Between television and the home computer, an increased amount of work and leisure activity is devoted to looking at the screen and deciphering what is seen on it. With so many visual outlets available, the contingency of postmodernity has invaded the gaze, for with so much to see there is confusion about what to see and how to see it. Sometimes, the activity of looking can be passive, but in other forms it can be interactive. Increasingly the camera lens supplies the means of being there for all who view. Visual technology seems to supply the window through which many facets of culture are to be seen. This technology also affects expectations of authentic fieldwork. No longer is it sufficient for the anthropologist to convey in text his two years in the field; a video is expected as well to supply a visual basis to what people will read later in other forms of academic communication. The enormous expansion of access to the visual, to worlds hitherto unseen, is a much-remarked miracle of technology. This ocular turn to the making of culture has been surprisingly under-researched in sociology. Visual culture, the inchoate discipline that signifies this turn, has been kept at a sociological distance. This suspicion is curious, for concerns with the implications of visual culture are to be found in the formation of the mental life of the metropolis that Simmel so well chronicled. He supplied grounds for thinking that this expansion of visual opportunity was not entirely beneficial.
- Virtual Reality
- Social Reality
- Religious Order
- Virtual Community
- Science Fiction
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Notes and References
Adapted excerpt from Georg Simmel, Sociologie, in Robert E. Park and Ernest W. Burgess (eds), Introduction to the Science of Sociology, third edition revised (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1969), p. 361.
Simon Cooper, ‘Plenitude and Alienation: The Subject of Virtual Reality’, in David Holmes (ed.), Virtual Politics: Identity and Community in Cyberspace (London: Sage, 1997), pp. 100 and p. 105.
David Holmes, ‘Introduction’, in ibid., p. 17.
W.J.T. Mitchell, ‘Interdisciplinarity and Visual Culture’, Art Bulletin, vol. 77, no. 4, December 1995, p. 540.
W.J.T. Mitchell, ‘What is Visual Culture?’ in Irving Lavin (ed.), Meaning in the Visual Arts: Views from the Outside; A Centennial Commemoration of Erwin Panof sky (1892–1968) (Princeton: Institute for Advanced Study, 1995), pp. 210–11.
John A. Walker and Sarah Chaplain, Visual Culture: An Introduction (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997), p. 3.
Nicholas Mirzoeff, An Introduction to Visual Culture (London: Routledge, 1999), p. 5.
Ibid., p. 13.
For a useful account of the battles between sociology and cultural studies, see Gregor McLennan, ‘Sociology and Cultural Studies: Rhetorics of Disciplinary Identity’, History of the Human Sciences, vol. 11, no. 3, 1998, pp. 1–17.
Collections of ten indicate a consensus, a selection of topics that can be deemed exemplary. See for example, Nicholas Mirzoeff (ed.), Visual Culture Reader (London:
Routledge, 1999). It deals with the genealogy of visual culture, from art to culture; visual culture and everyday life; virtuality, bodies and space; race and identity; gender and sexuality; and pornography. There is one reference to religious objects in the index, and no contribution dealing with religion and visual culture.
Terry Eagleton, The Idea of Culture (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), p. 25.
Ibid., p. 72.
Ibid., p. 83.
Martin Jay, Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994).
John Berger, Ways of Seeing (London: Penguin, 1972), pp. 10–11.
Ibid., pp. 20–1.
Issues of the place of altar pieces as having devotional or liturgical use illustrate the complexity of applying notions of memory to image. What is required is to work out the end for which the image was produced in its original context and this is very difficult to trace. The issues relate not only to public and private forms of use, but also to entitlements to see. For example, see Beth Williamson, ‘Liturgical Image or Devotional Image? The London Madonna of the Firescreen’, in Colum Hourihane (ed.), Objects, Images and the Word: Art in the Service of the Liturgy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), pp. 298–318.
Walter Benjamin, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’, in Hannah Arendt (ed.), Illuminations, trans. Harry Zohn (London: Jonathan Cape, 1970), pp. 225–6.
Ibid., pp. 242–3. See also David Chaney, “Ways of Seeing” Reconsidered: Representation and Construction in Mass Culture’, History of the Human Sciences, vol. 9, no. 2, 1996, pp. 39–51.
See the essay review on books on visual culture, by David C. Chaney, ‘Contemporary Socioscapes’, Theory, Culture & Society, vol. 16, no. 6, 2000, p. 113.
Susan Sontag, On Photography (London: Penguin, 1977), p. 55.
Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, trans. Richard Howard
(London: Vintage, 1993), p. 4.
Don Slater, ‘Photography and Modern Vision: The Spectacle of “Natural Magic”’, in Chris Jenks (ed.), Visual Culture (London: Routledge, 1995), pp. 218–37.
See John Jervis, Exploring the Modern: Patterns of Western Culture and Civilization (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998), Chapter 11, ‘The Image, the Spectral and the Spectacle: Technologies of the Visual’, pp. 280–309.
Foucault, The Birth of the Clinic, p. 172. The above comments come from pp. 164–72. See also Martin Jay, ‘In the Empire of the Gaze: Foucault and the Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-century French Thought’, in David Hoy (ed.), Foucault A Critical Reader (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986), pp. 175–204; and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and the Invisible, trans. Alphonso Lingis (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1968).
Pierre Bourdieu, Photography: A Middle-brow Art, trans. Shaun Whiteside (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1990), p. 26.
Ibid., p. 94.
John Tiffin and Nobuyoshi Terashima (eds), Hypereality: Paradigm for the Third Millennium (London: Routledge, 2001), especially Chapters 1 and 2.
Howard Rheingold, Virtual Reality (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), p. 19.
G. Coates, ‘Disembodied Cyber Co-presence: The Art of Being There While Somewhere Else’, in Nick Watson and Sarah Cunningham-Burley (eds), Reframing the Body (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001), pp. 213–18. See also Mary Chayko, ‘What is Real in the Age of Virtual Reality? “Reframing” Frame Analysis for a Technological World’, Symbolic Interaction, vol. 16, no. 2, 1993, pp. 171–81.
See Michele Wilson, ‘Community in the Abstract: A Political and Ethical Dilemma?’ in Holmes (ed.), Virtual Politics, pp. 145–62.
See the highly useful chronology of the Internet and virtual reality technologies in Rob Shields, The Virtual (London: Routledge, 2003), pp. 56–7.
See www.cnn.com/US/9803/25/heavens.gate/. For a brief account of the movement, see Alan Aldridge, Religion in the Contemporary World (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000), pp. 178–9.
Maria Luisa Maniscalco, ‘A New Global Risk: the Rise of the Killer Sects’, International Review of Sociology, vol. 7, no. 3, November 1997, pp. 485–97.
Wendy Gale Robinson, ‘Heaven’s Gate: The End?’ JCMC, vol. 3, no. 3, December 1997, p. 12. JCMC is an online journal.
Ibid., p. 2.
According to Robinson, a survivor indicated that only one recruit was recruited to the cult through the Internet. See ibid., footnote 16, p. 33. Further scepticism on the impact of the Internet on recruitment to new religions is well expressed in Lorne L. Dawson and Jenna Hennebry, ‘New Religions and the Intemet: Recruiting in a New Public Space’, Journal of Contemporary Religion, vol. 14, no. 1, 1999, pp. 17–39.
See for example, Jean-Francois Mayer, ‘Religious Movements and the Internet: The New Frontier of Cult Controversies’; and Massimo Introvigne, “‘So Many Evil Things”: Anti-Cult Terrorism via the Internet’, in Jeffrey K. Hadden and Douglas E. Cowan (eds), Religion on the Internet: Research Prospects and Promises (New York: Elsevier Science, 2000), pp. 249–306.
Ralph Schroeder, Noel Heather and Raymond M. Lee, ‘The Sacred and the Virtual: Religion in Multi-User Virtual Reality’, JCMC, vol. 4, no. 2, December 1998, p. 6. For a useful discussion of ‘going to cyberchurch’, see David Lyon, Jesus in Disneyland: Religion in Postmodem Times (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000), pp. 66–72.
Pontifical Council for Social Communication, Ethics, Internet and Communications (London: Catholic Truth Society, 2002), p. 52.
Ibid., pp. 48–9.
Kirin Narayan, ‘Refractions of the Field at Home: American Representations of Hindu Holy Men in the 19th and 20th Centuries’, Cultural Anthropology, vol. 8, no. 4, 1993, p. 500.
William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1920), p. 489.
John Dagenais, ‘A Medieval Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela on the Information Highway’, in Maryjane Dunn and Linda Kay Davidson (eds), The Pilgrimage to Compostela in the Middle Ages (New York: Routledge, 2000), pp. 143–51.
Lorne L. Dawson, ‘Researching Religion in Cyberspace: Issues and Strategies’, in Hadden and Cowan (eds), Religion on the Internet, p. 46.
Ibid., p. 35.
Ibid., p. 43.
Brasher, Give me that Online Religion, pp. 78–85. A notable number of entries in a recent guide to European Monasteries and Convents contain websites giving information on how to visit and stay as a guest. See Kevin J. Wright, Europe’s Monastery and Convent Guesthouses (Missouri: Liguori, 2000).
Shusaku Endo, Silence, trans. William Johnston (London: Quartet Books, 1978).
Victor Turner, From Ritual to Theatre: The Human Seriousness of Play (New York: Performing Arts Journal Publications, 1982), pp. 52–5.
© 2004 Kieran Flanagan
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Flanagan, K. (2004). Visual Culture and the Virtual: The Internet and Religious Displays. In: Seen and Unseen. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230502383_4
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