Our Technological Revolution: Good or Bad?

Open Sky by Paul Virilio was a bit of a challenge to decipher, so bear with me as I give my interpretation of it. Hopefully, at least some of it is on the right track.   This blog post will be on Part One, but I will also post a second entry on Part Two.  The material is pretty dense, so it’s better to split the posts up.

Part One

Essentially, aside from all of the complex terminology, I think Virilio is addressing the problems with the continuous advancement of communication tools. We typically think of the benefits, but he analyzes the problems with these new technologies.  He even goes as far as to describe it as a type of pollution, since this new sedentary lifestyle is detrimental to our bodies.

The Third Interval

Key Terms

Teletopia – a world with instantaneous communication via technology

Telepresence – being in two places at the same time

Remote control – control of machine from a distance

Real time – the exact moment

Present – real instant – real action captured by technology

Limit speed – the constant nature of light

Journey – the process involved in going from point A to point B

General arrival – arrives without having to leave

Virilio introduces this section by delving into what he calls the transmission evolution.  Real time and real space are being confused, because new technologies allow you to control the environment despite vast distances. These new development of real time makes us telepresent, because it allows us to be connected through multiple interfaces at one time. Since we can control the environment in real time, we can perceive the world both faster and stronger.

Intervals (of):

  1. Time
  2. Space
  3. Light Kind

The third interval is the newest, as it is the premise being discussed in this chapter. Since the speed of light is so fast, we are conditioned to value immediacy. This “real” moment transcends the actual moment that it is occurring in because it is being documented electronically.

This transmission revolution has also decreased the need for actual infrastructure and the journey between two points. This leads to the point of general arrival, because information can be sent without ever leaving where it came from.

I enjoyed the explanation of the DataSuit made by NASA, because it made me think of the human characters in the movie Wall-E.  Activity becomes temporal instead of spatial.  These new technologies purposefully limit our bodies, just as they did in the movie.

The humans became obese from their sedentary lifestyles – any type of movement they did was completely virtual and required no more than the movement of a finger.

This scene from the movie shows how as Virilio says, moving towards the “distant” takes you away from the “near”.  Humans are talking to people right next to them via video chat. They can’t even be bothered to turn their heads to the side to chat.

Today, we see a less serious, but still alarming version of this.  I know that personally, I use my phone as a crutch.  If I’m passing someone in the hallway who I don’t know, I pull out my phone and pretend to be busy to avoid eye contact.  We seem to forget that a half smile never hurt anyone.

We become strangers to the people around us.  This especially frustrates my mom, since she grew up before this revolution. She has a rule that no one can use a smart phone at the dinner table, which my sister find very hard to follow.  She gets so frustrated by our lack of connectivity, and I’m beginning to understand why.

Will we ever really become like the people in Wall-E? I certainly hope not, but we can see how we are heading in that direction.  As an online shopper myself, I can attest to my laziness getting the better of me.  But can you really blame me for wanting to buy shoes in the comfort of my own home?

The Perspective of Real Time

Key Terms

Dromology – technology has polluted the world’s perception of time

Ecology – impact of machine time on our environment

In this dromospheric world, time has become nothing more than an instantaneous transport. We let our imaginations confuse our perceptions of reality, so the two fuse to form a slightly different reality.

We are forgetting about the journey: the process that gets us from point A to point B. We know deep down how bad it is that we are moving away from mobilization, yet technology continues in that direction. The benefits of new communication tools seem to distract us.

This removal of distance of an obstacle can be seen as a blessing or a curse.  Virilio sees it as a curse, because the world becomes smaller to us.  Our own personal worlds can span from Greenville, South Carolina to Freiburg, Germany. This unfortunately makes us see the world as less exotic when we travel – it’s not as exciting anymore.

Since everything is now in our immediate environment, we now value speed more than ever. I agree with Virilio here: it is not right to waste a perfectly capable body on a sedentary lifestyle (and I’m saying this as a Netflix marathoner).

The journey, or the process, holds no meaning because we don’t have to wait for anything.  Speaking of Netflix, I was watching a movie the other day and was extremely frustrated that it kept stopping to reload.  I seem to forget that not too long ago, we were still watching movies on VHS.


Optics on a Grand Scale

Key Terms

Teleconferencing – splitting optics

Optics – deal with properties of light and visualization

Active optics – dealing with the time of the speed of light

Trans-appearance – transparence of visuals distributed long distance instantaneously

Real-time perspective – we consider physical optics over real space

Kinematic energy – image or information energy

Since telecommunications occur via a satellite, they don’t actually hold a location. This means that they are in the now, but where is their here?  Without distance as an obstacle, we lack the depth in our perceptions since everything is instantaneous.

As he talked about in the previous section, our world becomes smaller.  Virilio elaborates in this section by saying that trans-appearance is eliminating the horizon as a boundary. We can see our messages being sent to France or Australia in an instant.  This causes our worlds to shrink.

This phenomenon is referred to as the wrong of the telescope: the more we see of the world, the smaller it becomes to us. This lack of a tangible horizon causes us to doubt what is near and what is far, which leads us to question our existence itself.


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