Media, Information and Technoculture 2500A/B Lecture 7: MIT 2500 Lecture 7: Psychosis POST MIDTERM

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Media, Information and Technoculture
Media, Information and Technoculture 2500A/B
Warren Steele

MIT 2500 Lecture 7: Psychosis POST MIDTERM • High Rise - JG Ballard (1975) o Intensity of experience with the strange tension o Cold indifference of tone in which he describes violence • Alienated figures • Ballard is fascinated by the distortion of human relationships and emotions o How they are stunted by technology - the means • Science fiction o Exploration of interspace - the psychic content of the self and how this space is distorted by technology and reflected by them ▪ Technology is a concrete o System of expectations of reality • “I’m interested in the exact way in which [technology] brings together the visual codes for expressing our ordinary perceptions about reality…and the whole system of expectations contained in the design of [technology]…expectations about our freedom to move through time and space, about the identities of our own bodies, our own musculatures, the complex relationships between ourselves and the world of objects around us. These highly potent visual codes can be seen repeated in every aspect of the 20 century landscape.” o J.G. Ballard, Crash! • The trilogy that highrise exists in develops within nihilism and the concept of rationality and efficiency • Crash, Concrete Island and Highrise o Each book is an exploration of a consequence of technological mediated communication • Quality or conditions of being human • Ballard sees technology as an expression of human psychology o The ways in which we think and feel are externalized in a codified form in which we ourselves exist within • His writing is seen as too cold and essentially off putting • Ray Kertzwell o Can’t come to terms with the idea of dying ▪ Fear of death after his father’s death • The concept of neurosis • Ballards Novels o Conceptually rich critiques of society and technology o The meaning of modern technology • “What does this mean? Have we reached the point now where [human beings] only make sense in terms of these huge technological systems? I think so myself, and that it is the vital job of the writer to try to analyze and understand the real significance of this huge metalized dream.” o J.G. Ballard, Crash! • His depiction of the “dream” is always the same o Characterized ▪ City = jungles ▪ High Rise = suburbs • Claustrophobic spaces that are always somewhat empty • Spectacular landscapes that are never seductive, they are always nightmarish terrifying places that repel the reader but still attract the characters ▪ Dream logic • Makes sense when you are reading and then doesn’t when you put the book down ▪ Obsessiveness - character descriptions ▪ Suspended temporality, time seems to stop within his work or becomes everlasting, • Dream world type of story ▪ His characters sometimes are without depth • Become apart of the landscape in which we live • Schizophrenic production in which we live • Everything in his work is objective and subjective • “Each day the towers of central London seemed slightly more distant, the landscape of an abandoned planet receding slowly from his mind…the ragged skyline of the city resembled the disturbed encephalograph [a graph recording the electrical activity of the brain] of an unresolved mental crisis.” o J.G. Ballard, High Rise • Personal desire and social alienation o This comes together when we develop machinery at the cost of personal relationships o High rise is about alienation from ourselves and eachother • Disconnected from our feelings, isolated from each other o Distorted technologies • The characters within high rise are an example of nihilism • The exemplified worst case scenario o Cautioning readers and making them aware of a possible future o “My books are often a metaphor for an extreme situation, a kind of emergency tool kit to be pulled out and tested only under the most terrifying social conditions. In fact, I would say that a lot of my fiction is, if you like, open-ended. I leave it for the reader to decide what the moral and psychological conclusions to be drawn from my fiction should be…in the case of High-Rise…I offer an extreme hypothesis for the reader to decide whether the hypothesis I advance (this extreme metaphor to deal with an extreme situation) is proven.” ▪ J.G. Ballard • The realization of the world where all our desires are satisfied instantly • Magnify confrontation • Alice convinced him of the intangible appeal of life in a luxury high-rise…She stressed the efficiency of the building’s services and total privacy. ‘You could be alone here, in an empty building—think of that, Robert.’ She added, illogically, ‘Besides, it’s full of the kind of people you ought to meet.’” o J.G. Ballard, High Rise • One can feel alone in a crowd of people who have their gaze turned away by technology • Marshall McLuhan o The global village o Identity is always accompanied by balance ▪ People need balance when they lose their identities • Highrise is about mcluhan’s philosophies - it follows this o The rivalization in the information and machine age • High Rise in its entirety o “[Laing] leaned out over the rail and peered up at the face of the building, carefully counting the balconies. As usual, though, the dimensions of the forty- storey block made his head reel. Lowering his eyes to the tiled floor, he steadied himself against the door pillar. The immense volume of open space that separated the building from the neighboring high-rise a quarter of a mile away unsettled his sense of balance. At times he felt that he was living in the gondola of a ferris wheel permanently suspended three hundred feet above the ground.” ▪ J.G. Ballard, High Rise • The size of the building o It’s so big that it engenders vertigo within the viewer, it’s hard to take it all in and one can only see a portion of its structure at a single glance ▪ One’s inability to see the whole at one time • Does the unfamiliarity stem from something else? • Major source of isolation within living in the building ▪ Highrise as a collection of abandoned living spaces in the sky o Laing and others like him live a precarious life o The way of living and being perpetuate and concentrate is unsustainable • Violence is isolated within this particular building o First building to reach full capacity o The development project of 5 high rise buildings to overthrow capital ▪ “The five high-rises stood on the eastern perimeter of the project overlooking an ornamental lake—at present an empty concrete basin surrounded by parking lots and construction equipment. On the opposite shore stood the recently completed concert-hall, with Laing’s medical school and the new television studios on either side. The massive scale of the glass and concrete architecture…sharply separated the development project from the rundown areas around it, decaying nineteenth century terraced houses and empty factories already zoned for reclamation.” • J.G. Bal
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