Virilio’s “Eye Lust”

To me, the title of this chapter says it all. Virilio (“Open Sky”) begins the chapter with a quote:

“We should put the power of the human eye to use.” – Treinisch (p. 89)

It seems that Virilio thinks that our constant bombardment with images is hurting the capability of the human eye (connected to the human brain) to process and “perceive” information from the images. This idea is not new to me, as I have noticed the amount if ideas and images my eye is drawn to every day…or have I?

Perhaps I “see” more than I “perceive” every single day. Virilio defines a difference here: seeing means what is in front of one’s gaze. Perceiving involves comprehending and understanding what is in front of you.

So yes, I definitely see more than I perceive. I probably pay attention to half of what I see throughout the day (and probably, unfortunately, see perceive my cell phone or computer screen the most).

This idea worries Virilio, which I understand (although I think he takes it a bit too far).

Seeing machines (p. 90). These are photo-cinematographic and video-infographic machines that distort ordinary representations to become less credible. To me, this sounds like Photoshop (no offense, Adobe). He then says that “not being able to believe your eyes” is no longer a sign of amazement or surprise (p. 90)–but this can only happen when the images are perceived, rather than just seen.

Rhythmic dispossession of sight (p. 92). This is a little scary to me, since it suggests that our sight is no longer truly in our control. I agree that it is happening, though, since constructed “representations” are constantly within view. More is not always best; perhaps the bombardment is making me less sensitive to images in themselves.

Eyeball cinema (p. 95). I have to agree to disagree with Virilio here (if you’re reading this, Paul, sorry about the difference in opinion). He suggests that IMAX films, which take place in rounded theaters to better the viewing experience, may be the first step in “eyeball cinema” or personal film simulators. However, he also follows this by claiming that movie theaters are becoming “increasingly deserted” which I don’t see as true. I’m an avid movie goer, and the theaters are never deserted. While different viewing options now exist (DVD, Netflix, RedBox etc.), the experience of the cinema has not died.

Design (p. 101). He also thinks that design may have suffered as a result of this constant eye lust and the move to multimedia platforms. I disagree here as well, since designing for multimedia involves more creativity since the space is often unlimited. Advertisements, for example, were once flat images in magazines and newspapers. Now, they are expected to engage viewers on the internet.

There are two more sections in Part 3 of Virilio…I enjoyed “Eye Lust” the most and had the most to say about it, so I focused on this chapter. Maybe one day I’ll feel super motivated and let you know my thoughts on the last bit. If not, go read it yourself and let me know what YOU think!


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