Thursday, March 20, 2008

Alone-Together, Speech-Silence

“One night, when we’re alone together…”
“Mrs. White, no man in his right mind would be ‘alone together’ with you.”

One of the interesting paradoxes that JenniCam highlights is this idea of “being alone together.” (The lines above are from the movie Clue, by the way.) Through Facebook, for example, we are able to socialize in utter solitude if we want to. Similarly, even when Jenni is alone in her room, she can feel herself surrounded by other presences, peering at her. Burgin identifies this as a mechanism to cope with the transition between childhood (a period of constant surveillance) and adulthood. Jenni lives in a state of "silent cinema" that Burgin compares to pre-lingual infancy.

I don’t agree with Burgin that “the solitude one speaks is already compromised” – just look at the poetry of Emily Dickinson for this counterargument – but in delineating a distinction between word and image, Burgin hits on an interesting aspect of the surveillance question. On the splash page for Demonstrate, the camera swoops around Sproul Plaza, settling on a group of women talking to each other at a table. Though we see them speaking to each other, we cannot hear what they say. The sorts of webcam sites that we have looked at this week also operate in silence. Perhaps the message that Demonstrate hopes to communicate is that, though we have acclimated ourselves to near constant camera surveillance, we still possess some kind of free speech. The camera, after all, cannot hear us.

No comments: