Breene, Thomas E
MetadataShow full item record
The aim of this study is to analyze contemporary visual phenomena through the lens of postmodern theory and culture. Starting from the premise that "optics" better characterizes our current visual regime than the term "image," this study seeks to emphasize the importance of optoelectronic technologies in establishing the material basis for postmodern visual culture. As distinguished from its "products" (images), which offer themselves more readily to semantic or semiotic analysis, optoelectronic technologies as diverse as spy satellites and video games can be approached from a more or less coherent analytical perspective despite dramatic differences in the nature of their "output." In other words, and as this study will attempt to demonstrate, disparate visual phenomena can be conceptualized as "indexes" in the linguistic sense--that is, as superstructural "pointers" toward a material base of optoelectronic technology driven by a surprisingly small set of ideals. Foremost among these ideals, as this study will also attempt to demonstrate, is the ideal of optimal performance we see expressed in concepts such as resolution, total visibility, or virtuality. That this ideal finds its realization in a wide range of technological devices requires little reflection, as any encounter with advertisements for even the most mundane piece of consumer technology will quickly illustrate. But less obvious is a second aspect of the ideal: namely, that the optimal performance we demand from our "vision machines" has corollary implications for society and the individual. These implications, this study will argue, are additive and subtractive insofar as they involve (1) the addition of technologically contrived or inspired "perspectives" to our visual imaginary, which at the same time assumes a delegitimizing or subtraction of "obsolete" views; and (2) the increasing addition of technological "prostheses" into our everyday functioning, which assumes an inversely proportional consequence in the form of a gradual diminishing or subtraction of our own physical powers. The human subject, in other words, as the traditional seat and engine of these powers, is the undeclared "tragic hero" of this study, both in its role as the "object" of optoelectronic technologies, and in its rapidly deteriorating capacity as the "site" of individual identity.