Thursday, September 22, 2005

Telepresense

Jet Blue's mechanical glitch and emergency landing in L.A. close to twenty-four hours ago has re-re-re-played out in both the footage and the passenger accounts.  The flight returned safely despite the sideways-jammed and intractable landing gear; the culmination was a straight, frictional grind to a halt. Thereafter, the angle of many of the news reports has been the visibility of the event as it unfolded on the television monitors inside the plane.  One of Jet Blue's most prized features is a one-per-seat television monitor that can tune to a variety of programs, including live national news broadcasts.  Stunning as it must have been, what resulted was disfiguration of the flash-of-celebrity fan on the Jumbo-tron: "Look, we're on TV."

Just a few minutes ago, when, after reading for much of the day, I was turning through the final few pages of Imagologies, the section called "Body Snatching" synched with yesterday's Jet Blue event.  I didn't watch much of the coverage--just one brief interview with a passenger shortly after the landing who described the televisual experience as post-postmodern (a phrase that, would you believe?, came up again today in Eubanks's essay in Bazerman and Prior's collection on discourse analysis...two post-post refs so close together).  The few bits and pieces I saw today (online or on the tube) echoed the passenger's sense of the hyperreal. 

In "Body Snatching," Taylor and Saarinen pose the question, "is telepresence absence or presence?"  I don't have an answer, but I'd spend both of my nothing-to-fear-in-being-wrong guesses on a two-part response: neither/both.  And maybe this paradox explains what was perceived to be so completely eventful about the perilous landing broadcast to the passengers (LIVE) along with everybody else.  Those on board were caught up in the reality-shredding loop: a question asked from both in here and out there at once--will theywe make it? One more related quotation from the "Body Snatching" chapter:

The simulacrum is a novum that is neither original nor copy, real nor imaginary, signified nor signifier.  The operation of the simulacrum transfigures the body ("Body Snatching" 9).

I've reached the end of insights on this one for now.  While these ideas aren't especially revelatory or bowl-you-over original, some of Taylor and Saarinen's vocabulary--terms shared by others who've worked for some time on questions involving media and the visual--clicked for me.  So I'm giving them a try.  Telepresence...etc.  Good stuff (go on, tell me it's been passe for eight years).  It's pushed me to consider related stuff like (satisfying, disconcerting, voyeuristic) notions of telepresence in weblogs.  If the plan I have for tomorrow holds up, I'll have more to say about Imagologies (but probably disappointingly little to add to the buzz re Jet Blue and hey, that's us!).

Bookmark and Share Posted by at September 22, 2005 10:30 PM to Media
Comments