Tuesday, February 1, 2011

1934 and the beginning of reality tv

Lewis Mumford (1934) in his essay, "Technics and Civilization," suggests that the camera has caused man to be more concerned about being watched. The camera allows for a reproduction to be entered into the historic record as opposed to the actual which deterioates over time. This causes people to act as if they are a public character, and improvise themselves with the way they wish to be portrayed.

The camera was no where near as intrusive as it is today, yet Mumford seems to have predicted what happens when a reproduction can be used to reflect reality. People put on different faces for the camera. How many people today and famous for being famous. Caught on camera, or willingly choosing to be on camera, to play a character. From reality tv, to youtube, to facebook, to the cellphone camera, we are always potentially being captured on camera, and those images are used to create reality. How many jobs are lost or people fired because of captured images? Homeless men with golden voices. The Paris Hiltons pretending to be dumb and slutty because that's what sells. Millions on Facebook and online dating services desparately attempting to create an artifical picture of themselves.

Mumford ends the essay stating that the camera has great potential to improve society. He writes, "they demand a nicer sensitivenss and a higher intelligence." But he concludes that "if these inventions have so far made monkeys of us, it is because we are still monkeys." Seventy years later, and these inventions are still making monkeys out of us.

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