Real Life is on winter break. In the meantime we’ve put together four themed SPECIAL ISSUES for your consideration from essays we published this past year. Below is the final of these packages, on vision. Click the image for a pdf. We’ll be returning in the new year. Thanks for reading!
Seeing is a responsibility. Though image feeds are designed to “get eyeballs” on them, like olives stuck on a pick and served, it’s an all-around better look to “see” what you mean to handle. A person filming a thing, no matter how brutal, can feel as mediated away as a viewer does with a screen by their lucky status of “audience.” But both are bystanders too. While the pictures we show one another sometimes only approximate what we saw before we took them, later they can seem to fill lapses of memory with something true. As the AIs behind image feeds come to “remember” for us, showing what they see in our aggregated lives and projecting our future’s past, we may become another sort of distanciated audience, with the same temptation to distrust what we see: Maybe it wasn’t really the sun lighting that outdoor shot; maybe we never really landed on Mars. Vision as presence, not absence — as responsibility for what we see rather than consumption of it — can contain the past and the future without being strung up between them.