“All that once was directly lived has become representation. . . . The real consumer has become a consumer of illusions” (Guy Debord, 1967).
The Situationists, an international revolutionary group of the ’50s critical of capitalist culture, spoke of “The Society of the Spectacle” – which alienated people through a mediated and commoditized social envinroment.
Media and products, in the Situationists’ view, dull the audience and control desire. Half a century later, we have newly created media with greatly expanded scope –which reinforce the Situationists’ principles. In the new digital millennium it seems that desires are not controlled, yet are accepted as long as there is a market product associated with it, channeled through and stimulated by the media.
Situationists perceived that in capitalism, emotions become transmuted into market products – and we have to pay up to redeem our emotions. The market, as they saw it, first takes away our real needs for connection and authenticity, then offers a pale reflection of the real – making us always thirsty for a real which will never come.
The need for connection today is expressed through social networks which appear free and democratic. Yes, many Internet services are free of charge, but if we calculate hardware, software, the Internet connection – plus our time and attention – the cost must be reconsidered.
Moreover, the Situationists observed that people in our society are programmed to live a life that is merely a representation of a real life. Through technology needs have been created in order to sell solutions. And the hi-tech market doesn’t even require much in the way of commodities any more, since it is represented digitally – making Debord’s words about becoming consumers of illusions blatant.
“Once we have surrendered our senses and nervous systems to the private manipulation of those who would try to benefit from taking a lease on our eyes and ears and nerves, we don’t really have any rights left” (McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964).