Monday, September 17, 2012

The Society as Spectacle - Post 1

      The society of spectacle is a society that is mesmerized and takes part in either the production or consumption of images and through these images, can connect a society and/or impact them. As Debord states: “It is a social relation between people by images”. As in more recent times, society as a whole has become exposed to all certain type of media or images. Between movies, phones, television, radio, newspapers and more – society has taken part in the consumption of mass media.
      Although written in the 1960’s, Debord’s Society as the Spectacle reigns true in today’s world. An example of this society of spectacles (one that was mentioned in class) is Times Square in New York City. When entering Times Square one is automatically surrounded by moving billboards with advertisements, videos amplified onto wide screens, moving scroll bars that light up the city. One is immersed in spectacles, but these spectacles are demanded by their viewers and therefore supplied by their producers. Had their been no fascination in these images, people would be free of such spectacles. Yet, as Debord mentioned in his writings – we are a people intrigued by images and therefore are now consumed by the very same images.
      As described by Debord, the spectacle is “not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images” (Chapter 1, Thesis 4). The spectacle isn’t the images themselves, rather the people who watch these images and use them to communicate. People, although strangers to one another, gather around to capture these “spectacles” of images. No matter how different or diverse, people have that pursuit in common. The spectacles then impact the society by creating a false reality that is comprised of the images people chose to watch. This false reality becomes a necessity to society. In Chapter 1 of Society as the Spectacle, we are able to see the theme of separation between what is real and the images we see. Debord notes: "Separation is itself part of the unity of the world, of the global social praxis split up into reality and image. The social practice which the autonomous spectacle confronts is also the real totality which contains the spectacle" (Chapter 1, Thesis 7).
      A modern example of producers having control over society and thus reality through spectacles is: Walt Disney. With shows such as Hannah Montana and Wizards of Waverly Place, little girls around the world watch these shows and aspire to be the main characters. They purchase the DVDs, books, folders, CDs, makeup etc. in hope to be as the character they are watching. They replace their own identity and reality with that of the spectacle. In return, the Disney Corporation makes millions of dollars producing these images and products. The Disney Corporation has a tremendous influence on society through spectacles.

      In Chapter 2 of Society of the Spectacle, the reader is able to denote a theme assigned to commodity by Debord. Debord writes: “Commodity is described as a product, and just as other product, it holds an economic value. At the moment of economic abundance, the concentrated result of social labor becomes visible and subjugates all reality to appearance, which is now its product” (Society as the Spectacle, Thesis 50). The production of spectacles was and still is a very lucrative business and an affective way to build capital. While, as Debord mentions, the quality of these images weakens, the quantity increases. Society is surrounded now more than ever with spectacles that one unconsciously participates in because it has become the norm. People around the globe purchase movies, music, stream clips, podcasts, and are constantly dealing and buying into spectacles that make day-to-day life. This demand of spectacles that people are willing to pay for highlights is the commodity. Money for images.

      As mentioned earlier, the Walt Disney Corporation produces spectacles that are viewed all over the world. Between movies, television channels, radio stations, and their record company (along with many other things) Disney has become a powerful force in media and the lives of people everywhere. They also have a tremendous profit. According to LATimes.Com, Disney has revenue of nearly $9.6 million, and the reason for such an empire of profits? The spectacles that they produce and the societies that choose to watch them.

    The commodity as spectacle is the exchange of money given to the producers of spectacles for the images consumers purchase. It is understood that spectacle means a "social relation mediated by images" (Chapter 1, Thesis 4), in the point of Debord, and that commodity is a product or exchange of products. Debord states: “The world of the commodity is thus shown for what it is, because its movement is identical to the estrangement of men among themselves and in relation to their global product” (Chapter 2, Thesis 37). By being so dependent on spectacles, society buys into more and more images, distancing themselves from reality yet becoming closer with a “global product”. As more images are demanded, more images are produced and as these images are produced - people demand even more, thus becoming a cycle.

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