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In Time¡ªParables, Art and Redemption
Date: 2012.06.14
   As an historical interpretation and representation of meaning produced by the realm of practice, discussions about the characteristics and meanings of the contemporary will necessarily be put at the intersection of the collective concepts of humanity. Different from the embodied real images that represent inequality and instability, they attempt to depict the distance between the world as perceived by human conscious and the reality as well as the contingent nature reflected by it. Such nature is not constant, and is redefined according to the changing circumstances. Just as Jean Baudrillard describes contemporary society, ¡°Primitive society had its masks, bourgeois society its mirrors, and we have our images.¡±
   Having left the production phase, modern society has become alienated as a form of spectacle. ¡°All living things have become representations.¡± The materialist capitalist era that Marx described has already passed over into an era in which visual representations have enthroned themselves as the foundation of society, into a realm of social spectacle. The real world has become reduced to images, and images have been elevated to the status of real existence. We believe that technology allows us to control the world; when in actuality it is the world that is asserting its existence through technology. This host/guest relationship and its reversal has a surprising and undeniable effect: images, which once assumed a subordinate position, now present themselves as sublime, originating not where we are but in other locations. It emerges from the very core of the existence of common objects which were primarily the hosts of parasitic appearances, has happily reproduced itself and is rushing in from all sides. Fictitious reoccurrences put us in a kind of hypnotic state, and images occupy the place originally reserved for ¡°truth¡±, allowing signs to dominate substance, the reproduction to dominate the original, and fantasy to dominate reality.
   The spectacle dictates production and hence facilities the spread of phenomena. It also blurs dialogue and erodes the independence and criticality of the subject, and replace action with the imaginations of images. We only observe, we don¡¯t participate. Faced with an indiscernible, indistinct spectacle, we can only quietly acquiesce, and this itself is a kind of intangible control. This is precisely the new mode of existence in the modern world, and the spectacle-viewer relationship guarantees its smooth operation. If modernity can be defined as the synthesis of disciplinary categories, then the society of the spectacle is the greatest ¡°wonder¡± of the modern world. Its ability to shock exceeds that of art, and it is responsible for the breadth and depth of modern images. There is little doubt about what the future holds. All we can do is follow the reflected light and confidently explore the ruin strewn landscape, in order to suture the split self, and reach deeper inside our own selves.
   Today¡¯s ¡°wonders¡± are occurring with the help of technology, and no one is exempt from this trend.
The Order of Creativity
   Modern humanity has thoroughly fulfilled Toffler¡¯s vision: in the Third Wave, the speed of media and information has come to define the era. As technology platforms continue to ¡°upgrade¡±, the interaction, cooperation, and unending refinement of media and information, as well as the ¡°magic¡± they bring into play, will open up ¡°a symbolic world consisting of entertainment, data, and shopping.¡± Mobile phones, email, streaming media, networks, 3G, and Wi-Fi have all but blinded people with digitized information. The unending surge of electrons and information has created a network of enormous and interlinked black holes that have swallowed humanity, and in which space and time have come undone and intuitions of distance imploded. In one sense we can hold the world in our hands; yet so much of it still escapes our view.
   Computers linked to computers, computers linked to mobile phones, mobile phones linked to mobile phones¡­ information travels rapidly to every corner of the earth, overcoming the limitations of the human body, and increasingly intruding on a spatially structured landscape. Always surfing, always connected, always online. Our lives are more and more convenient and accessible. After destroying the existing relationship between material space and social space, people have acquired a vast space for social intercourse that they didn¡¯t have before, and the geographic map has been rewritten from a media perspective. Mediation appropriates a sense of alienation and various representational methods to overcome the limitations of space and time, history and the future, presence and absence, and reveal a boundless and absolutely lifelike world ¡°before our eyes¡± and ¡°within our reach¡±. Indistinct sensations of ¡°elsewhere¡± and ¡°not here¡± intensify and create a race with ¡°no sense of location¡±, while at the same time creating a huge ¡°new space¡± in which people have created a vast system of digital signs.
   Man has created these signs that spread via the prehensile tentacles of fiber optic and broadband networks, which wrap themselves around our society, reaching into every space, interface, and crevice, until they are an inescapable part of reality. Whenever we turn on a computer or connect to a network, we are confronted with problems already formulated in electronic signs, which can only be answered yes or no. We must pass inspection by the electronic intermediary to arrive at the login interface, and our own ideas have long since ceased to matter. Heeding the call of the signs, we rapidly assemble and disperse, forming strata and substrata and alliances within the same interface, creating a type of hidden social order. This order dissolves the rigid notions of race and nationality that exist in the natural world, and seamlessly joins divergent points of view. One minute we join in the cries of denunciation, and the next minute we have come to a new understanding and switched sides. The new order seems better than the natural order: it is more appealing to the eye, and is open, tolerant, equitable, and dynamic, instantly renewing itself. The sequence ¡°leading question, encoded ruling, ultimatum¡± repeats and forms a pattern, from which spot we reach the peak of the 3rd wave. Thus within this barely discernible code sequence, it has come to be that everyone has a say in decision making, and this has become the mark of the information age. As Negroponte said in Being Digital, ¡°Computing is not about computers anymore. It is about living¡±. Linked to these contingent code systems is the unlicensed, transferential, unverified, shifting system of the unconscious. Just like online communication it has a virtual aspect: communication is occurring, but we can¡¯t see our interlocutors, and cannot use tones or expressions to distinguish the real from the fake. Codes are our only channel. But signs are mute, they cannot speak and cannot differentiate truth from falsehood. As we expand our contacts, communication becomes directionless and devoid of meaning. When we visit the big forums and portal sites, reading and responding to other people¡¯s comments, we are joining thousands of others in a clamorous environment. As reference points and sense of purpose threaten to disappear, along with forms of address and common ground, adding our voice to that of the transient assembly is the only thing that gives us a sense of participation. Codes make it easier to build alliances, create groups, raise opposition, feel comfortable flowing with, and being neutralized by, casual principles, to enjoy the rush of instantly identifying with and being identified with, and the joy of expressing solitary opposition. Yet as this order is being formed, people are primarily interested in the excitement of a directionless yet passionate assembly, and the joys of instant self-
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