It’s not that we now live as if every potential moment could be photographed/filmed, it’s more that we seem to automatically behave as if there were already the case.
There is almost film-like gestures, sound-bite body movements, perhaps a response to the demand not just that life always be entertaining but that we are also continuously part of the entertainment complex.
Like auto-tune programs for digitally rendered sounds and auto-enhancements for images, there seems to auto-enhance for human bodies, and how we say the words that fall from our mouths. Has late capitalism created individualism for the automaton?
The theories surrounding mass culture/The Society of The Spectacle haven’t become irrelevant, but perhaps they are no longer locatable in contemporary life because it is no longer that the individual is subjected to it – the individual now projects it themselves. (Perhaps, an example of this can be made by watching selections of old adverts on Youtube that show us adverts for products that have now become such a naturalised part of reality they no longer need advertising to us)
Everything that registers as a ‘thought’ in our heads is within the the setting of a film-set of our life. How did thought work before the photogenic and film-like reified our imagination? How can we even tell now?
I’m aware I’m even doing this now, to some extent, as I sit in a cafe writing this on my laptop; I can’t help the inverted spectacle making me act as a photogenic ‘muse’, ‘thinker’ – I’ve literally no idea how I would look if was for once possible to imagine myself without it becoming a stage set in my mind (Would I imagine myself at all?).
Of course, this is just standard observations of a late-capitalist (or postmodern culture) – am I just witnessing a higher saturation of it than the Sci Fi writers could have imagined 30 years ago? Not only is integrity gutted and then subsumed, but even ironic self-reflex (thought of as the ultimate postmodern reflex) is also (re)gutted and (re)subsumed into the stratosphere of late capitalism.
Is it also the case that I independently re-spot things, without the once-read thoughts of the likes of Baudrillard, Barthes, Debord doing the terminology for the signs I see? And this annoys me that any comprehensive account of my own is continuously stop-started, and finally exhausted, more than it (probably) annoys an academic who says “yeah, this [writing] says nothing new”.
Yet I still believe there has been a shift, regarding the behavioural patterns specific to this pseudo-essay of mine, in the past 10 years. I don’t think the photogenic, cinematic posturing was so naturalised over ten years ago; I believe it still had to be attempted, to some extent – an ideal way of looking, walking, talking that we had to mimic. Now it no longer needs thought to be mimicked, as individualist automatons.
Obviously the question arises: does it matter? Is it so bad if we all now walk around in auto-enhance, automatically communicating with each other as if it’s for a final cut? It matters only if we believe that there is a common reality base that we all share; that if I punch a wall I will feel pain, and the person I demonstrate this to will agree that that pain is an unquestionable realness.
If life is graceful enough to us, we can accept that nothing may be real, and rejoice in the further abstraction from base reality. But if we do this, then what need is there for any empathy for the sobering suffering spilling out onto our streets more and more as part and parcel of the same late capitalist dynamics that enable abstraction from it? Why care about anything?
We can’t NOT care, eventually, when the things we ignore as relative realities catch up with friends, family, ourselves. Further acceptance of this advance of what Baudrillard called ‘Hyper reality’ will only come back to bite our pain feeling bodies.