Oscopic Responses: Panoscopic

In three sentences Henry Bond makes three claims in his post, ”Panoscopic,” regarding the experience of the internet-user: 1. “The view is panoramic or panoscopic;” 2. The “browsing is fueled by curiosity;” 3. “The user’s fascination unfolds as an unpredictable and erratic narrative emerging
as a stream-of-consciousness: volatile and mercurial; charged up with
abounding impulses.”

If I were to consider these as manifesting a human metaphor, it would be that of a person navigating something akin to the “Tron” film’s navigation of data, or of the “Interstellar” film’s navigating of the fifth dimension, an unending field of potential visual engagement, but these don’t work quite, because he doesn’t claim any physical interaction.

And while I wouldn’t say any of his claims are wholly untrue, they are partially untrue.

In today’s world of screens, there is a constant mediation, that is, a broken interface (a la McLuhan), there is a necessity of physical interaction, we must swipe, flick, flit, tap, hold. In his post Bond claims that the internet-user’s view is panoscopic, elaborating, “continuous seeing-observing,” but that would presume no breaks. There was a time when, with dial up, the internet wasn’t fast enough to keep our attention. Our lives are filled with minute to grand physical distractions, as well as embodied distractions: the struggle of living. But, to engage faithfully with his point, these can be assuaged with the caveat of, “in a way” there is a continuous seeing-observing. But what, with such a caveat, is the value of a statement, for also with a similar caveat, then, is not life a panoramic view, a panoscopic view, a continuous seeing-observing?

And in today’s world of digital marketing, of cookies (not the edible kind), we must admit that our browsing is as much structured as random, is as much driven by what is available and what is shown to us, as much as what we seek out. Furthermore, as the world evolves to revolve more and more around 0s and 1s, and as access to the internet because as important as a home address to write on a bank account application, we must recognize that browsing is as fueled by necessity as by curiosity, for we browse for jobs, for homes, for banks, for friends, for relationships, and while all of these can have in them a genuine curiosity, it is not curiosity alone.

The internet-user today loses some of their independence the moment they engage with the internet, as much as they lose some of their independence the moment they engage with the semi-democratic, capitalism-laden societies which permeate the world over, for, with very few and only minor exclusions or exceptions or caveats, we live in a world made of and for capitalism. And so the need to acquire capital dominates the majority of our actions, and often our curiosities, our pleasures, are a means of reclaiming something, whether physical space, mental space, emotional space—the beer after work to unwind, the coffee early in the morning staring out the window to prepare, the walk over lunch to promote digestion or mindfulness or to allow for a smoke.

But it is only acknowledging the limits of our panoscopy, our curiosity-driven-browsing, that we can gain a meta-perspective on our experience of fascination through browsing the internet, and recognize the ways in which we are constrained, and especially the ways we are constrained and made use of, that is, that we can recognize the ludic economy (forgive me, but I can’t remember the theorist I read which expounded on this, but it may very well be again McLuhan) which is ever increasing. And there within the meta-perspective can we find nooks and crannies to exploit and subvert these constraints, and return some bit of power to ourselves.

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