A Google Home Inspector Calls

On the Rise of the Doctrine of Compulsory Appearance

A line of reasoning that I want to discuss in this article must be explained in terms of what I shall call "socially networked teletechnologies," by which I mean new media digital devices featuring interactive user feedback, participation, and the real-time generation of content, such as the Internet, computerized multimedia, Wikipedia, and Facebook. The point is what might be named the "critical" tendency to propagate these socially networked teletechnologies (this "critical" tendency being one of those that are especially important as indicators of the character of the "hypermodern" attitude), or, the pretense to put everything within the touch and sight of every one owing to pseudo-democratic ideas, and that add up to a wish to bring all teletechnologized knowledge down to the level of the lowermost intellects operating within The Social Network.[1] It would be only too simple to call attention to the manifold ineptitudes that ensue from the unplanned diffusion of a socially networked teletechnological "instruction" from, say, a service like Facebook, that is asserted to be evenly dispersed to everyone, by way of, for example, Facebook's website, in identical operational form and by identical operational techniques. Such multifarious ineptitudes can only terminate in a kind of dumbing down to the lowest of our private lives. Here, as elsewhere today, the quality of Emmanuel Levinas' face-to-face relation concerning human sociality, ethics as first philosophy, and the encounter of the Other through the face, which both prohibits a reduction to sameness and simultaneity and establishes a responsibility for the Other in the self, is surrendered to the sheer quantity of visual and other socio-cultural data provided by websites such as Facebook.[2] It is no less accurate to state that the socially networked teletechnological instructions to Facebook's nearly 1 billion "active users" have nothing to do with any sort of knowledge in the precise sense of that concept (i.e., in the sense of the state or fact of knowing, of an understanding achieved through study, discovery, learning, or erudition), and that they include nothing that could be considered profound. Unless one considers Facebook's "users"' creation of electronic "personal profiles," "friends," the exchange of computerized messages, the receipt of unwanted automatic "invitations" and "notifications," and the "updating" of one's "profile" profound. Nevertheless, aside from Facebook's astronomical financial over-evaluation (US$104 billion) and its imminent decline, what makes Facebook destructive is the fact that it contrives to be taken for something that it is not.[3] This is because websites like Facebook refuse everything that does not appear on them, which are not transparent to them, such as face-to-face relations, and so suffocate all potentialities belonging to the sphere of disappearance. It even seems credible that socially networked teletechnologies like Facebook are engineered for that reason, for hypermodern homogeneity or what Paul Virilio describes as contemporary "mass individualism" at schools, colleges, universities, and workplaces of necessity entails a hatred of all disappearance.[4]

An even more astonishing event is that some contemporary "critics" of socially networked teletechnologies such as the French philosopher Bernard Stiegler believe that they can not only develop a systematic rethinking of the technicity of human and animal life generally but also, in particular, a "critique" of "telecracy" (the teletechnological undoing of democracy by the short-circuiting of the usual means of politics and the obliteration of the foundations of citizenship).[5] Stiegler is, of course, an innovative political, cultural, and postindustrial thinker well-known for his Technics and Time 1: The Fault of Epimetheus, which is influenced by, among other philosophers of technology, Gilbert Simondon, Martin Heidegger, and Jacques Derrida.[6] Focusing on the important subjects of individuation and consumer capitalism, digital convergence, and the fate of contemporary politics, Stiegler's humanity and concern for the future of the social is self-evident throughout his philosophical projects on history and matter, memory, and human temporality like Technics and Time 2: Disorientation and Technics and Time 3: Cinematic Time and the Question of Malaise.[7] Yet I argue that Stiegler's "Telecracy Against Democracy," his projected reconfiguration of the relation of telecracy to democracy, leads him not to a critical-philosophical explanation of hypercapitalist, teletechnological, socio-cultural life but to an embrace of socially networked teletechnological instructions themselves as a paradigm for contesting the televisual and cinematic program industries' hold over contemporary society, culture, and politics.[8] In fact, Stiegler's thinking on telecracy and democracy, I suggest, is not so much enlightened by a "critical" reaction to the nature of socially networked teletechnologies but by an uncritical response that takes little account of the character of these teletechnologies or of the fundamental dissimilarities that exist between them and all that is today identified by the terms of democracy, citizenship, and association. Thus Stiegler, who has developed an "activist" philosophy of the left within Ars Industrialis, his organization for the advancement of an "industrial politics of technologies of the mind," must, in seeking to change the industrial political economies of socially networked teletechnologies, necessarily misrepresent these teletechnologies by, for example, generalization of the rights and duties of the citizen and by only permitting a surface sense of society, subjectivity, and the loss of participation to appear.[9] At any rate, by such means, the hypermodern spirit of speed, which Stiegler recognizes as "disorientation," penetrates deep into what is in opposition to it, which is democracy itself.[10] Moreover, it is not hard to understand the disorienting, not to say liquefying, effect of the fallout, which Stiegler calls "generalized irresponsibility".[11] However, those such as Stiegler, who seem inadvertently to make themselves the channels of this sort of incursion, may not fully comprehend their character or that of the age, even though, I am sure, they act in sincerity against such dangers and with alternative "critical" global aims. The rise of what I shall name "the doctrine of compulsory appearance" in the era of globalization and the parallel loss of disappearance demonstrate what might occur if Stiegler's method of "inventing a new politics of association through the reasoned socialization of the techniques and technologies of relationship" were to become universal.[12]

Most implausible of all is Stiegler's argument in defense of his approach, which is that of a novel type of "propagandist for an endless progress".[13] Stiegler writes to the effect that, whilst it is correct that telecommunications systems were previously harnessed for the diffusion of particular organs of "power/knowledge," such as the state, as, in other words, telecracy, which intimidates democracy and weakens it from within, there is no longer any rationale for being overly critical of them today, as "insofar as they constitute technologies for relating between the two terms [of telecracy and democracy] linked by a telos, that is to say, a finality (a motive, a desire), these teletechnologies are also the only possible way to invent new forms of social bond and civil peace."[14] At this point the confusion between a hypercritique of socially networked teletechnologies, which is the perspective adopted in this article (in essence, a critique of Stiegler as techno-critic), and the "democratic" philosophy of socially networked teletechnological instruction can be seen; the last being described by the term "telos" or end, purpose, or goal, which is one of Stiegler's recurrent descriptions concerning "a politics of technics" as "an idea of projecting" itself "into the future."[15] However, "telos" is something that has no critical connection with a hypercritique of socially networked teletechnologies or with the ability for undertaking it. Furthermore, since the widespread introduction of socially networked teletechnologies as the "only possible way to invent new forms of social bond and civil peace" has as its unavoidable complement the compulsory appearance of all those who seek to remain among the disappeared, it can be argued that "telos" stands for the opposite of a grounding for embarking upon a hypercritique of socially networked teletechnologies.

Among those who seek to remain among the disappeared, one thinks, for instance, of Thomas Pynchon, the American novelist, and author of Gravity's Rainbow, who is often mentioned as a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature.[16] Certainly, with hardly any photographs of Pynchon having ever been published, and with mass mediated gossip about his location and identity having circulated since the 1960s, the doctrine of compulsory appearance dictates that reporters, predatory photographers, newspaper columnists, and mass media pundits must ceaselessly investigate Pynchon's private life. Humorously attempting to counter the rise of the doctrine of compulsory appearance, which was invented by the mass media, and which is sustained by socially networked teletechnologies, Pynchon has made numerous animated "appearances" on the television series The Simpsons with a paper bag over his head.

There is then justification to speculate how Stiegler can seemingly be unaware of our current position in the age of the propaganda of socially networked teletechnological "progress," and can go so far as to pronounce that "the time has come for democrats to show the reality of their attachment to democracy."[17] For a basic knowledge of Moore's law (that continual teletechnological "improvements," chiefly in miniaturization, lead to a doubling of the density of transistors on new integrated circuits every eighteen months) forces the conclusion that "the time" is less auspicious than it ever was for social democracy taking itself in hand through socially networked teletechnologies. Indeed, it has never been possible to put democracy within the touch and sight of socially networked teletechnologies, for which, by the way, they were never intended (they were originally intended for survival during nuclear war), and it is surely not possible, at the moment, for it is clear that socially networked teletechnologies have never been more uncomprehending of genuine human association. And lastly, the fact is that everything that parallels a hypercritique of socially networked teletechnologies, and so parallels what must be meant by the invention of "new forms of social bond and civil peace" (for if this quote has any value, hypercritique must be included within it), becomes increasingly difficult to retrieve, and becomes so ubiquitously, inclusive of the realm of socially networked teletechnologies. In face of the incursion of the hypermodern and socially networked teletechnological spirit of speed, it is apparent that today's political parties and social movements could not be otherwise as they not only confront, but are also threatened with, extermination by an unparalleled global and political-economic collapse that began with the teletechnologically driven financial crises of 2007-2008. The worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, according to numerous economists, has brought about the danger of the complete failure of enormous financial institutions, the bailout of banks by national governments, and slumps in stock markets worldwide, not to mention house evictions, foreclosures, rising and extended unemployment as business failures rocket and consumer spending declines, both further contributing to the ongoing global instability and the looming European sovereign-debt crisis.[18] How then can Stiegler be so far uninformed of the reality of socially networked teletechnologies as to declare the reverse, and as if he were articulating the least disputable of facts?

In the case of Stiegler, cited as an exemplar of the hypermodern mentality, the rationale given to substantiate the spread of socially networked teletechnological democracy is no less remarkable. The imminent development that is the socio-cultural and political collapse of democratic ideals and institutions is suggested in this connection. Nevertheless, even if collapse actually is a development, it too has no more link with the comprehension of a hypercritique of socially networked teletechnologies than has the diffusion of socially networked teletechnological instructions themselves. It is sufficient to behold the degree to which socio-cultural and political collapse is predicated on a lack of knowledge relevant to a hypercritique of socially networked teletechnologies. It would then be more correct to write not of Stiegler's "generalized irresponsibility" but of a "generalized irreconcilability," at least in terms of the practicalities of avoiding such a collapse, than of a likely concordance between these two developments. It is not easy to understand what connection socio-cultural and political life, in the purely socially networked teletechnological sense in which Stiegler imagines it, could have with a hypercritique of these teletechnologies, to which, conversely, it brings only obstructions.

Such connections clearly existed when socio-political and cultural life was incorporated into a premodern, mythically human, or even a hybridized animal centered vision of the world. In The Aesthetics of Disappearance, for example, Virilio argues that the premodern human world can be understood through philosophical reflection on zoophilism (love of animals).[19] He describes zoophilism as being driven by the "vehicular attraction of the coupling," which, needless to say, long precedes the invention of socially networked teletechnologies.[20] Zoophilism, then, produces a different kind of heterosexuality. Virilio's deliberations on zoophilism therefore reveal how the "horse in particular was treated like a god by the polemarch [warlord], even solemnly married".[21] According to Virilio, zoophilism, thus illustrated by the horse and rider, is then a store of "power, source of speed in combat, but beyond that the zoophilous cult likes proposing the image of the hybrid animal:" the "bulls are winged or sphinxes have lions' bodies and human heads; later they are represented as winged and feminized".[22] But it is precisely the hypermodern spirit of speed that is obliterating these connections to our former socio-political and cultural life integrated with hybrid animals, or that is seeking to wipe them out everywhere they still endure.

Consider the photographs of Phyllis Galembo, Professor of Fine Arts, the University at Albany in New York. Mixing art and anthropology, Galembo rejoices in the masquerading ceremonies of Africa and the Caribbean. Enthralled with traditional costumes and ritual objects, she is fascinated by ceremonial clothes that have mystical and transformative powers, such as those of Haitian priests and priestesses of voodoo, who pursue alteration through their clothing into enchanted and frequently hybrid beings like the "Giraffes" illustrated here (Figure 1):

Phyllis Galembo 'Giraffes', Jacmel, Haiti (1998)
Figure 1: Phyllis Galembo 'Giraffes', Jacmel, Haiti (1998)
[Cibachrome print, 19 ½ x 19 ½ in. Ed: 20, used with permission].

Rummaging through materials from tar and sugar syrup to leaf stems, gourds, actual animal skins and even stuffed animal heads to attain their appearance, the finished 'look' of the priest or priestess is repeatedly that of a pre-modern, mythological, human or hybridized animal. Focused on an understanding of the world as masquerade, such visions and knowledge of mask making are presently in decline, suffering, as they do, from the hypermodern political, religious, and cultural stresses placed on traditional African and Caribbean modes of life.

What then can be anticipated of a development such as the hypermodern spirit of speed of which the most distinctive characteristics are that it acts in opposition both to our life integrated with animals and to a hypercritique of socially networked teletechnologies?

In putting forward his reasons for taking "action" -- possibly in place of undertaking further or deeper contemplation -- concerning the fate of democracy, citizenship, and association, Stiegler effectively, even if unintentionally, rationalizes the rise of the doctrine of compulsory appearance. For the telecratic "citizenship" associated with the cinematic and televisual program industries of contemporary dis-association do not hesitate to put on view the most hypermodern events related to The Administration of Fear.[23] In truth, socially networked teletechnological forms of "democracy," "citizenship," and dis-association are not made for "action," "collectively conceived, debated, and deliberated" but, for instance, as in France in 2010, for the repeat of Stanley Milgram's Yale University social psychology experiments on obedience to authority figures of 1963, which, once more, exposed "the frightening docility of television viewers towards the commands of a host in a documentary called 'The Game of Death'".[24] In addition, since socially networked teletechnologies came into full flower during the 2000s, such obedience has been one of the main justifications for their existence. All too visibly, socially networked teletechnologies are truly "postmodern" because they are actually nothing more than they appear to be, for they keep themselves completely on the surface of our TV, computer, and mobile phone screens. Furthermore, they can be said to do so, not on principle but rather through the absence of principle. Without doubt, there is nothing in socially networked teletechnologies to stop the rise of the doctrine of compulsory appearance, or, to be more precise, to reveal forcibly all those who seek to remain among the disappeared, and anyway, the disappeared, almost by definition, do not have any use for socially networked teletechnologies. Regardless, what type of integration can Stiegler or anyone else expect to set up between the supposed taking of "action" to "overcome the very great difficulties of this age" and the contemporary administration of fear, with socially networked teletechnological "citizenship," its dis-associations, and the teachings of a doctrine such as democracy?[25] It is the same confusion repeatedly, and it is acceptable to inquire to what degree "critics" like Stiegler, who, conceivably involuntarily, carries out his "critique" with such persistence can have any knowledge of the doctrine of democracy he wants to impart or of the socially networked teletechnologies he wants to analyze. There can actually be no accord between a hypercritique of socially networked teletechnologies and the hypermodern spirit of speed, any allowance made to the last being unavoidably at the cost of the former. This is because the hypermodern spirit of speed consists in the direct cancellation of all that comprises a hypercritique of socially networked teletechnologies.

The truth is that the hypermodern spirit of speed indicates in everyone touched by it a genuine detestation of disappearance, and of whatever appears to come relatively close to disappearance, in any and every field, inclusive of socially networked teletechnologies. And this point presents an occasion for a more meticulous clarification of my argument. Strictly speaking, it cannot even be contended that Stiegler's "critical" tendency to propagate socially networked teletechnologies is hazardous, at any rate so long as it is simply an issue of their hypothetical aspects. For such a "critical" tendency would be just ineffective, even if Stiegler thinks it is possible. Yet in reality facts of a particular kind by their very character withstand more or less all propagation, and this, I maintain, includes socially networked teletechnologies. However openly socially networked teletechnologies are specified, only those who are hypercritical of them will appreciate them, as for many others they will be as the domestic utilities of water, gas, and electricity; in short, as if they hid in plain sight (that is, they are "seen" and then instantly forgotten or blend in with the utilities at home, school, work, etc.). This has nothing to do with a "Virilian" "revelation" concerning the socially networked acceleration of reality driven by teletechnologies or the means suitable to it, for in the province of socially networked teletechnologies there is certainly nothing that can have any real worth otherwise than from within a "normal" socially networked teletechnological organization such as Facebook.[26] From a hypothetical standpoint, disappearance can only be warranted by considerations of simple chance, and so by merely dependent causes, which does not mean that such causes need be insignificant.

Ultimately, the real disappearance, the only disappearance that can never be subject to the rise of the doctrine of socially networked teletechnological compulsory appearance at all, exists exclusively in the ineffable and non-teletechnological communication systems among humans and other animals where "communication is almost always about relationships within the pack rather than things in the world".[27] The real disappearance is just as inexpressible by means of socially networked teletechnologies (body language springs to mind), with each fact of a non-teletechnological order inevitably participating in the indescribable connotations and contestations, delicacy, risks, and susceptibilities of the Other in human and animal communication, of "the things that could be the death of our meaning and of our selves".[28] Alphonso Lingis puts the case better than most in "Matagalpa," his essay on Nicaragua, the Managua earthquake of 1972, and, sure enough, this being Lingis, fresh-water sharks, bees, wolf packs, and human gestures:

Human hands that take hold and draw nothing to themselves, taking form and deforming themselves, forming nothing, speaking, solicit and engage one. Addressing another with his words, confiding his presence to a breath that hardly stirs the air, the other comes disarmed and disarming. The naked eyes that look at you appeal to you and contest you. The skin inscribed with its own wrinkles exposes the fragility of youth and age, the organic dead ends of birthmarks, the languor of eyes that close. One's eyes touch it lightly, with a touch that is affected, moved, afflicted by it.[29]

And it is in these details concerning human hands and language, human petitioning, and human engagement that the profound meaning and importance of the dialectical logic of human appearance, address, expressions, bodily presence and disappearance actually remains. For no variety of socially networked teletechnological appearance or disappearance can ever have any worth apart from as a socially networked representation or teletechnological sign of the real logic of appearance and disappearance. Of course, such appearances and disappearances may increasingly also be highly profitable not so much as "naked eyes" that look at us and tempt us but which, rather, discipline and confront us every day in the form of the political economy of the postmodern "attention economy".[30] But it must be appreciated that "skin inscribed with its own wrinkles," the frailty of adolescence, and growing old are things of which the import and the scope are utterly lost to the hypermodern mentality, and blankness at the natural dead ends of birth marks and the torpor of eyes that close down quite abnormally produces mistrust and antagonism. Moreover, people in the advanced countries especially these days increasingly appear to suffer from haphephobia, an automatic fear of touching or of being touched. Haphephobia is, for example, an important trait of Christian Grey, the chief character in the best-selling (over 65 million copies sold worldwide) sado-masochistic book series Fifty Shades of Grey by British author E.L. James.[31] And, of course, fear produces hatred of affect only too readily, even when a mere straight refusal of the uncomprehended reality of being touched, stirred, or troubled, is taken up as Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's "line of flight," as a means of disappearance into the void from such fears.[32] To be sure, some such rejections of genuine human hands and so on are more in the vein of authentic shrieks of fury, for instance, those of the UK Government-styled "digital Champion," Martha Lane Fox, regarding everything linked with socially networked teletechnologies.

Reflect, for example, on Lane Fox's UK Government backed Manifesto for a Networked Nation, who's Foreword begins with the following italicized quotation (and you really could not make this up): "I would be dead without the Internet."[33] A "rallying cry" for "us all to create a truly networked nation," the Manifesto seeks to "get millions more people online," and especially the "10 million people in the UK who have never been online," or, in a nutshell, and in the terminology that I have adopted in this article, the 10 million people in the UK who choose to remain among the disappeared.[34]

Accordingly, the hypermodern attitude is constituted in such a way that it cannot endure any people who have never been online or even any who decide to stay among the disappeared. Because it does not know or understand the reasoning of such people, they come into view only as people who are "missing out" on "big consumer savings" set up for somebody else's profits in the attention economy.[35] Neither can the hypermodern mentality suffer any type of disappearance from zones ostensibly beyond the realm of socially networked teletechnologies, for example, disappearance from educational establishments. Charlie Taylor, the UK Government's "Expert Advisor on Behavior" (sic.), for instance, was asked in 2012 by Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, to conduct a review of UK school attendance.[36] Publishing his report on 16 April 2012, Taylor referred to a speech Gove made in 2011, which focused on the "missing million" children who disappear from school for more than three weeks a year, an "educational underclass" of children, apparently, who are beyond the normal education world and who have not spent enough time in school to attain educational success. Calling for a "crackdown," particularly on primary school absence, to "make sure" disappearance is "not a problem" later in life, Taylor concluded that "much work needs to be done" to reduce the numbers of pupils who choose to remain among the disappeared.[37] Anybody who attempted to explain that all these adults and children who are purportedly "missing out" or simply "missing" actually have their basis in the real nature of human beings would be squandering their time, for that is just what the doctrine of compulsory appearance so stubbornly renounces. Not only does the hypermodern mentality crow about the conquest of all disappearance by its telecratic notion of "democracy," "citizenship," and "association," and its philosophy of socially networked teletechnological instruction -- wholly hyperrationalized and hyperinformationalized as they are, and brought within the touch and sight of all -- but the revulsion of disappearance increasingly goes so far as to expand also into what might be described, following Georges Perec, "infra-ordinary everyday life," or what goes on more or less underneath everyday life.[38]

Virilio offers a good example of such a horror of disappearance through a discussion of the current development of Google Earth and Google Maps, which, not surprisingly, and strictly consistent with the doctrine of compulsory appearance, aspire to visualize the whole of planet Earth. Extending such logics by means of surveillance satellites, Google Street began by using specialized squad cars to reconnoiter our cities, towns, and villages, street-by-street, house-by-house. Disrespecting the private lives of millions of people and meeting opposition in countries such as France, Google still went ahead and introduced Street View using GPS and countless cameras to film, digitize, and "map" the topography of whole countries. But, Virilio inquires, why "don't we take this deadly OVEREXPOSURE of private life that is now spreading as far as the eye can see just a little bit further?":

Imagine that, following on from the fixed cameras set up at major intersections to ensure road traffic safety or at the entrances to buildings to ensure security, couch surfing is already taking us to the next, the ultimate, level of revelation. This is where the Google Home inspector turns up on your doorstep, covered in portable cameras designed to reveal to all and sundry the level of comfort of the bathrooms on offer to low-budget tourists benefitting from the hospitality of the Internet's social networks![39]

However, a world of cameras and "security measures" in which everything has become subject to the regime of the Google Home Inspector calling would have a socially networked teletechnological and cinematic quality of overexposure nothing short of hideous. The idea is still theoretical, because, despite all, we have not quite arrived at that "location" -- yet - and maybe she, he, or "it" never will be completely installed (one can but hope) because, at any rate, for now, the regime of the Google Home Inspector signifies the end of private life. Nonetheless, it is surely beyond debate that a consequence of the apparently never-ending conversion of the intimacy of human beings at home into the "extimacy" of human beings as mere nourishment, possibly and literally as a "live feed" for socially networked teletechnologies, is being sought everywhere.[40] In this connection it might be remarked that many like Stiegler who seem to be the opponents of a world of telecratic screens and pseudo-democracy are actually doing little that does not help further to highlight their monitored special effects, only because they are just as much infiltrated by the hypermodern spirit of speed as are those whom they try to resist. To persuade people to live within the still futuristic regime of the Google Home Inspector, it will not be enough that they should be videoed in their own homes on every occasion and on any and every excuse. They will as well be accommodated not only in glass cells but literally in glass cells with glass walls, glass armchairs, and glass tables, and these will be organized in such a way that, as in Yevgeny Zamyatin's dystopian novel We, people will only be able to take their breakfast collectively yet, crucially, also within the confines of their glass walled room:

The cheerful little crystal bell in my headboard dings 7.00 A.M.: time to get up. To the right and left through the glass walls I see something like my own self, my own room, my own clothes, my own movements, and all repeated a thousand times. It cheers you up. You see yourself as part of an immense, powerful, single thing. And such a precise beauty it is: not a wasted gesture, bend, turn.[41]

People who are able to surrender themselves to such a Pavlovian way of life have in reality descended to Perec's "infra-ordinary" spatio-temporal plane, to the plane, for instance, of tropical fish such as Angelfish or Yellow Rasses in a glass walled fish tank. In addition each socially networked teletechnological machine will be employed for "arranging" their "self," their glass walled aquarium, their garments, and their actions. In other words, they will become infinitely repeatable or no more different amongst themselves than are the "happy" "mass individuals" of those identical varieties of tropical fish, and possibly even indistinguishable, precisely exquisite, without an unnecessary aquatic motion, twist, or curve.

As it is not the aim of this article to speculate any further on the futuristic particulars of the regime of the Google Home Inspector, which would be very simple to devise and too rapidly defeated by events, this topic will now be concluded. It must be enough to have pointed both to the condition at which the rise of the doctrine of compulsory appearance has now reached and, through a reflection on socially networked teletechnologies, to the "critical" tendency to propagate these teletechnologies. Must this condition and propagation continue? Perhaps. But then again perhaps not. For Michael Wolff, for one, has recently claimed in "The Facebook Fallacy" that socially networked teletechnologies like Facebook are "not only on course to go bust, but will take the rest of the ad-supported Web" with them.[42] "At the heart of the Internet business," Wolff writes:

is one of the great business fallacies of our time: that the Web, with all its targeting abilities, can be a more efficient, and hence more profitable, advertising medium than traditional media. Facebook, with its 900 million users, valuation of around $100 billion, and the bulk of its business in traditional display advertising, is now at the heart of the heart of the fallacy.[43]

Facebook's other fallacy, the loathing of the disappearance of the human face from its "book," is fundamentally little more than one of the varieties of the odium for everything that does not appear on it, for example face-to-face relations, in addition to all that belongs to the realm of disappearance or that disconnects itself from socially networked, advertising-supported, teletechnologies like Facebook and from the hypermodern homogeneity of the Internet business or extant mass individualism which it and other companies seek to inflict on everybody. Yet, there is, within the fallacious hypermodern domain of the Web itself, a form of targeted disappearance that is kept virtually confidential. It is not so much that of the difficult matter of productivity or of prosperity, but that of the difficult issue of contemporary socially networked teletechnological media that creates and upholds the current hypermodern mindset epitomized by Facebook, and that comprises its millions of "users" and produces them and its financial over-evaluation in such a way that it can only repudiate the presence and even the probability of any such venture. And this is without question the finest imaginable method for guaranteeing that the secret of advertising-driven fallacies will never be allowed to appear.


[1] John Armitage (ed.). Paul Virilio: From Modernism to Hypermodernism and Beyond (London: Sage, 2000): David Fincher. The Social Network (Los Angeles: Columbia Pictures, 2010).

[2] Emmanuel Levinas, "Exteriority and the Face," in his Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, trans. Alphonso Lingis. (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1969), pp. 186-219.

[3] See Michael Wolff, "The Facebook Fallacy," Technology Review (2012): Tuesday, May 22: 1-5: http://www.technologyreview.com/web/40437/

[4] Paul Virilio. The Great Accelerator, trans. Julie Rose (Cambridge: Polity, 2012), pp. 37; 44; and 45.

[5] Bernard Stiegler, "Telecracy Against Democracy," trans. Chris Turner, Cultural Politics 6 (2), (2010): 171-80.

[6] Bernard Stiegler. Technics and Time 1: The Fault of Epimetheus, trans. Richard Beardsworth and George Collins (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998): Ian James, "Bernard Stiegler: The Time of Technics," in his The New French Philosophy. (Cambridge: Polity, 2012): pp. 61-82.

[7] Bernard Stiegler. Technics and Time 2: Disorientation, trans. S. Barker (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009): Bernard Stiegler. Technics and Time 3: Cinematic Time and the Question of Malaise, trans. S. Barker (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011).

[8] Bernard Stiegler, "Telecracy Against Democracy," trans. Chris Turner, Cultural Politics 6 (2), (2010): 171-80.

[9] Ian James, "Bernard Stiegler: The Time of Technics," in The New French Philosophy. (Cambridge: Polity, 2012): pp. 62.

[10] Bernard Stiegler. Technics and Time 2: Disorientation, trans. S. Barker (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009): pp. 7.

[11] Bernard Stiegler, "Telecracy Against Democracy," trans. Chris Turner, Cultural Politics 6 (2), (2010): 176.

[12] Ibid, 177.

[13] Paul Virilio. The Great Accelerator, trans. Julie Rose (Cambridge: Polity, 2012), pp. 1.

[14] Bernard Stiegler, "Telecracy Against Democracy," trans. Chris Turner, Cultural Politics 6 (2), (2010): 177: Michel Foucault. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977, trans. Colin Gordon, Leo Marshall, John Mepham, and Kate Soper (Brighton: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1980).

[15] Bernard Stiegler. Technics and Time 3: Cinematic Time and the Question of Malaise, trans. S. Barker (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011), pp.198-199.

[16] Thomas Pynchon. Gravity's Rainbow (London: Penguin, 1973).

[17] Bernard Stiegler, "Telecracy Against Democracy," 177.

[18] Martin N. Bailey and Douglas J. Elliot. The US Financial and Economic Crisis: Where Does It Stand and Where Do We Go From Here? Washington D.C.: Brookings Institute, 2009).

[19] Paul Virilio. The Aesthetics of Disappearance, trans. Philip Beitchman (New York: Semiotext(e), 2009).

[20] Ibid, 96.

[21] Ibid, 95.

[22] Ibid

[23] Paul Virilio. The Administration of Fear, trans. Ames Hodges (New York: Semiotext(e), 2012).

[24] Bernard Stiegler, "Telecracy Against Democracy," trans. Chris Turner, Cultural Politics 6 (2), (2010): 177; Stanley Milgram. Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View (London: Pinter and Martin, 2010); Paul Virilio. The Administration of Fear, trans. Ames Hodges (New York: Semiotext(e), 2012), pp. 93.

[25] Bernard Stiegler, "Telecracy Against Democracy," trans. Chris Turner, Cultural Politics 6 (2), (2010): 177.

[26] Paul Virilio. The Administration of Fear, 71.

[27] David Farrell Krell, "Far from the Pallid Float," in Alexander E. Hooke and Wolfgang W. Fuchs (eds.) Encounters with Alphonso Lingis (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2003), pp. 7.

[28] David Farrell Krell, "Far from the Pallid Float," in Alexander E. Hooke and Wolfgang W. Fuchs (eds.) Encounters with Alphonso Lingis (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2003), pp. 7.

[29] Alphonso Lingis, "Matagalpa," in his Abuses (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), pp. 81.

[30] Jonathan Beller. The Cinematic Mode of Production: Attention Economy and the Society of the Spectacle (Lebanon, NH: Dartmouth College Press, 2006).

[31] E.L. James, Fifty Shades of Grey (London: Arrow, 2012).

[32] Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, "Rhizome," in their A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (London: Athlone, 1988), pp. 3-4; 9-10.

[33] H. M. UK Government, Manifesto for a Networked Nation (London: H.M. Government, 2010): http://raceonline2012.org/manifesto

[34] Ibid

[35] Ibid

[36] H. M. UK Government, "Taylor Review on improving school attendance." (London: H.M. Government, 2012): http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/pupilsupport/behaviour/a00208164/taylor-review: H. M. UK Government, "Government adviser calls for crackdown on primary school absence." (London: H.M. Government, 2012): http://www.education.gov.uk/inthenews/inthenews/a00208179/government-adviser-calls-for-crackdown-on-primary-school-absence

[37] Ibid

[38] Georges Perec, "Approaches to What?," in his Species of Spaces and Other Pieces, trans. John Sturrock (London: Penguin, 1997), pp. 210.

[39] Paul Virilio. The Great Accelerator, trans. Julie Rose (Cambridge: Polity, 2012), pp. 52.

[40] Ibid

[41] Yevgeny Zamyatin. We, trans. Clarence Brown (London: Penguin, 1993 [1921]), pp. 33-34.

[42] Michael Wolff, "The Facebook Fallacy," Technology Review (2012): Tuesday, May 22: 1: http://www.technologyreview.com/web/40437/

[43] Ibid

John Armitage is Professor of Media Arts at Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton, UK. He is author of Virilio and the Media (2012, Polity), co-editor, with Ryan Bishop, of Virilio and Visual Culture (2013, Edinburgh University Press), and editor of The Virilio Dictionary (forthcoming in 2013, Edinburgh University Press).