From the “Thinking Man” of the 20th century to “The Watching Man” of the 21st century


Ali Alışır – “Virtual Places”-2011
Today, modern society lives on immoderateness and artificiality (Liberalized men, liberalized money and liberated rights). On the other hand, individuals are exposed to more information and images than they can grasp through constant broadcast and publication through television and internet network. As individuals are swamped into the world of images through the closeness and congestion of images, they get disconnected with the objective world. Each news, each catastrophe and each image exposed create a sense of deeper need for the tragic events to be seen. The age of television and internet reflects the image of mankind frozen by moral thoughts and actions.
New media and advancing technology have realized impressions and experiences that could never be anticipated before. Where is freedom in the midst of all this mess? As those sharp lines between reality and fiction, spirituality and material world disappear, our lives turn into an illusion. “Freedom” is somewhere where there is no decision or choice. It has become a part of this huge illusion.
The incident that took place in Germany in 2009 is an example of how the real and the virtual have converged. Tim Kretschmer who was only 17 went into his school with a Bretta gun of 9 mm and shot sixteen people to death. The hing he told his friend the previous night is interesting: “Do not inform the police, I just want to play.” Kretschmer was playing the world-wide famous game called Counter Strike. Feelings of anger, violence and aggression experienced during this incident only made a transition from the virtual world to the real world.   
Considering this incident, it can be said that the social hysteria experienced today is not different from this catastrophe. The important wars that took place in the 21st century such as the Gulf War, the Bomb Attacks against Afghanistan and Iraq and the constant display of the images of people killed in these countries have forced us into a unresponsive position just as if we were in a video game (The audience in front of the television and the soldiers that are made to hit the target by simulators are both insulated against the feeling of pain from the same reality). This complicity with the image has perhaps for the first time in history made moral reaction impossible (Perhaps, virtual reality has set a barrier against the fear of death).
This feeling of infinite freedom (or paralyzation) in the world of virtual reality and images has made us unresponsively watch millions of people getting killed just like Tim Krechmer who killed sixteen innocent people supposing that he was playing a game. The image of people who watch large massacres and wars without any reaction will be one of the most important scenes of the 21st century anthropology (It can be said that “the thinking man” of the 20th century has already been replaced by “the watching man”).
In 345 B.C., Plato defined game as a way of worshipping in his “Laws”. Today, games are part of technology. Technology is sort of an escape from death. In this respect, we can set Oliver Strum’s design called “duamatic” as an example. The The duamatic cabin looks like an automatic booth of passport photograph. When you go into it, you hear a voice that welcomes you: “Good day. Welcome to the praying automate. Now, you can choose one of the prayings that you like. You can also select your religion and sect touching on the screen. When you decide on your praying, touch with your finger and the praying will start.” This automate that operates with money does what the Catholic Church did in the past. In return for a certain amount of donation, the church guaranteed that all the sins of the Catholics would be forgiven and they would go to heaven.
This close relation between death and technology can be associated with the basic tendency of religions to fold down the solid reality of living. Today’s virtual human beings associate coping with worry, boredom and death with taking shelter in technology. Above and beyond this, they have created a religion through which they can realize their fantasy of absolute dominance.
Considering the fact that the new virtual technologies have appeared as an alternative to realities, their current position cannot be underestimated. Even now, the cyber and virtual space have turned into places of transcendence and emancipation from truth and reality.  This feeling of transcendence and marginalization (the feeling of being everywhere every time and the constant desire to show off) has already been a diseased and inseparable part of modern world and civilization.
The erasure of ancient civilizations from the stage of history has taken place not because they were weak but because they tried to be “the ultimate perfect.” Societies that are doomed to be perfect do not think that progress has a specific target. The chain of logic has been broken and the limits of everything have been transgressed. Thoughts that fostered ideologies at one time have now become ordinary at their extreme points and started to devastate themselves.
Today, our problem is that we are not part of a conscious progress but of a social (theological, ideological and political) inflation. Today, social inflation is a reflection of people that have been captivated by unrealized events.
On the other hand, considering that we have handed over the responsibility of deciding, noticing and believing to machines, the only thing we can do is to believe in the existence of these concepts in the midst of the constant production of the aesthetic, image and freedom…
Ali ALIŞIR – 2012
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