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The Pleasure Principle

SEED has an article by Goeffrey Miller that posits the reason why we have yet to make alien contact is that they, like us, find the stimulation of media far too engaging to take on such tasks as space exploration and colonization.

The discussion about our fascination with media is interesting. We are finishing up the initial offering of new course, New Media Aesthetics, and one of the key themes, it seems to me, is the question of where our bodies fit into the hypermediated lives. The last book we've had the students read, Hansen's New Philosophy for New Media, borrows from Bergson to make the argument that the role of making meaning of new media texts is re-centered on the body.

While Hansen's argument is compelling, I am worried that in our recentering we are still, even in the exploratory new media object, succumbing to the seductive, yet ultimately vapid pleasures of the technological artifact. Simply put, we love the sheen of the digital image, the novelty, or we marvel merely at the method of production.

Miller tells us the dangers in this: when we fall to far into a mediated world we do not exercise our evolutionary biological fitness (there are holes in this position, I know). The pleasure we seek - the pleasure that assists us in finding suitable mates and ample food for survival - are faked in new media enterprises.

In thinking about this, however, I still come back to this point that tells me that, in some ways, this is alright. If Miller's position is that we, in the media-seduced West, are not reproducing and, therefore, falling behind radical fundamentalists, I find that argument so problematic on several levels. There is a certain opposition inherent in that and a belief that the media systems that feed fundamentalist beliefs aren't as illusory and prevalent.

Needless to say, Miller's Great Temptation can have many shapes and flavors.