curse of the videophone

January 26, 2007 § 1 Comment

There’s neat little video piece on Slate today on how the videophone is going to take us to see all about “real” life.
But that’s highly misguided. About Saddam’s hanging, the comment is that the videophone can come

to upend neat little narratives

Beware of realism and realistic devices. Just like there’s nothing inherently realistic about cinema, there’s nothing inherently realistic about the videophone. It doesn’t show you reality, it still shows you narrative. Most of the examples given in that video are examples of video-narratives: people staging stunts, or a violent police arrest shot from behind a counter so you can guess more than you can see — which is not saying, of course, that the slaps, the happy kissing, the tazing, the abuse at Saddam’s hanging, or Kennedy’s assassination did not happen (denying their reality will get you nowhere). But they may not have meant what the images are telling us they mean. The images, whether they’re cinema or now videophone images, are either mum about their own interpretation (Kennedy in Dallas), or they offer an interpretation that’s highly debatable (narratives). With or without videophone-images, truth is still elusive (probably because truth is always constructed as part of a narrative linking causes and consequences together).

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