Sight Through Technology

6a0133eccb8b0d970b013485b6d073970c-320wiWhat really struck me from this weeks lecture was the concept of the aerial gaze and disembodied seeing. It is something that surrounds us at all times, excluding MAYBE the privacy of our own homes (which we know isn’t entirely true due to government activity). In an article I read a few years ago in a course about community and regional development at UC Davis, it mentioned the militarization of Los Angeles and how an increasing amount of security cameras have been put up in many homes, shopping centers, and private businesses obviously for the prevention of intruders. You never actually know if there is someone looking through the lens or not, and that is precisely the point. If intruders don’t imagine there is someone watching them, then they will get into serious trouble (which they deserve for committing a crime like breaking in and entering or robbing a store etc.). This is the same way the NYC police portable panopticon functions as. You never actually know if there is a police officer in the box, so it makes you act like there is one there, just in case.

Although we might criticize this panopticon and the panoptic gaze, we ourselves live like the all-seeing security cameras placed on our gates. Many people in society spend most of their time indoors, seeing the world through the panoptic gaze of their computer screen. Seeing and reading (but not being seen or heard) about what is going on outside, from the inside of our homes. We see this from travelers that enjoy their vacations by seeing things through a camera lens, but not through the biological lens in their eyes; from concertgoers that hold up their phones and ipads during the entirety of concerts to record and then watch later to experience the concert as if they were actually there; people that live in the same house communicate through facebook messages or texts to prevent a few seconds of face to face communication and the pain of standing up and walking somewhere, and the list goes on. The point is that this disembodied seeing is in some way enhancing our sight, but at the same time preventing it when it comes to social contexts.

In addition to this, using drones (new, modern technology) as disembodied seeing to fix older worn down and used technology is also something that strikes me as interesting and strangely human. It is similar to how we humans want to fix ourselves as we age and get worn down. In this same mindset, we are training and teaching technology to do the same, using it to fix older structures and ourselves at the same time.

In the future, will it be us making daily decision in our lives, or will it be our technology doing it for us?

– Alice Musher


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