Some sousveillance

Most of you have probably heard of this guy. For those who haven’t, I hope that you get a kick out of it. A telling of Hasan Elahi’s story can be found here.

If you want to know where he is, see

Mark Kimmich


3 responses to “Some sousveillance

  1. Professor O’Gorman said we should just post anywhere on the front page–well, here’s anywhere, and here’s my early thoughts on the readings.
    A quick bit of preamble–at this point, I’ve read the Kant and Price material, and just the first chapter of Longinus, so it’s possible I may be posting again later to comment on my own idiocy. But let’s get the ball rolling.
    3. “sublimity is a certain distinction and excellence in expression, and that it is from no other source than this that the greatest poets and writers have derived their eminence and gained an immortality of renown.” Would this statement mean that the sublime (or at least, sublimity) is a high form of creativity? Such a definition also seems to put sublimity in the hands of the creator, and the process, rather than the final product.
    4. “we see skill in invention, and due order and arrangement of matter, emerging as the hard-won result not of one thing nor of two, but of the whole texture of the composition, whereas Sublimity flashing forth at the right moment scatters everything before it like a thunderbolt.” This definition, on the other hand, seems to place the determination of the sublime in the hands of the audience. Does it imply a universality to the sublime? Is something sublime only if everyone is blown away by it? Or is it subjective? While it’s somewhat specious to point to a connection across a few thousand years, I’m already seeing similarities to Price’s sublime (which seems to be the same as the picturesque, but with some “grandeur” tacked on to the side) . Both use violent imagery to describe the sublime, which seems to suggest that the sublime requires some level of chaos.

  2. I’m interested in the cognitive-sensory coupling that initiates the sublime experience and the way Kant articulates this. Kant positions the sublime as a “feeling” that can be initiated by an external form provided the viewer possesses an educated imagination. Once this form is viewed and the perception of danger or terror is internalized something on a supra-sensory level takes place and vaults the observer beyond the senses and technically beyond the self through the power of imagination. Reason is then articulated as that re-forming faculty of the self as well as the faculty which is compromised (or perhaps expanded) during the supra-sensory experience of the sublime.
    And much like Longinus who turns to great literature to articulate or encapsulate the sublime I’m turning to Wallace Stevens. I am doing this for two reasons. The first being that he struggles with notions of the sublime in a way that builds on the tradition of Coleridge and Wordsworth and yet departs from it and the second being that he offers a bridge into an alternate way of approaching the sublime which I will be speaking about in my presentation.
    In the poem “The Auroras of Autumn” Stevens writes that the Auroras:
    Leap “through us, through all our heavens [leap],
    Extinguishing our planets, one by one,
    Leaving, of where we were and looked, of where

    We knew each other and of each other thought,
    A shivering residue, chilled and foregone…”

    This excerpt is an example of the on-going issues Stevens grapples with as a poet when expressing the sublime through literature. He is also encapsulating the wrecked memory, old identity, and work, left to reason in the re-forming of the “residue” of self in the wake of sublime experience.
    I found Longinus’s work engaging for this very reason. In an attempt to write the sublime does the sublime experience becomes a narrative or reflection on experience as opposed to an active feeling or presencing?According to Longinus there is sublime art and literature. In any case I’ll be talking more about all of this in class (Burke and Price too).

  3. I’m afraid I can’t seem to find how to make an actual post to the blog — I can post a comment (obviously), but I was under the impression that we were to post entries as well. This shall have to do in the meantime.

    I was reading Burke’s The Sublime and the Beautiful, and when I got to Chapter 15, “Of the Effects of Tragedy,” I was strongly brought to mind of, oddly, reality television. The passage that brought it to mind was,

    “Choose a day on which to represent the most sublime and affecting tragedy we have; appoint the most favourite actors; spare no cost upon the scenes and decorations, unite the greatest efforts of poetry, painting, and music; and when you have collected your audience, just at the moment when their minds are erect with expectation, let it be reported that a state criminal of high rank is on the point of being executed in the adjoining square; in a moment the emptiness of the theatre would demonstrate the comparative weakness of the imitative arts, and proclaim the triumph of the real sympathy.”

    I immediately thought, “How true!” This certainly goes a long way to explain the glut of “reality television” shows we have on the air these days. Everything from Extreme Makeover Home Edition to The Biggest Loser to What Not to Wear to American Idol. I don’t think Big Brother is on the air any longer, but shows like it certainly still are.

    This got me to thinking about surveillance as opposed to sousveillance, and which would reality shows be examples of? People knowingly and willingly put themselves on those shows, keep “video journals” in which they ruminate on the great personal epiphanies that eating a live cockroach exposed them to, journals that then get aired to millions, and they willingly live in temporary homes with cameras everywhere but the bathroom (and sometimes even there). Is it surveillance, the audience peeking in on the subjects? Is it sousveillance, the subjects exposing themselves to the audience? Both?

    Then I got also to thinking about Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation, which explores the idea of “hyperreality,” which also fits as a label for reality television. It’s not realistic in the slightest, yet we still call it “reality.” What in the world is realistic about a bunch of snarky people living on a tropical island and competing for who gets to eat pizza that night? This is reality?

    Burke says that people would rather watch reality than an imitation of reality, which seems true, but looking at “reality” television, perhaps Baudrillard has a point when he says we can no longer distinguish between reality and fantasy, if what we watch on tv is uncontestedly labeled “reality.”

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