Culture & Media / Technology

Beyond Space and Time: Breaking Boundaries with Digital Technology

One day

the day will come

when the day won’t come.

Writer Paul Virilio opens his book Open Sky with this rather bleak statement.  While Virilio’s writing can be dense and his line of thought difficult to follow at times, his overarching argument can be discerned. Open Sky basically details the social destruction that is being caused by the invention and use of digital technologies.  One of Virilio’s main points is his claim that these digital technologies are breaking the limits of space and time that have traditionally constricted the world and humanity.  By disturbing or breaking these laws, technology is permanently changing the way humans live their lives and function in the world, and Virilio is convinced this change will be detrimental.

This is what teletechnologies of real time are doing: they are killing ‘present’ time by isolating it from its here and now. . . . [it] no longer has anything to do with our ‘concrete presence’ in the world, but is the elsewhere of a ‘discreet telepresence’ (10-11).

What I gather is that by breaking these boundaries of space and time, digital technology is succeeding in breaking down the physicality of humans as well.  We are no longer bound to distance and time duration; we can communicate instantaneously with a loved one thousands of miles away.  The technologies of telecommunications or the Internet have eradicated the limitations that our physical bodies place on us.  Rather than having to travel the actual miles of distance and spending hours of time to do so, we can communicate in a matter of seconds, eliminating the physical distance and our physical limitations.

Gradually reduced to nothing by the various tools of transport and instantaneous communication, the geophysical environment is undergoing an alarming diminishing of its ‘depth of field’ and this is degrading man’s relationship with his environment.  The optical density of the landscape is rapidly evaporating (22).

Though Virilio and others may see this phenomenon progressing in the near future to the point that physical limitations are eliminated to the point that the dense physicality of the world and our own bodies is lost, this opening up of boundaries holds many profitable implications as well.

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