Spectacle, for Debord, refers broadly to the convergence of representation,
media, the proliferation of image-objects, and visually gripping mass
circulations given to
commodity: "a monopoly of appearances" (12).
spearheaded the Situationist
International movement which was resolutely
actionist, performative, politically motivated, and theoretically sophisticated
(expansive of avant-garde, from Dada to surrealism). In
Society of the Spectacle, Debord issues a series of relatively short
vignettes–manifesto-like blurbs each attending to the effects of the spectacle,
from the separations of workers and their products to widespread isolationism. Debord was concerned with the implications of the massification of the image,
consumerist patterns, and the spread of disillusionment pushed by the complacent
and consenting bourgeois profiteers. Among the multiple definitional
turns, Debord writes, "spectacle is the opposite of dialogue" (18).
Elsewhere, Debord identified "a growing multitude of image-objects" as one
cause for the rise of spectacle and its many accompanying conditions: lonely
crowds (28), commodity fetishism (36), and quantitative triviality (62).
The spectacle is, in yet another sense, the "epic poem of the struggle of every
commodity to assert itself everywhere" (66); and thus, the rise in ambivalent
consumption is at the heart of any spectaclist trend.
Debord briefly discusses spectacle in terms of a totalizing world map
(without reference to Borges, however), and this resonates with Baudrillard’s
opening reference in Simulacra and Simulation to a map/territory
framework. Debord: "The spectacle is the map of this new world, a map which exactly covers its
territory" (31). It seems that the Borges-Debord-Baurdillard segment and
the related map-matches-territory concept has ripened in the wake of the many
that have sprung forth in recent months (Google Maps and Google Earth w/ API;
MSN Virtual Earth, whatever can be said of it, a time-warped territory).
In another spot, Debord (where’d I read, Debord as postmodern before pomo was
fashionable?)–on systems and structuralism: he acknowledges the problem of a
strict structural view of systems and the "freeze" required to treat the system
as a structure (hold still, Shifty!) (201). I also want to hang onto
Debord’s stance on the give-take of plagiarhythm: "Ideas improve. The meaning of
words participated in the improvement. Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies
it. It embraces an author’s phrase, makes use of his expressions, erases a false
idea, and replaces it with the right idea" (207).
finally, I’ve been revisiting Anderson’s work on the Long Tail for a talk coming
up next month, so I was starting to think about the possibility that the head of
the curve (its long ears? calling it the head of the curve seems off somehow)
appeases or accommodates spectacle in ways that the long tail does not–not in
quite the same way, at least. So when we apply Pareto’s Law to systems of
networked writing, let’s say, I’d argue that the head–top 20%, if you want a
number–is somehow more hospitable to spectacle than the tail. We could
even go so far as to describe the head as spectacle, no? But of course,
please, tell me why I’m wrong about this.
Returnables MEc: illusion of encounter
(217), tradition and innovation (181), nadir of writing (204), banalization
(59), celebrity (60-61), systems (201), falsification of social life (68),
illusory community (78), collection of souvenirs (189), concentrated/diffuse
spectacle and misery (63)
Spectacle crusher: "To effectively destroy the society of the spectacle, what is
needed is men putting a practical force into action" (203).