The Visual and the Virtual

Part Three

The third and final part of Paul Virilio’s Open Sky was our assignment for today.  It was a bit easier to get through with the two previous sections as practice. This is only my interpretation of it, so feel free to comment with your opinions!

Eye Lust

not seeing

Key Terms

  • Stereographic vision – 3D image produced by the brain fusing the two slightly different views from each eyeball
  • Perceptual system – makes inferences about the physical environment based on what the eyes see

This section talks about the industrialization, or standardization, of vision as Virilio sees it. He makes some technological predictions that haven’t quite happened – yet.  He starts by asking: what is true vision? Is is something we see in a stationary moment, full of details? Is it something we see as we look out the window on a long car ride, moving by? Or is true vision that images that we see on TV and computer screens?

Virilio warns that we, as a society, are developing a perceptual disorder – we are losing our spots as “eyewitnesses” of reality.  Instead we rely on electronic sources to provide a secondary account of “reality”.

He talks about Imax and Omnimax technologies, and more specifically, the Géode in France. The building is shaped like a dome and the images are projected on a screen that completely surrounds you.

I remember going on a field trip in the fifth grade to the Liberty Science Museum in New Jersey.  We were watching an Imax film about space, and I just felt so overwhelmed that I thought I was going to throw up.  I’ve been a little wary of Imax films ever since then.  But maybe, I’ll get to visit the Géode on my upcoming semester abroad in Versailles!

la geode - omnimax

The Géode in France – an Omnimax theater

Our field of perception is now nonstop because of new transport and transmission technology. We are constantly bombarded by images in a typical day – starting from the moment we wake up. Once again, this reminds me of the Dove ad that I used in a previous post.

Virilio didn’t even know where the technological world would be in 2014, but I’m sure he would’ve been frightened. This heightened visual world threatens our freedom of perception – what if we want to look away? Virilio argues that the same way we can turn the volume down on auditory bombardment, we should be able to “turn the volume down” with the visual as well.

I can tell Virilio isn’t a big fan of television, considering that he refers to it as a “straightjacket” that causes “eye disease” (96). As a fan of watching TV, I can admit that it isn’t always the best for our society.

Virilio sounded astounded by the prospect of a kind of eye surgery that used a laser excimer to correct vision. I know plenty of people who’ve had successful Lasik (laser eye surgery)- it’s hardly an uncommon thing nowadays.


An ad for Lasik eye surgery

From Sexual Perversion to Sexual Diversion

Virilio warns that some people will prefer the virtual being to the real bring.  This reminded me of the TV show Catfish on MTV. Some people become so obsessed with the online person that they don’t even want to meet their supposed significant others in person.


Changes in long-distance relationships. Virilio sees this as a bad thing.  He thinks is will increase the divide between men and women, and even goes as far as to say that it will put the rate of reproduction in danger.

WhatsappI couldn’t disagree more, as someone whose boyfriend lives in Germany. Over breaks and in the summer, we communicate through so many different channels. We both downloaded What’sApp, which is becoming one of the most used messaging app in the world. Facebook messaging, Skype, and Snapchat are other apps that we use to stay in touch.  I wonder what Virilio would say if he could see all of these modes of communication today.


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