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1997 Paul Virilio Third Interval

1997 Paul Virilio Third Interval

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1997 Paul Virilio The Third Interval Paul Virilio²architectural theorist, philosopher and self-proclaimed ³critic of the

art of technology´²was born in Paris in 1932 to a Breton mother and an Italian Communistfather. In 1950 he became a Christian and after training at the Ecole des Metiers d¶Art,specialized in stained-glass and worked alongside the sculptor Henri Matisse in variousParisian churches. He was conscripted into the army during the Algerian war of independence (1954±62), and later studied phenomenology with the philosopher MauriceMerleau-Ponty at the Sorbonne.In 1958 Virilio began a period of research into the nature of military space and theorganization of territory, focusing on the ³Atlantic Wall´²the 15,000 Nazi bunkers builtalong the coastline of France during the Second World War. In 1975 this work was presented as part of the Bunker Archeologie exhibition at the Decorative Arts Museum inParis, and published in a book of the same title. He also collaborated with the architectClaude Parent, forming the group ³Architecture Principe´ in 1963 and together theydeveloped a theory of urban space based on the use of the oblique axis and the inclined plane. After participating in the May 1968 uprising in Paris, Virilio was nominated asProfessor by the students at the Ecole Spéciale d¶Architecture, where in 1973 he becameDirector of Studies. In the same year, he also became director of the magazine L¶EspaceCritique . In 1989 he took over the program of studies at the Collège International dePhilosophie de Paris, under the direction of Jacques Derrida. In 1998, Virilio officiallyretired from teaching, although he continued to work on projects with homeless groups inParis, as well as developing a building to house the first ³Museum of the Accident.´Like Jean Baudrillard²his sympathetic adversary in the realm of contemporarycultural theory²Virilio has written numerous short and polemical texts on a wide varietyof topics many of which have been translated into English. These include: The Information Bomb (2000).The present essay is taken from the book Open Sky, originally published in 1997 andtranslated into English in 1999. Here Virilio claims that the new technologies of ³telepresence´ have created a new category of experience, one that transcends thelimitations of the classical concepts of space and time. This new ³interval´²subject tothe limits of speed and light² emerges from the illusion of simultaneity created by thelatest digital communication technologies. The almost-instantaneous availability of ³realtime´ information challenges our conventional understandin

with all thenumerous paradoxes attendant on this. airports) to the control of the real-time environment thanks tointeractive teletechnologies (teleports). since the urbanization of real space is currently giving way to a preliminaryurbanization of real time. the various advertising slogans signalling perfectly the shrinking of geophysicalspace of which we are the beneficiaries but also. gives new life today to the critical dimension. though. broadcasting revolution of the twentieth²a mutation and a commutation that affect both public and domestic spaceat the same time. here and elsewhere.a µWithout even leaving. the question of the real instant of instantaneous teleaction raises once again the philosophical and political problems traditionally associated with the notions of atopia andutopia.This abrupt transfer of technology. not content to limit extension. thevery notion of space-time?And yet critical space. from the building of real-space infrastructures(ports. being telepresent. the unwitting victims.Indeed. with teleaction technologies coming on top of the technology of mere conventional television. reduce France to a square one and a half hours across (Airbus) or gain time over time with theTGV. . in other words. railway stations. any extension of time in the transmission of messages. we are already no longer there. to the point where we are left in some uncertainty as to their veryreality.Mass transportation revolution of the nineteenth century.criticaltemperature. due to theacceleration of communications tools that obliterate the Atlantic (Concorde). and promotes what is already being referred to as teletopia.¶ Nikolai GogolCritical mass. at the same time. You don¶t hear much aboutcritical space. Why is this if not because we have not yet digested relativity. such as: Meeting at a distance. are now everywhere.As for telecommunications tools. criticalmoment. images. they are alsoeradicating all duration. sometimes. and critical expanse.

but only of the µpresent¶. the perceptual faculties of theindividual¶s body being transferred one by one to machines²but also. and other microprocessor detectors.What then becomes critical is not so much the three dimensions of space. the nature of the individual andtheir animal body ? For the staking out of the territory with heavy material infrastructure(roads. Thanks to the new practices of television broadcasting or remote transmission.If last century¶s . acting. our territorial body. however. instantaneous telepresence.in this so-called µreal time¶ which is. nothing but a kind of realspacetime. DataGlove or DataSuit). most recently.Paul Klee hit the nail on the head: µTo define the present in isolation is to kill it.radio signal) will shortly turn on their heads not only the nature of the humanenvironment. as electronics engineersclaim. sensors. of that interactive being who is both transmitter and receiver. tocaptors. widespread remote control preparing to take up where permanent telesurveillance left off. capable of making up for the lack of tactility at a distance.¶ Thisis what the teletechnologies of real time are doing: they are killing µpresent¶ time byisolating it from its here and now. even if that place is in the endthe no-place of teletopical techniques (the man-machine interface. the nodes or packet-switching exchanges of teletransmission). µreal time¶ is not the opposite of µdelayed time¶. cathode screen. prostheses that make the super-equipped able-bodied person almost the exact equivalentof the motorized and wired disabled person. or practicallyimmaterial. but most importantly. is here facilitated by the maximum performance of electromagnetism and by theradioelectric views of what is now called optoelectronics. railroads) is now giving way to control of the immaterial. since the different events do indeed take place.Immediate teleaction. environment (satellites. video signal. but thefourth dimension of time²more precisely. fibre-optic cables). the famous teleacting of remotecontrol. the dimension of the present since. as we willsee below. ending in the body terminal of man. in fa How can we fail to see how much such radiotechnologies (digital signal.The urbanization of real time is in fact first the urbanization of one¶s own body plugged into various interfaces (keyboard.

of a whole world. not only in physics or astrophysics. motorbike.revolution in transportation saw the emergence and gradual popularization of the dynamic motor vehicle (train. that is today becoming a single-parent family. car. the witness¶s own body becoming the last urban frontier. an accident²properly to understand theimportance of the µcritical transition¶ of which we are today helpless witnesses. plane).Social organization and a kind of conditioning once limited to the space of the city and tothe space of the family home finally closing in on the animal body.initially extended then nuclearized.This makes it easier to understand the decline in that unit of population. since themore the city expands and spreads its tentacles. Tokyo) being itself the resultof the increased speed of exchanges.individualism having little to do with the fact of a liberation of values and being more aneffect of technological evolution in the development of public and private space.Recent megalopolitan hyperconcentration (Mexico City. the currentrevolution in transmission leads in turn to the innovation of the ultimate vehicle: the staticaudiovisual vehicle.telepresent at each moment. but in our daily lives.This is the µtransmission revolution¶ itself. Which is why the constant of the speed of light is soimportant. But we also need to reconsider the less obvious notions of true velocity and virtual velocity ²the speed of that whichoccurs unexpectedly: a crisis. the more the family unit dwindles and becomes a minority.As we know. from the moment westep beyond the transport age into the organization and electromagnetic conditioning of the territory . relativity itself. the family. it looks as though we need to reconsider theimportance of the notions of acceleration and deceleration (vector quantities with positive or negative velocities according to the physicists). speed is not a phenomenon but a relationship between phenomena: inother words. this control of the environment in real timethat has now put paid to traditional development of a real . a prerequisite for the sudden mobilization of the illusion of the world. marking the advent of a behavioural inertia in the sender/receiver that moves us along from the celebrated retinal persistence which permits the opticalillusion of cinematic projection to the bodily persistence of this µterminal-man¶. for instance.

beyond the human body¶s sphere of influence and thatof its behavioural ergonomics vour of a commutative elsewhere that no longer has anything to do with our µconcrete presence¶ in the world. the interval of the light kind (neutral sign)? The relativistic innovation of thisthird interval is actually in itself a sort of unremarked cultural revelation. Time (duration) and space (extension) are now inconceivable without light (limit-speed).Speed not only allows us to get around more easily.Since the turn of the century. theorganization of calendars and the measurement of time (clocks) have also presided over avast chronopolitical regulation of human societies. in Einstein¶s wake. both space and time.Listen to a physicist talking about the logic of elementary particles: µA display isdefined by a complete set of observables that commutate. the path). the cosmological constant of the speed of light.territory. to perceive. So it is not so much light that illuminates things (the object. tohear. but is the elsewhere of aµdiscreet telepresence¶ that remains a complete myster How can we fully take in such a situation without enlisting the aid of a new type of interval. so tospeak. it enables us above all to see.the subject. the absolute character till then accordedto space and to time by Newton and many others before him. a profound mutation in therelationship between man and his surroundings. an absolute philosophicalcontingency that supersedes. Tomorrow. itwill enable us to act at a distance.If the interval of time (positive sign) and the interval of space (negative sign) havelaid out the geography and history of the world through the geometric design of agrarianareas (fragmentation into plots of land) and urban areas (the cadastral system). The very recent emergence of aninterval of the third type thus signals a sudden qualitative leap. the absolute limit of the speed of light has lit up.¶ . and thus to conceive the present world more intensely. it is the constant nature of light¶s limit speed that conditions the perception of duration and of the world¶s expanse as phenomena.

short. politicians. with the µProgram Trading¶ being responsible for the acceleration of economic chaos²indeed. of that long term that used to encompass past. the extensive and relatively controllable time of history²in other words. this so-called µtactile telepresence¶. find themselves torn between the permanentrequirements of organizing and constructing real space²with its land problems. Critical transition then is not an empty term: it masks a true crisis in the temporaldimension of immediate action . as well as the chronogeographicconstraints of nodes and network interconnection. andelectrotactile) in which remote control. from its here andnow. for instantaneous teleaction. This is in the end what we could call a temporal commutation. just as much as urbanists.So.Since time-light (the time of the speed of light) is now used as an absolute standardfor immediate action. electroacoustic. for the computer crash of October 1987 andthe one narrowly averted in October 1989²it is pretty clear how fraught the presentsituation is.How do we resolve this dilemma? How do we frame these basically spatio-temporaland relativistic problems?When we look at all the difficulties faced by world money markets and the dis-astersof electronic share quotation systems. ultra-short²if not indeed non-existent²termfor the teletopical interval (the network). with its access protocols. an accident of a so-called µreal¶moment that suddenly detaches itself from the place where it happens. Following the crisis in µwhole¶ spatial dimensions andthe resultant rise of µfractional¶ dimensions. a commutationalso related to a sort of commotion in present duration. present. thegeometric and geographic constraints of the centre and the periphery²and the newrequirements of managing the real time of immediacy and ubiquity. in thetemporal dimension of the present moment. and a future.1 It would be hard to find a better description of the macroscopic logic of real-time technologies than thisµteletopical commutation¶²or µswitch-over¶²that completes and perfects the till nowfundamentally µtopical¶ nature of the City of Men. . in short. and opts for an electronic dazzlement (at once optoelectronic. its µdata packet transmissions¶ and its viruses. the intensive duration of the µrealmoment¶ now dominates duration. Long term for the topical andarchitectonic interval (the building). we will soon see a crisis.

Currently. Where physical displacement from one point to another once supposeddeparture. this overhyped remote telepresence being only ever the sudden catastrophe of the reality of the present moment that is our sole entry into duration²but also. arrival at one¶sdestination remaining. time is the accident to end all accidents . the real time of telecommunications would no longer refer only to delayedtime. our entry into the expanse of the real world.According to Epicurus. this is because the journey and its components are undergoing a veritable mutation-commutation. the chronoscopic (underexposed. the transport revolution of last century had alreadyquietly begun to eliminate delay and change the nature of travel itself.will completethe task of the old telesurveillance of whatever stays at a distance. Hence my repeatedly reiterated proposal to roundoff the chronological (before. with the instantaneous broadcasting revolution. we are seeing the beginnings of a µgeneralized arrival¶ . out of our reach.this µreal instant¶ which is. the notion of exposure in turn takes over from the notion of succession in the measurement of presentduration as well as from the notion of extension in the immediate physical expanse. let¶s not forget. Indeed.The question today posed by teletopical technologies is thus a major one for the planner. If this is so. by the limitcapabilities of electromagnetic radiation and of the light quantum. aseveryone knows since Einstein.The exposure speed of time-light might therefore enable us to reinterpret the µpresent¶.After this. exposed. overexposed). In fact. if you like. since the urbanization of real time permitted by the recent transmissionrevolution leads to a radical reversal in the order of the movement of displacement and of physical transportation. during. if operating remotely allows gradual elimination of thematerial infrastructures rigging out the territory in favour of the fundamentallyimmaterial wave trains of telesurveillance and instantaneous remote control. the spacetime of a perfectly real actionhelped along by the feats of electronics and shortly of photonics²that is. a journey and arrival. but also to an ultra-chronology. a limited arrival¶ due to the very time it took to get there. after) with the dromological or. the interval of the lightkind (the interface) taking over in future from those of space and time. then withthe teletechnologies of general interactivity we are entering the age of the accident of thepresent. however. that frontier-post of access to the reality of the perceptible world (note here the light cone²or illuminating pencil²used by astrophysicists).

avehicle not only audiovisual but also tactile and interactive (radioactive. optoactive.One such static vehicle is the µDataSuit¶.whereby everything arrives without having to leave. the journeythereby losing its successive components and being overtaken by arrival alone. invented by the American Scott Fisher whilehe was working for NASA on the development of a human body device that would becapable of transferring actions and sensations by means of an array of sensor-effectors.A general arrival that explains the unheard-of innovation today of the static vehicle.interactive). I . of the space interval and of time) combining with the abolition of departure at the end of the twentieth.the nineteenth century¶s elimination of the journey (that is.

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