In “Publicity and Indifference,” Keenan quotes David Rieff saying in response to the failure of the excessive coverage of Bosnia: “Instead, the sound bites and ‘visual bites’ culled from the fighting bred casuistry and indifference far more regularly than [they] succeeded in mobilizing people to act or even to be indignant” (554, quoting David Rieff). This reminds me of the idea we came across earlier in the semester, that learning of tragedy allows us to feel we have done something, while in reality we have only absorbed the message and remained inactive.
I was very interested by Keenan’s reference to Cohen’s belief that “the diffusion of images goes hand in hand with a more disturbing dispersion or evisceration of the conditions of action: lost are centrality, authority, borders and clear distinctions, principles, and all the rest” (556). This seems to run counter to the long-heralded capacity for technology to aid action, precisely through this decentralization: NGOs and humanitarian groups are more able to bring aid to disparate areas with a decentralized, borderless system of coordination entirely reliant on email and cell phones. If it is media technology that forces its viewers into inertia where other technologies ease action, is there a way to make media technology productive? Can the same avenues be appropriated for the active cause of humanitarian aid and intervention?