Kind of a Book Report – The Information Bomb (Virilio, his colleagues and T.M.I.)

In Culture, Technology on March 31, 2013 at 11:03 pm

I read some good books last fall and I wrote about two pages on each of them. They were grad school assignments but they have a more blogger vibe about them then a full academically sound paper which wasn’t the purpose of the assignments. Since they relate to some of my last few posts I think it’s a good idea that I throw them on Danger Brain. Maybe it’ll help to shed light on where these ideas are coming from and why. There are a few of them, so  just like I did for the well liked Blogaboutech Mixtape series (which is long overdue for a new entry. I know.) I’m giving this series a name. After all, it’s… Kind of a Book Report. 

It is important to note that despite Paul Virilio’s hyperbole in his discussion of humanity’s relationship with technology he does not endorse the trends that he describes. Virilio is simply expressing what he has observed. I am encouraged by the idea that Virilio vehemently decries such dystopian thinking, but make no mistake; his book is about this type of thinking.

My issue with Virilio and his pessimistic image of the future is the same issue I have with many of his academic kinfolk. They dominate the discussion of what new technology can do, and their ideas feed on each other. You can connect McLuhan, Mattelart, Virilio, Anderson, et al, just as easy as component cables from a media box to a television. Together they create a sort-of logic (bomb?) virus that spreads to other people who replicate these ideas or pull out pieces to apply to their own dystopian pontifications. Together they comprise their own network, a network of dangerous ideas that go unchallenged by other ideas that come from different logic models.

What people like Virilio predict seems inevitable to someone who has no other way of seeing the world. This is why I am suspicious of such predictions. I find it interesting that on average people feel uncomfortable when engaged in a discussion of such ideas. People who don’t use the same methods to make decisions or to form opinions don’t come to the conclusions of Virilio and his contemporaries. People who don’t use the same academic disciplines as a lens for understanding the world don’t arrive at the same place.

The dominant idea becomes the one spoken from the person who has somehow dominated the ideas of another. Virilio, perhaps unintentionally justifies, this in his discussion of speed and power. He believes – or, he is reporting — that the fastest thing becomes the more powerful thing. After reading this, I was reminded of the railroad and how progressive it was as a technological innovation over the horse and carriage. However, this innovation came at the expense of near genocide of Native American people.

The idea that faster is better is a dangerous idea, one that runs counter to the way we are learning that the world works. Environmental scientists, for example, are learning that the world works in concert. Everything has a role.

Whether he believes that this should be or not is unimportant. He is known as a man who came up with an idea that has spread. He has been categorized as a person that sits at the table of thinkers like Baudrillard, Deleuze, and Marx. These men share more similarities than differences. If their ideas are so impenetrable they deserve to be challenged by other more exotic ideas. When the logical progression of such ideas are leading us to a dark and gloomy future shouldn’t we question its relevancy? If this way of thinking was born from the creation of an old technology then is it losing its relevancy? Are these the cries of a dying breed?

Regretfully, I have more questions than answers. Information Bomb is a short book but its content is quite vast. I look forward to giving it another read and wish that I had more time to play with the boundaries of such ideas.


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