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.