This week’s reading (Jameson)

Here are some points to consider when thinking about the Jameson reading that was assigned for this week. It’s a dense reading so we will spend some time working through it in recitation today. Have a look at the passages and points below and do some thinking about what Jameson means and how we can understand this in the context of the issues our course addresses. Think of his points in the context of conspiracy films (his object of analysis) but also as ideas we can extend to other contexts. (We will discuss all the required readings, but the others are a bit more accessible than this one.)

Fredric Jameson, The Geopolitical Aesthetic: Cinema and Space in the World System

“[T]echnology is little more than the outer emblem or symptom by which a systemic variety of concrete situations expresses itself in a specific variety of forms and form-problems” (p. 1).

Jameson notes that we have a need and desire to map what he calls “the new world system.” Yet, he points out, we do not have the capacity or vocabulary to create maps that can represent the complexity of this system. Think about the conundrum he poses—How might we map the unmappable, represent the unrepresentable? How can we grasp the ungraspable, the not-yet, what hovers on the virtual horizon (“as we anticipate the landscapes and forces that confront us” p. 3)? Perhaps also consider the implications of mapping as a process and a practice.

Part of the problem with the unmappability/unrepresentability of the world system, according to Jameson, is that “archaic categories will not work for the new world system” (p. 3).  These ‘zombie categories’ pose a challenge when we attempt “to think a system so vast that it cannot be encompassed by the natural and historically developed categories of perception with which human beings normally orient themselves” (p. 2).

It is important that we resolve this problem if we agree with Jameson’s claim that “all thinking today is also, whatever else it is, and attempt to think the world system as such” (p. 4).

“[I]nformation technology will become virtually the representational solution as well as the representational problem of this world system’s cognitive mapping, whose allegories can now always be expected to include a communicational third term” (p. 10).

“If everything means something else, then so does technology” (p. 11).

Jameson claims that all elements of our object world have become instruments of communication—“What has happened to our object-world is neither youth nor age, but their wholesale transformation into instruments of communication” (p. 11). He claims that as we suffer alienation from nature, the animate/inanimate divide collapses—“where brushing against an inanimate object suddenly feels like being touched by someone’s hand” (p. 11-12). In this paradigm, objects have the intent to communicate.

“The structural alternative, then, to a situation in which technological objects are endowed with symbolic power by their narrative contexts, can be expected to lie in objects whose very function itself generates the narrative and produces the conspiracy in their own right, and in such a way that attention is diverted from their visual inadequacy” (p. 19).

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