tom moody

surfing with "surfing with lacan"

Will Neibergall quotes Slavoj Žižek on electronic storage devices that consume so we don't have to -- think unwatched movies on Tivo. You get a warm glow thinking about your library that is of equal if not superior pleasure to actually watching the films. Žižek likens this invisible body of knowledge to a Lacanian "big Other," referencing, presumably, the primal mirror that continues to define you in some way as a person.

Žižek also likens Other-influence to Mexican soap operas, where an unseen director tells actors what to do through earpieces, as they are performing. In both cases someone is affected by consensual, yet secret, knowledge: as Neibergall phrases it, "the director is the big Other, dictating the rules the actors will follow as they go about their dialogue, but at the same time the big Other only exists as the sum of the practices of its subjects, who enforce it."

Neibergall (by way of Žižek) finds this self-enforced dialogue happening on the Internet, where one participates in pseudo-debates just to be doing something (interactivity!) and each of these conversations is easily shunted aside to a bookmark or half-consumed browser tab.

a lot of the talking that goes on about how artists and others relate with the internet and how the internet is affecting our social space meets somewhere with zizek’s analysis, relegating sources of inspiration and intelligent discussion to a new tab (the VCR box) while engaging mindlessly in the present business in other, more important tabs (pseudo-activity, lazy art, mindless debates, simulated criticism and scrutiny). i guess, if this is one of the ways in which the symbolic accesses lacan’s big other, and the big other is here given by the internet, we can arrive at a precise explanation of the internet as an obstacle to change and meaningful criticism in the art communities and other communities..

Neibergall concludes:

the whole attempt to understand what the internet is doing to the people (like me) who are growing up virtually dependent on it presumes a lacanian framework of social design, in which we all participate in the internet’s dominance over our lives knowing that it’s probably pulling a significant portion of the strings.

This is a weirdly circular idea: pseudo-participation gives rise to a monolithic, illusory "Internet" that in turn governs our actions. Sounds about right. Žižek proposes to challenge such a loop by pulling out of it: "the first truly critical step is to withdraw into passivity and to refuse to participate." The danger of that -- ask any blogger who has, say, de-enabled commenting -- is that people will say "dude doesn't know how to use social." So you have to be tough.

- tom moody

February 13th, 2013 at 6:15 am

Posted in general