Sunday, November 4, 2007
Affect and Indifference
I would like to tie Keenan's article on publicity and indifference (the tension between spectatorship and action) back to Jameson on cognitive mapping. Following Virilio, Keenan discusses the notion that participatory governance and democracy are impossible "at the speed of light," that a collapsing of space and time into the instantaneity of the image and erasure of place results in paralysis. Reading this discussion in light of cognitive mapping is actually quite productive: as Keenan emphasizes via the example of the man shot by a sniper who watches his own attempted murder recorded on news video, the excessive mediation of the banal/spectacular destroys the situatedness of the viewer/actor. Surrounded by images and mirrors, she can no longer claim a position for herself. Similarly, the television viewer in the United States cannot locate or situate herself within the locus of media, military, and government that is the social totality of crisis "overseas." The media, then relies on a response of affect rather than cognition. Sympathy can force intervention; understanding is unnecessary. The camera need no longer attempt to represent the conflict, but rather depends on referring to its image in order to capitalizes on the affect that flows through memory as temporally misplaced nostalgia/trauma. This archival of affect could even be read as the excess of desire (for an action that cannot be comprehended or mapped) that is unproductively funneled into the mourning over the image of death and calamity that has always-already occurred.