Monday, October 11, 2010

Case Study: Paul Virilio by Jessica Chavez Ramirez

Paul Virilio was born in France in 1932 to a Breton mother and to an Italian communist father. He experienced the hardships of World War II and was evacuated to Nantes during his childhood, which casted a shadow in this part of his life as a result of the Blitzkrieg era. Such events caused Virilio trauma due to the constant Nazi bombing campaigns but at the same time influenced his future analysis on the world that would lead him to become a well-recognized philosopher, and accomplished writer in the complex issues of speed and the technological development’s impact on the world. After such ordeal he attended the École des Métiers d' Art in Paris where he trained as an artist in stained- glass work but later studied philosophy at the Sorbonne and in 1963 became Director General of Architecture at the school he had previously attended- École des Métiers d' Art. However, before Virilio enrolled in the Sorbonne he had served in the military during the Algerian War that took place between 1954- 1962.

Virilio’s philosophical works are a definite result from his previous war experiences, as he comments that “the war was my University”, which shows that he developed a profound examination from them about concepts that affect the human existence in regards to speed, the impact of technology & representation on the world and human reality, and the military complex’s influence on social organization of territory. Virilio’s theoretical concept of speed emphasizes that the “dimensions of time and space have become fundamentally destabilized due to modern technology’s strategic urge to produce better results and more knowledge at a faster pace”, which according to Virilio brought damage to progress. For example, he argues that speed has impeded progress by discussing the purpose of computers, “they [computers] were supposed to help the corporate managers but they instead have ruined them by taking their jobs.” To some extent, Virilio believes that the improvement that was meant to provide help to our existence has in fact been damaged by the creation of advancement because “the more knowledge grows, the more the unknown grows.” In terms of the transmission of information, Virilio points to the “imbalance between direct and indirect information that comes from the development of different means of communication and the tendency to the detriment of meaning” which relates to the topics of the course readings that discuss the loss of value in media and the fact that certain media outlets tend to focus on the sensationalism aspect of news reporting and less on the global importance of it.

One of the most important philosophical writings of Virilio is the Strategy of Deception, which examines the strategies used during the Kosovo War by NATO forces. According to Virilio, the “US conducted an experiment on Kosovo using the informational and cybernetic tools of the Pentagon's much-hyped Revolution in Military Affairs” and this applies to the threat that is posed by such military technological developments. Virilio believes that such military technology represents the origins of the developments that we use today, in other words, such improvements were mainly directed to provide military superiority and not entertainment or anything of that sort “cities, cathedrals, the economy, politics, and other key aspects of modern world are products of military and technological mobilization and deployment.” As a result, there is a fear that is sensed in Virilio’s writings that discuss that military technology can become dangerous by “autonomously generating catastrophes ranging from friendly fire incidents to nuclear apocalypse.” This was particularly accurate during the Cold War era that brought about a competitive military industrial complex build up in order to promote superiority, and “more money was spent on this project than any other domain of existence and military priorities helped determine the mode of science, technology and industry that developed in the Cold War period.”

In addition, Virilio discusses the cinematic derealization, which refers to “the images of warfare that become a kind of detached spectacle, an image as divorced from the real destruction of objects and bodies it entails as any generic war film” and this represents the way that warfare has to some extent been idealized in movies. As spectators, the masses tend to become accustomed to the horrid images of war, and when it occurs in reality it somehow seems more tolerable. Of course, this does not necessarily make war right or generalize that people support war, but for the most part the public has to a certain level become more exposed to such images, and when the real war images are shown, it somehow does not have the same impact than if the public had never been exposed to such images. This represents “a loss of ocular reality and time distance that plays an important role in constitution of human relations” and as Virilio suggests “we no longer have faith in what we see with our own eyes.”

No comments:

Post a Comment