Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Wednesday 2pm Section

I am interested in the implications of Friedberg's discussion of the connection between the screen and subjectivity. Particularly, her thesis seems to be that cinema, failing to meet its capability for a radical challenge to univisual convention outside of a few noteworthy exceptions, reinforces a singular subjectivity while "computer multitasking makes it possible to combine work with leisure…and hence serves to equate productivity with a fractured subjectivity" (233). Though she goes on to make her main point about multitasking aside format the specificity of screened interfaces and presentations, I am struck by how she doesn't mention that in her version of multitasking, there is never any actual 'brain-splitting' involved; her multitasking, like the computer itself, is managed serially, and thus seems to be in contrast to the possibilities of dual apperception allowed by the radical potential of the screen. Multitasking here seems to be no more than rapid switching from tasks.

My complaint follows Joan Copjec's critique of film studies appropriation of Lacanian theorization of the mirror phase to the screen (cf. The Orthopsychic Subject in Read My Desire). That is, of the screen as constitutive of subjectivity via the gaze of the spectator, which seems to be an unarticulated assumption for Friedberg. However, as Copjec remarks, film theorists, and, we can say, Friedberg in following them, miss Lacan's later reformulation of the mirror stage with its emphasis on the object a. In this, Copjec notes that conflating optical operations with psychic operations is an easy, but inappropriate move. We must utilize semiotics instead, and view the problem not as one of an optical relation but as one of signification, which manifests itself nicely in the visual media with which we are concerned here. It allows us to imagine a purely visual relationship outside of representation, a relation we take to be the operations of our own subjectivity, unified or otherwise.

The error here is in assuming that the outside is in any way a kind of presence, as Friedberg goes on to say. We might want to consider what, following Lacan, we could say about the computer screen here as pointing out in multiple detail the fundamental absence that is constitutive of both our subjectivity and the symbolic order. What happens when we realize that our computer multitasking does not see us?

No comments: