to reason through together.

One thought on “Remnant Considerations

  1. While I do think that there is always some details that may go undetected, I think that much less goes undetected in this age of surveillance that we live in. We are constantly surrounded by cameras (in public buildings, on our phones/ipads/laptops/computers), so it’s hard for moments to not be captured. On the other hand, it’s also all about perspective. If the person holding the camera chooses to capture only part of the picture, then we will only get part of the picture. This is something that we should be aware of because we can be tricked by the producer of the content.

    I think that there is a culture of visuality because we all understand visual cues before we understand oral or literary cues. For example, babies may not know how to say mom or dad, but they do understand who their parents are by visual cues when they are very young. This affects the baby’s consciousness. Then when parents help kids learn words, they use visual cues that babies already know. The stick with the rounded edge that you eat with is a spoon. Thus, visuality affects communication. Visuality also affects interaction because people will interact differently with something that is visually familiar. Visuality also affects social organization because of symbols we attribute to different groups in society and how they are seen. For example, an elderly woman who wears heels, her hair in a baret, and a designer suit is most likely an upper class older woman. As for action, I think visuality can affect it too. People will take action when they hear something or read it, but sometimes it is most effective to see it.

    As for your last point, I think visuality brings people together in different ways than orality and literature because it makes people want to be with those that look familiar to them and have familiar ways of acting. I don’t think Ong’s theory can apply to this though. I think that this would be a whole other school of thought.

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