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Title: Governing Publics: the Politics of Optical Media in 18th-Century England and America
Authors: Bantjes
Keywords: surveillance
optical machines
virtual public space
Issue Date: 17-Oct-2017
Abstract: Eighteenth-century visual media figure in hybrid forms of governance-at-a-distance. Local sites commanded by buildings are conflated with viewing-boxes that claim trans-local effects – theatres, courtly and public gardens, panopticons, panoramas, public galleries and peepshows are conceived as machines whose principles are both optical (extending the reach of surveillance) and dramaturgical (productive of deceptions with real social effects). They create spaces both real and virtual within which to enact and produce “publics.” The problems that these new visions of governability respond to are the dislocations and mobilities of early capitalism that produce the bourgeois parvenu and the uprooted “dangerous classes.” The optical deceptions that new media deploy do not, however, have uniform power effects. The very mobility of optical machines and mechanically-reproduced images allows them to be reframed and repurposed – their meanings and effect subject to contending class projects. In addition to the promise of making working-class crowds and bourgeois publics governable, optical media, through the figures of the public gallery and peepshow, offer a kind of reverse panopticon that emboldens democratic aspirations towards a public that governs.
Description: Biography: Rod Bantjes is a Professor of Sociology at St. Francis Xavier University, Nova Scotia. His sociological work has addressed spatial themes as well as technologically mediated perception /representation in modern environmental discourse. His current project addresses eighteenth and nineteenth-century 3D technologies in the context of changing physical and social conceptions of space and perception. This recent work has been published in the Journal of the History of Ideas, Art History and the History of Photography.
Appears in Collections:1. Re:Trace Conference - Keynotes, Papers & Posters

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