Imaginary Media and Idealized Futures

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014 by willm2

In chapter three, ‘Imaginary Media: Mapping Weird Objects’, Parikka outlines the various approaches to imaginary media, touching on Lacan and Foucault specifically. I was intrigued by the Lacanian lens which posited that imaginary media could be used to envision a more cohesive culture, an idealized technological society. While Parikka favors a Foucauldian reading of imaginary media, I think the Lacanian lens has interesting applications not mentioned by Parikka. For instance, I think one could focus on technology in speculative fiction, rather than failed inventions or unrealized concepts. So, while a phone that allows communication with the dead certainly points to an idealized world where not even death can prevent the flow of information and human connection, I think analyzing future prognostication in literature is a more interesting way to study myths of social cohesion, as well as the discourses of power at work.

In particular, Hugo Gernsback’s science-fiction is a hyper-realization of the technologically informed discourses present in his own time. The limitless possibility of movement, communication – as well as a sanitized, racially homogenous social make-up – are all critiqued by William Gibson in his short story, ‘The Gernsback Continuum’, an explicit treatment of imaginary media. Idealized media as a tool for strengthening existing discourse can also be seen in such ‘present-futures’ as The Jetsons, and even the more egalitarian Star Trek: The Next Generation. As we continually pass the dates at which such idealized futures were supposed to take-place, we can see the transformation or erosion of the social models these futures sought to empower.

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One comment on “Imaginary Media and Idealized Futures

  1. contromal says:

    I love your suggestion that a more appropriate way of conducting cultural analysis is to study fictional technologies. Perhaps the desire reveals more than the reality, in this case. Would you think to ground this by tying Speculative Technology X with its contemporary cultural context?

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