Under Suspicion

Under Suspicion: A Phenomenology of Media

Boris Groys
Translated by Carsten Strathausen
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Under Suspicion
    Book Description:

    The public generally regards the media with suspicion and distrust. Therefore, the media's primary concern is to regain that trust through the production of sincerity. Advancing the field of media studies in a truly innovative way, Boris Groys focuses on the media's affect of sincerity and its manufacture of trust to appease skeptics.

    Groys identifies forms of media sincerity and its effect on politics, culture, society, and conceptions of the self. He relies on different philosophical writings thematizing the gaze of the other, from the theories of Heidegger, Sartre, Mauss, and Bataille to the poststructuralist formulations of Lacan and Derrida. He also considers media "states of exception" and their creation of effects of sincerity -- a strategy that feeds the media's predilection for the extraordinary and the sensational, further fueling the public's suspicions. Emphasizing the media's production of emotion over the presentation (or lack thereof) of "facts," Groys launches a timely study boldly challenging the presumed authenticity of the media's worldview.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51849-9
    Subjects: Philosophy, Sociology, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Translator’s Preface: Dead Man Thinking
    (pp. vii-xxx)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    This book has emerged from the desire to answer the question about the nature of the force that upholds our cultural archives and endows them with their durability—a question that has preoccupied me ever since I published On the New.¹ Therefore, it might be helpful to clarify the reasons that originally led me to confront this question. In On the New, I described the “cultural economy”: the exchange that takes place between the archive of cultural values and the profane space outside this archive. In the archive, things are collected and preserved that are regarded as significant, relevant, and...

  5. I. Submedial Space
    • 1 The Submedial Subject and the Flux of Signs
      (pp. 19-31)

      As mentioned earlier, submedial space is , in its essence, the space of suspicion. In this sense, however, it is also the space of subjectivity, because sub-jectivity [Sub-jektivität] is nothing else but the pure, paranoid, yet at the same time inevitable projection [Unter-stellung] of the suspicion that something invisible must be hidden behind the visible in the space beneath the medial surface. Indeed, subjectivity cannot be seen or experienced; it can never show itself as a sign on the medial surface. Subjectivity is always only that which lurks behind, hides itself, and remains in the dark. It is far from...

    • 2 The Truth of the Medial and the State of Exception
      (pp. 32-40)

      The flows of signs that surge on the medial surface cannot really be infinite. One does not necessarily need the hypothesis of an infinite, divine subjectivity in order to imagine a hidden subject lurking in submedial space and secretly commanding these flows of signs. Every single media carrier—be it “natural” or produced by technical means—basically allows for only two operations with signs: to save and to transfer. The entire medial economy that operates with signs makes use of these two operations. It follows that signs can flow only by means of these two operations: signs can flow only...

    • 3 Media-Ontological Suspicion and Philosophical Doubt
      (pp. 41-48)

      Naturally, the suspicion that something is hidden behind the visible and experienceable surface of the world that cannot be observed or described by humans and that might be threatening to them is hardly new. This ontological suspicion has determined the entire history of Western philosophical discourse. Essence, substance, God, force, matter, or Being are just a few of the many names for this hidden Other [dieses Andere] that ontological suspicion presumed in the interior of the world. At least since Plato, philosophy has tried again and again to recognize and name what is hidden so as to overcome the fear...

    • 4 The Phenomenology of Medial Sincerity
      (pp. 49-61)

      The truth of the submedial , the interior, the hidden can manifest itself only in the phenomenon of sincerity, testimony, and self-revelation—as a gaze that penetrates the layer of signs covering the medial surface. And thus the question of how we recognize on a phenomenological level the sincerity of the other—that is, when and why we believe that the other is sincere here and now—is of the utmost importance for any inquiry into the truth of the submedial. A scientific description can be provided only for those processes that take place on the medial surface. The submedial...

    • 5 The Gaze of the Other
      (pp. 62-68)

      Jean-paul sartre’s being and nothingness examined for the first time on the highest philosophical level the gaze of the other. In his brilliant analyses, Sartre shows that we can have no proof and no certitude concerning our suspicion that the other pursues us with his gaze. For our own observations of the other are incapable of convincing us that he observes us exactly as we observe him. The gaze of the other is phenomenologically concealed from our own mode of seeing. We can detect this gaze only indirectly, through the feeling of shame we experience when we feel ourselves observed...

    • 6 The Medium Becomes the Message
      (pp. 69-79)

      It is well known that a famous formul a by Marshall McLuhan has played an exceedingly important role in the development of media theory: “The medium is the message” [English in the original]. With this sentence, McLuhan formulated a particular truth-claim, one that allowed today’s media-theoretical discourse in the first place and delineated the parameters within which this discourse has operated ever since. According to this sentence, the medium that the subject of speech uses to issue a particular statement (be that medium spoken language, writing, painting, photography, film, dancing, etc.) also issues at the same time and parallel to...

    • 7 The Case of Exception and the Truth of the Medial
      (pp. 80-90)

      As mentioned earlier, the signs on the surface of the media have two different truth values: the truth of referentiality and the truth of submedial space. The truth of referentiality is scientific truth. It concerns the normal case—an experiment, an observation, or a law that attains its truth status by virtue of its repeatability. The truth of the medial, by contrast, concerns the truth of exception, of the special case and the special destiny, because the submedial becomes sincere and allows insight into its interior only in the case of exception. Whenever signs of sincerity are repeated, they become...

  6. II. The Economy of Suspicion
    • 8 Marcel Mauss: Symbolic Exchange; or, Civilization Under Water
      (pp. 93-105)

      The aura of medial sincerity and durability—the aura of exception—is continuously transferred from one sign to another according to the economy of media-ontological suspicion. In order to understand the rules of this economy, one should remember some of the older theoretical projects that try to describe an economy beyond the market. At issue in particular is an economy of the sacred, which is similar to the medial economy insofar as the power of the sacred is likewise presumed to reside “inside” things rather than manifesting itself directly on their outside. Understood as such a hidden, interior power, the...

    • 9 Claude Lévi-Strauss: Mana; or, the Floating Signifier
      (pp. 106-114)

      At the very beginning of the gift, mauss himself already indicated the trajectory that future research should pursue. He formulated the central question for his further investigations thus: “What force is there in the thing given which compels the recipient to make a return?”¹ Mauss called this power mana, a term he borrowed from the Polynesian languages. The concept of mana later emerged as the most controversial and the most productive among all of Mauss’s ideas. He defined mana as “magical, religious, and spiritual power,”² a power the inhabitants of Polynesia believed to be inherent in a gift, forcing it...

    • 10 Georges Bataille: The Potlatch with the Sun
      (pp. 115-128)

      At first glance, the start ing point for bataille’s “general economy” looks very similar to Lévi-Strauss’s approach. Both declare the attempt to cope with an infinite surplus—a much-too-generous gift humans are burdened with even prior to their birth and one they can never pay back—to be the fundamental problem of human existence. The decisive difference, however, is that, for Bataille, the crucial issue is not a surplus of empty signifiers, but a surplus of real energy. For him, it is not the semiotic Big Bang, but the cosmic event of the emergence of the sun that overwhelms humanity...

    • 11 Jacques Derrida: The Lack of Time and Its Specters
      (pp. 129-147)

      In his book given time: i. counterfeit money, Jacques Derrida performs an analysis of the inability to distinguish the authentic from the simulated within the context of the symbolic economy. In that book, he also names the medium that manifests itself through this undecidability. For Derrida, it is the medium of the event—understood not as an action that happens “in time,” but rather as the source from which time flows to us in the first place. Yet according to Derrida, the medium of the event never provides enough time for the observer to be able to distinguish the authentic...

    • 12 Jean-François Lyotard: The Roller Coaster of the Sublime
      (pp. 148-160)

      In his critique of judgment, Kant defines the sublime as follows: “That is sublime which even to be able to think of demonstrates a faculty of the mind that surpasses every measure of the senses.”¹ At issue here is a surplus of imagination compared to the possibility of verification via the senses. As we know, Kant further distinguishes between the mathematical and the dynamic sublime. The mathematical sublime transcends every numerical estimation of quantity:

      Now, for the mathematical estimation of magnitude there is, to be sure, no greatest (for the power of numbers goes on to infinity); but for the...

    • 13 The Time of Signs
      (pp. 161-172)

      Not only do we have at our disposal a limited lifespan given to us by God, by nature, by our physical constitution, by Being, or by the “It.” We also have an infinite, albeit uncertain, temporal perspective, an excess of time—temporal mana—that is constantly traded within the symbolic, medial economy. Because it provides itself with time, this economy cannot be interrupted or suspended due to a lack of time. The medium of this economy is not time but media-ontological suspicion, which, as mentioned earlier, is not “real” and thus infinite. The signs that appear to confirm this suspicion...

    • 14 Suspicion Is the Medium
      (pp. 173-180)

      Suspicion is generally considered a threat to all traditional values—to the elevated, the spiritual, the noble, the beautiful, the creative, and the morally good. Suspicion forces us to assume that something else is hidden behind these values that perhaps does not look all that nice or beautiful. The critique of reigning values inspired by such a general suspicion necessarily sounds convincing and ultimately has no problem prevailing over and degrading those values. By contrast, any defense of the reigning values sounds dubious, because it denies the reality of the suspicion and denounces the “lowly motifs” that the critique claims...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 181-192)
  8. Index
    (pp. 193-202)