Numbers here correlate to numbers in Debord’s document as seen in the course reader.
1. “Everything that was directly lived has moved away into representation”. In fact, the way our brains conceive of reality in any society is via a ‘representation’ recorded within the brain’s imagination. The brain uses recorded information – applying it to what we can physically see to inform us of things on the periphery of our vision or what we can’t see. It fills in missing information based on an imagined representation. Images we see in the physical world augment the imaginary representation we have in our minds and visa versa.
What goes on inside our brains is greater than what is happening in the parts that are connected to the outer world, as described in the illustration below (CIEE Centre, Amman. 2014) And so Jung’s assertion the fantasy inner world is just as important to a person as the external realty seems to be highly relevant.
Representation has long been a feature of life in storytelling, ritual, cave drawings, for example. The difference now is the plethora of images, made by advertisers and other media which dominate representation. Also, nowadays the fact that external representations are digital is an interesting new phenomena since it is less concretely ‘real’. (Fellow UVC students recently discussed how physically making notes was important for some of us, as the act helped to connect the information in a concrete way) Photography has a lot to answer for since it is so easy to make images, and propagandists (advertisers as well as states eager to promote ideological messages) take advantage. The quality and visual ‘feel’ of technologically-made imagery likely informs the idea in Steiner schools where it is thought to have an adverse impact on childhood development, and why they are keen for children to avoid TV and computers altogether, especially in the early years.
Dubord’s opening statement is therefore interesting as he seems to be suggesting that life is lived more and more in the realm of Lacan’s Imaginary and Symbolic orders – made more powerful by technologically produced imagery, fast moving, fast changing, created by markets etc. Visual language and fantasy based on and informed by Symbolic and Imaginary realms override and obliterate the Real, but then become the Real themselves. A phone is not just a phone, for example. It might be an iPhone that represents a certain way of life and makes the owners of such things feel they are part of imaginary symbolism due highly effective marketing campaigns. Dubord says the awful thing is, they do become so. i.e. having an iPhone makes you feel you do indeed have the lifestyle its advertisers sell and so, since you feel that way, you do in that case have it. But such a real is valueless – “degraded into a speculative universe” (20)
Do we feel more ‘alive’ when the real Real (as opposed to the speculative Real) intrudes on the Imaginary and Symbolic realms? If so, what does it take to generate such a feeling when marketing does all it can to make us live in the Imaginary, supported by the Symbolic? And what lengths do individuals and societies go to access the Real?
2. “…where the liar has lied to himself….” This is something small children do regularly, and they get very angry when the lie is questioned and begin to believe in the false reality even though they know its false. (I remember doing this myself when I was 5). Pathological liars are another group, stuck as they are infancy, who do this. Debord’s description of a society that does it equates to various thesis’ about narcissistic and psychopathic culture.
4.”…not a collection of images but a social relation among people, mediated by images.” This statement is so important to understand and retain.
5. The Weltanschauung is objectified and most evident today by the presence of the internet – which wasn’t even around when Dubord wrote this. Seems prescient to say the least, although important to understand internet is simply one aspect, a very big aspect – but ‘of it’ rather than ‘it’.
6. “…the heart of unrealism of the real society…” Again, very difficult not to see the internet in these terms. Statement 4 applies though – the internet is not the Spectacle but a digital metaphysical manifestation of social relations (Notes for later, A5 – phone direct link to inner world, and Others – who therefore also have a direct link via it to individual inner worlds – v. Black Mirror!)
8. “The spectacle which inverts the real is in fact produced.” Which should mean we can affect it…? If only we could recognise it.
12. “That which appears is, and that which is good appears” – attitude of the spectacle. If you can’t see it in a magazine, newspaper or online for instance perhaps it’s not worth seeing. Extension of Cogito – I think, therefore I am, nowadays might be seen as “I share; therefore I am” (Shenkel College of Engineering and Design, 2016)… or in case of marketing, which is perhaps how we relate to each other much of the time (‘I am a brand’)… I market therefore I really do exist (and if I don’t then I probably don’t). Children in particular exist in a world where this is most true, more so than generations who remember a time without the internet.
15. Spectacle subjugates men (sic) especially over those who rely heavily on it to BE.
18. Real world – becomes simple images – simple images become real things. iPhone imaginary lifestyle actually is a lifestyle that many without it aspire to – despite arguable emptiness, nothingness at heart of it. Hypnotises behaviour (as do Nietzsche’s alcohol and religion (BBC, 1999)), and Spectacle “escapes the activity of men” – the senses see, hear it – but they simply accept it rather than see the constructed nature of it. “Opposite of dialogue.” It is our master and we are too dumbed down to recognise or understand its existence, accepting it as the norm. Also important – Touch is a sense of the past. Today the dominant, most valued sense today is sight.
24. Capital to such a degree of accumulation … it becomes an image (Note for me – chickens, Waitrose)
CIEE Centre, Amman., (2014). Very Short Introduction to Semiotics. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LO9xl5n9aYI&nohtml5=False [Accessed 18 Nov. 2016].
Shenkel College of Engineering and Design, (2016). The Innovation of Loneliness. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6Bkr_udado [Accessed 18 Nov. 2016].
BBC. (1999). Human, All Too Human (BBC series). [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuQzE2YYPNE [Accessed 18 Nov. 2016].
Debord, G. (1999). Seperation perfected. In: J. Evans and S. Hall, ed., Visual Culture A Reader, 1st ed. London: SAGE Publications, pp.95 – 98.