Danny Boyle on Trance: ‘You’re hypnotised when you watch a movie’ – Well I just fell asleep.

Tardean Somnambulist Media Theory

It was interesting to see this Danny Boyle video on the Guardian, which makes some references to hypnotic media. Of course, film theorists have been referring to these kinds of states for a while now, but virality endeavours to develop a Tardean somnambulist media theory. What I’ve tried to do in the book is grasp how this concept resonates with network culture rather than film or television. This is a point I made in a recent interview with Jussi Parikka on the TCS blog.  There seems to be tendency toward hypnotic contagion in network interactions that might be related to implicit brain functions. Tarde describes this as unconscious associations – through which he contends that the social assembles itself – becomes whole. This relation between virality and nonconscious association could be grasped as the spreading of a capricious state of false conscious, if you like, wherein, on one hand, the social is infected at the infra level of brain function by imitation-suggestibility, and on the other hand, we find that everyone is just kept too busy, and too distracted, to really grasp that their shared feelings are being steered toward this goal or that goal.
The idea of sleepwalking media, or media hypnosis, is similar in many ways to Jonathan Crary’s work on attentive technologies. Crary in fact provides a wonderful repositioning of the attention economy thesis. Unlike the account given by business school gurus who see attention as a precious resource to be fought over, he grasps the controlling and disciplinary nature of attention. Fuller and Goffey have similarly referred to this as the inattention economy, which like Crary does not distinguish between attention and inattention. They are not polar opposites.

For this reason I wanted to like Trance as an example of media hypnosis, but I’m afraid it made me more sleepy than hypnotized.




About Virality

Tony D. Sampson is Reader in Digital Culture and Communications at the University of East London. He has a PhD in social-cultural-digital contagion theory from the Sociology Department at the University of Essex. He is a former art student who re-entered higher education in the UK as a mature student in the mid-1990s after a long stint as a gigging musician. His career in education has moved through various disciplines and departments, including a maths and computing faculty, sociology department and school of digital media and design His publications include The Spam Book, coedited with Jussi Parikka (Hampton Press, 2009), Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks (University of Minnesota Press, 2012), The Assemblage Brain: Sense Making in Neuroculture (University of Minnesota Press, 2016), Affect and Social Media (Rowman and Littlefield, July 2018) and The Sleepwalker's Guide to Social Media (due 2020 with Polity Press). Tony is the organizer and host of the Affect and Social Media conferences in the UK (see archive on this blog). As a co-founder and co-director of the public engagement initiatives, Club Critical Theory (CCT) and the Cultural Engine Research Group (CERG), Tony has been project lead on a number of funded projects that bring impactful critical theories into the community and local political sphere to approach. These activities have included large conferences, symposia and informal lectures/workshops in pubs and community centres, co-organized with community groups and local authorities. Tony occasionally blogs at: https://viralcontagion.wordpress.com/ Full academic profile: https://www.uel.ac.uk/Staff/s/tony-sampson
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