The Interactive Spectacle and the Digital Situationist

The Interactive Spectacle and the Digital Situationist

Shaleph O’Neill (University of Dundee, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-020-2.ch012
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The Situationists defined the increasingly spectacularized society (The Society of the Spectacle ) as the alienation of the individual by an increasingly mediated and commoditised modern world that has spread across the globe, pacifying and alienating its audience with the manufacture of lack and the control of desire. Set dead against this spread of spectacular culture, the Situationists sought to free themselves from the commoditisation and mediation of everyday experience. By employing direct action and the creation of “situations,” they attempted to make clear the restrictive boundaries, both intellectual and environmental, that the habituated processes of modern capitalism (in the form of production and consumption, work and leisure) had placed upon society. In the era of the emerging digital or interactive Spectacle that now permeates every aspect of our culture, what has been added to the Spectacle is the illusion of agency administered through the new technological conduits. Virtual environments, for example, deliver visitation and visualization of places that, despite attempts at access by the viewer, remain remote. However, in our new digitally enhanced cultural spaces, despite restrictions, Situationist style interventions can still be made. Views can be expressed that had no outlet in previous media forms, allowing for the development of communities and exchange of ideas that require, at least in some part, the agency of the individuals taking part in them. Situationist theory takes its place in helping to describe such activities, even though, in some cases, the polemic is often watered down. Here we shall consider a number of examples of this kind of intervention, in relation to the Situationist practices of the dérive and détournement, to help give some structure to the critical analysis.
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The Society Of The Spectacle

The whole life of those societies in which modern conditions of production prevail presents itself as an immense accumulation of Spectacles. All that once was directly lived has become mere representation (Debord, 1995, p. 12).

For Debord, writes Douglas Kellner (Best & Kellner, 1998), “the Spectacle is a tool of pacification and depoliticization which stupefies social subjects and distracts them from the most urgent task of real life- recovering the full range of their human powers through revolutionary change.” The Situationists theses were grounded in the very idea of reclaiming lived experience from the clutches of the Spectacle, which in their eyes, was passifying the population into consumers whose only role in life was to “spectate” on the reproduction of life through images. By advocating direct action and the creation of “situations,” they attempted to make clear the restrictive boundaries, both intellectual and environmental, that the habituated processes of modern capitalism (in the form of production and consumption, work and leisure) had placed upon society. In “The Production of Space” (Lefebvre, 1991), Henri Lefebvre produces a detailed exploration and analysis of the complex issues of inhabitable space from a critical Marxist perspective that was deeply intertwined, both theoretically and personally, with the Situationists (Hussey, 2002; Knabb, 1981). With the view that “Consciousness is produced through the material practices in the conduct of everyday life” (Shields, 1988, p. 2). Lefebvre highlights the repression of the ludic aspects of existence in favour of rationality and productivity. The key to understanding Levebvre’s critique of the production of space is in understanding his explanation of how this focus on rationality and productivity has resulted in not only the alienation of the ludic, but also the alienation and exclusion of the body and its extensions. Lefebvre sees the body and its extensions as central to the production of space. Moreover, he explains that this production of space is, in its natural state, a playful and social activity. He suggests the example of the spider and its web. The spider has no logic or intellect, it cannot understand Cartesian space, and yet it extends itself out into the world by producing a web, full of angles and intricacy. The web is a natural extension of the spider. The web is the space that the spider produces naturally. Continuing in this vein, Lefebvre points out how the social activities of people and their bodies are central to producing natural human spaces. He goes on to elucidate how this naturally produced space has been lost as mankind has evolved and produced new ways of existing that are based on philosophical and scientific positions that exclude the body (particularly Descartes).

Complete Chapter List

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Table of Contents
Chapter 1
Alan Dix
Map, mazes, myths, magic, and mathematics, computation, cognition, community, and the constructed environment, all reveal something of our internal... Sample PDF
Paths and Patches: Patterns of Geognosy and Gnosis
Chapter 2
Jon Kerridge
This chapter concerns the question of how people navigate through a space in which other people are also present. Issues addressed include how the... Sample PDF
Let's Meander Through a Measured Space
Chapter 3
Matthew Leach
The Speckled Computing project is a large multisite research project based in Scotland, UK. The aim of the project is to investigate, prototype, and... Sample PDF
Navigating a Speckled World: Interacting with Wireless Sensor Networks
Chapter 4
John Willy Bakke
Workplaces are key loci for expressing and studying organizational identity, even in distributed work. In organization studies, there is a growing... Sample PDF
Contested Terrain: Place, Work, and Organizational Identities
Chapter 5
Anne Sofie Laegran
The chapter is based on a study of Internet cafés in Norway, and interrogates the way space and place is produced in interconnections between people... Sample PDF
Technosocial Space: Connecting People and Places
Chapter 6
Lynne Hall
This chapter discusses artists’ use of virtual space to collaboratively create a digital stained-glass rose window. It explores the use of virtual... Sample PDF
Reconfiguring the Rose: An Exploration of the Use of Virtual Space by Artists Collaboratively Creating Digital Stained Glass
Chapter 7
Elin K. Jacob
In distinguishing between space and place, one approach is to contrast the physicality of space with the sociality of place: space directs attention... Sample PDF
Context, Boundedness, and Structure: The Apprehension of Place in the Development of Information Environments
Chapter 8
Richard Coyne
The widespread use of mobile telephony prompts a reevaluation of the role of the aural sense in spatial understanding. There are clear correlations... Sample PDF
Voice and Space: Agency of the Acousmêtre in Spatial Design
Chapter 9
Susan Turner
This chapter considers the role of sound, and more specifically, listening, in creating a sense of presence (of “being there”) in “places” recreated... Sample PDF
Listening, Corporeality, Place and Presence
Chapter 10
Stephen Boyd Davis
The chapter is concerned with the relationship between the planar space of graphic representations and the world space that they represent. To... Sample PDF
Representing Space: The Pictorial Imperative
Chapter 11
Fiona Carroll
The art of the visual-narrative is not a new phenomenon. Artists and designers have been using images to tell stories for thousands of years. From... Sample PDF
The Spatial Development of the Visual-Narrative from Prehistoric Cave Paintings to Computer Games
Chapter 12
Shaleph O’Neill
The Situationists defined the increasingly spectacularized society (The Society of the Spectacle ) as the alienation of the individual by an... Sample PDF
The Interactive Spectacle and the Digital Situationist
Chapter 13
Shaun Lawson
People use spatial language in everyday face-to-face conversation, and we also now use such language during everyday computer-mediated interactions.... Sample PDF
Spatial Language in Computer Mediated Communication
Chapter 14
Phil Turner
Recent years have witnessed a number of initiatives to develop technology (“memory prosthetics”) to enhance and extend human memory. Typical of... Sample PDF
Space, Place, and Memory Prosthetics
Chapter 15
Julian Warner
This chapter is concerned with exposing the material basis for the concepts of the syntagm and paradigm from linguistics, and the message and... Sample PDF
Materializing Communication Concepts: Linearity and Surface in Linguistics and Information Theory
Chapter 16
Sándor Darányi, Péter Wittek
Current methods of automatic indexing, automatic classification, and information retrieval treat index and query terms, that is, vocabulary units in... Sample PDF
On Information, Meaning, Space and Geometry
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