Biopolitical Screens

Biopolitical Screens: Image, Power, and the Neoliberal Brain

Pasi Väliaho
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 208
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Biopolitical Screens
    Book Description:

    InBiopolitical Screens, Pasi Väliaho charts and conceptualizes the imagery that composes our affective and conceptual reality under twenty-first-century capitalism. Väliaho investigates the role screen media play in the networks that today harness human minds and bodies -- the ways that images animated on console game platforms, virtual reality technologies, and computer screens capture human potential by plugging it into arrangements of finance, war, and the consumption of entertainment. Drawing on current neuroscience and political and economic thought, Väliaho argues that these images work to shape the atomistic individuals who populate the neoliberal world of accumulation and war.Väliaho bases his argument on a broad notion of the image as something both visible and sayable, detectable in various screen platforms but also in scientific perception and theoretical ideas. After laying out the conceptual foundations of the book, Väliaho offers focused and detailed investigations of the current visual economy. He considers the imagery of first-person shooter video games as tools of "neuropower"; explores the design and construction of virtual reality technologies to treat post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan; and examines three instances of video installation art that have the power to disrupt the dominant regime of sensibility rather than reinforce it.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-32453-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Series Foreword Leonardo/International Society for the Arts, Sciences, and Technology (ISAST)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Roger F. Malina

    Leonardo, the International Society for the Arts, Sciences, and Technology, and the affiliated French organization Association Leonardo have some very simple goals:

    1. To document and make known the work of artists, researchers, and scholars interested in the ways that the contemporary arts interact with science and technology and

    2. To create a forum and meeting places where artists, scientists, and engineers can meet, exchange ideas, and, where appropriate, collaborate.

    3. To contribute, through the interaction of the arts and sciences, to the creation of the new culture that will be needed to transition to a sustainable planetary society.


  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  5. 1 Biopolitical Visual Economy: Image, Apparatus, and the Cerebral Subject
    (pp. 1-26)

    When our eyes are closing in the darkness of night, between consciousness and sleep, images appear. These are endogenous apparitions, which revive events that happened earlier during the day as well as scenes buried deeper in memory, but which are also mixed with the stream of images we encounter when consuming the screen media that saturate our everyday lives—watching television, playing video games, surfing the Internet, and much more. Past and present, personal and social, psychic and corporeal, and real and fictive get effectively merged in the cerebral processes of cutting and composing this “movie-in-the-brain,” as neuroscientists describe the...

  6. 2 Future Perfect: First-Person Shooters, Neuropower, Preemption
    (pp. 27-60)

    “Round one. Fight,” a male voice announces to a throbbing disco beat, followed by shouts, growls, and the sound of blows, as a girl stares intensely ahead, her mouth twisting and her face contorting as her torso and shoulders move in time with the blows. Thus begins Robbie Cooper’s video installationImmersion(2008), which documents the faces and gestures of children playing action video games on a console platform. We hear the sounds of the game environments, explosions and gunfire of a first-person shooter war game, splashes and growls of a kickboxing game, and even Russian rap fromGrand Theft...

  7. 3 Contingent Pasts: Affectivity, Memory, and the Virtual Reality of War
    (pp. 61-88)

    On the left, a black screen reflects its observer’s intrigued gaze; on the right, another screen displays a computer-generated environment resembling a marketplace in the Middle East. As the first-person viewpoint moves forward, we see a man standing in front of a booth, greeting the viewer politely; a woman walks in front. Suddenly, there is an explosion and several people fall to the ground while others run away. This is followed by the title sequence, after which the right screen goes black and a person appears on the left one, looking and gesticulating toward the screen beside him:

    Now we...

  8. 4 Emergent Present: Imagination, Montage, Critique
    (pp. 89-126)

    Images manifest their power over life in their recursive movement between the interstices of our mind-brains and the object world.¹ Concrete, material images work and shape the ways we map constantly shifting perceptual scenes, both internal and external, real and fictive.² In other words, material images fix mental ones and vice versa, which, as we have seen, involves a complex interplay between the somatic, the personal, and the social.

    Chapters 2 and 3 dealt with how images become alive on video game and virtual reality screens, on the one hand, and with how they provoke specific kinds of affective and...

  9. Epilogue
    (pp. 127-130)

    Melanie Gilligan’s videoPopular Unrest(2010) pictures a future world governed by global capitalism —an apparatus of profitability that has grown beyond anyone’s control. The source of the apparatus’ life and power are our bodies and minds, the “sum total,” the video tells us, “of all interactions between everyone on earth doing exactly what they please every day.” Lurking everywhere at every moment, the apparatus subjects every aspect of our lives—how much time we spend at work, what we consume, our physical fitness, our sexual habits, and much more—to constant monitoring and calculation. It scans our brains in...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 131-162)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 163-180)
  12. Index
    (pp. 181-186)