One more thought on panopticism and the hyperreal, 10 points.
1. Though mediation is precisely what has robbed our experiences of the very essence of experience, mass culture has trashed unmediated experience as though it were an event without value simply because it has no image. In this hyperreal era in which images are exchanged against images as currency and in which the mediated feedback loops of fashion, cable news, the internet, advertising, and hype in general have detached themselves from the real and now only simulate themselves, mass culture has decided that experiences without digital documentation have no value.
2. So, rather than ground ourselves in that which is physical, that which can be touched and held, we have embarked upon a “go-for-broke” project to convert everything physical into a mediated image, believing that otherwise it would be worthless.
3. In this new regime of the hyperreal, surveillance does not contravene our values, rather it participates in our pathological mania to convert all experience into image by enacting the society of the spectacle on a despotic scale. But digital photos and video are only a harbinger of total replacement and deaccessioning of the real which will one day fully consume our society.
4. What accounts for the mass cultural pathology of needing to hold up a cell phone camera at every major event you attend? I argue that it’s not just about preserving the moment or attesting that you were there. It’s about giving the event value by turning it into an exchangeable object.
5. This probably originally springs from those two ancient human impulses: to know (see Levi-Strauss), and to preserve a trace of that which has gone away (beginning with the practice of embalming the dead, Bazin, and reaching its final apotheosis in the future, with whatever Total Cinema is). But it takes a strange form in an era of hyperreality. In this case, the creation of the image equals the creation of value.
6. Value in the present instance refers to exchange-value, the circulability of an image as though it were a kind of social currency, because an event without images cannot enter into a system of image-exchange. If the event isn’t mediated, it is not exchangeable, and therefore its images will not circulate, and it will not have value. It’s the circulability, not solely the status as image, which gives the mediation its value in a hyperreal society.
7. But we already knew that we lived in a society of the spectacle, under an economy of images, impressed from without until we internalized its ideology and practiced it within our private social circles. So what has changed?
8. For one thing, the irony, of course, is Obama’s administration was, at the time of the above photos, already siphoning all the data off these devices. Though we thought we looked at him, he looked at us. Every time we buy another device, Dr. Mabuse grows another eye.
9. And thus, as with all other forms of circulation, back to the invention of money and the alienation of the worker from the products of his labor, our labor of transforming experience into exchangeable commodity has also been taken from us, hijacked by despotic surveillance. As before, the alienation oppresses us.
10. The images which first alienated us from ourselves have now been alienated from us. Can we still claim any element of ourselves for ourselves?