An elitist model of criticism

click on images for full-size:

Tax free consumption (Turku, Finland)

Dreams come true (German billboard)

Manhattan sunset

Boyer says of current advertisements: "Once one is submerged . . . it becomes increasingly difficult to extract oneself and to gain perspective on or acknowledge the mundane reality of the here and now. 'The virtual' represents a complete world: it saturates one's consciousness, it surrounds one's imagination, it seizes all one's attention." (Boyer 1996, 55)

I dispute this when I discuss double inhabitation in themed places. My points apply to media immersion and advertisements as well. Boyer takes too simple a view of ordinary people's consciousness.

Boyer has an elitist model of intellectual life in her old Greenwich Village. Her worries are about the dissolution of a New York vanguard that claimed a privileged, because oppositional, view of whole. Her theory demands such a privileged view that will reveal the "unseen master codes never confronted by the average spectator," but this intellectual aristocratic desire to see what the usual citizen cannot see is inconsistent with her desire for a more democratic politics.

Surely we do need a new critical spirit, "a new political awareness suitable to an age of electro-optical reproduction--an engaged, embodied position that would utilize our new technology in a liberating and critical manner." (120). But this cannot happen just within an anti-suburban Manhattan coterie. We need rather to push self-awareness into the swirl and make visible to everyone the new kinds of unity and complexity as goals for critical reflection and action.

Boyer tends to essentialize technology: What it does here and now is all it can ever be. She does not want to imagine how the technology could be used otherwise, or how we might adapt it to our wishes. (For a view that discerns both the problems and the possibilities, see Mitchell 2003.)