Everyday HybridityDr Paul O'Connor
"The impact of technological conquests does not make the everyday any more alive; it nourishes ideology."
Rhythmanalysis - Henri Lefebvre - pg 54
This is a brief quote appears in a section of Rhythmanalysis in which Lefebvre is dealing with capitalism. He argues that ‘technologies kill immediacy’, which is now quite a difficult notion to support. The book was first published in 1992 and in that short time technology has totally transformed everyday life, his great and enduring passion. Indeed the immediacy of technological communication across the globe makes the assertion sound most dated. Yet what follows after it is the quote I include above.
This has a more enduring truth. The staunchest advocate of technologies and virtual reality would be troubled to challenge this. I for one agree, technology does not make the everyday more alive. The immediacy of communication, of our ease in texting or skyping distant people is burdened the constant need to conform to the mundane rhythms of typing in passwords, swiping screens, and pressing buttons. CGI in movies, pioneered on a big scale memorably byJurassic Park, now only makes films seem more false. Whilst it may be immediate the mediated technology is constantly creating barriers. Perhaps he would argue creating arrhythmia with our more (dare I say natural) rhythms, the immediacy of our ways of working together.
For Lefebvre all technology nourishes ideology and that ideology in this case it that of the market. Growing up at a time where there was no ‘google’ means that I have seen how the optimism of the web very quickly turned into the simple pursuit of how to make money out of the web. What we have turned online communication and network technology into is only that which personifies our era, our ideology.
How can technology make us feel more alive? Future schemes like a realistic google nose? Engaging deeper sensory experience in technology is indeed an aspect of the huge potential of technology to not just keep us feeling alive, but to even enhance such experiences. To do justice to Lefebvre’s short discussion, the fault is not in the technology, but the way in which it is co-opted. Guarded, commoditised, and patented. technology is simply just another tool, in Lefebvre’s marxist critique there is perhaps a fondness for a bygone era, but an ignorance too about how technology has in different forms been part of human history.
Rhythmanalysis is brief but it contains much of interest for social theory. Chapter 3 is particularly useful and accessible to students of urbanism and social geography. It is also very much a companion piece to de Certeau’s walking in the city, with Lefebvre looking out of a Parisian window. I think all
'great' cities should have this sort of meandering evocative writing produced about them.
Personally I think that the richest elements of the text (and de Certeau’s the practice of everyday life too) exist in the less well-known passages. There is much here waiting to be dusted off and set in place to new trajectories of thought.
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