Overwhelmed and Shaped by Visuals

In part 3 of Open Sky, Paul Virilio describes how the infiltration of visual media in recent history is changing the world. He quotes Gary Hill: “Vision is no longer the possibility of seeing, but the impossibility of not seeing” (90). For the average global citizen, the act of viewing images is actually becoming more normal than reading words.

So, what does this mean for the way information affects us? Is meaning changing?

Virilio offers an example: In Islamic culture, women are hidden from view. Currently, that hiding is being trumped by the over-exposure caused by the visual realm. Photos of Islamic women have become main stream, and with those photos, their stories are being pulled into the light. Womens’ veils, important parts of that religion, are being removed by the new visual culture that governs the world.

Religion isn’t the only entity affected by the overgrowth of visuals. Virilio reminds us that we have already seen some of the effects of visual media with regards to sexual relationship. With the rise of the internet, we have discovered cyber sexuality. Virilio says that we accept the shadow, rather than the substance. He even goes so far as to claim that this replacement–this abandonment of flesh and embracing of pixels–is causing high divorce rates.

Our sexuality is cyber. Our most important and vital form of touch is now replaced by the web. We are now “touching at a distance”, which even more deeply ingrains the internet into who we are. This will affect us in every aspect of our culture.

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Children are growing up online. The internet is natural to them–it is a part of them. They way they do everything is different from the way children 50 years ago did. They talk online, study online, entertain themselves online, and they touch online. They are better at seeing than reading, and they are accustomed to the jungle of images that is their home.

So, is this, OK? Is it healthy?

 

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