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Invisibility Studies

Surveillance, Transparency and the Hidden in Contemporary Culture


Edited By Henriette Steiner and Kristin Veel

Invisibility Studies explores current changes in the relationship between what we consider visible and what invisible in different areas of contemporary culture. Contributions trace how these changes make their marks on various cultural fields and investigate the cultural significance of these developments, such as transparency and privacy in urban architecture and the silent invasion of surveillance technologies into everyday life. The book contends that when it comes to the changing relationship of the visible and the invisible, the connection between seeing and not being seen is an exchange conditioned by physical and social settings that create certain possibilities for visibility and visuality, yet exclude others. The richness and complexity of this cultural framework means that no single discipline or interdisciplinary approach could capture it single-handedly. Invisibility Studies begins this conversation by bringing together scholars across the fields of architectural history and theory, art, film and literature, philosophy, cultural theory and contemporary anthropology as well as featuring work by a collective of artists.
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PART IV Screens, Cameras and Surveillance


← 258 | 259 → PART IV

Screens, Cameras and Surveillance

← 259 | 260 → zURBS

Prelude IV

At every point the city offers surprises to your view […] ‘Happy the man who has Phyllis before his eyes each day and who never ceases seeing the things it contains,’ you cry regret at having to leave […] But it so happens that, instead, you must stay in Phyllis and spend the rest of your days there. Soon the city fades before your eyes […]. Many are the cities like Phyllis, which elude the gaze of all, except the man who catches them by surprise.

—ITALO CALVINO, Invisible Cities

Watching and interpreting our city can be seen as a means of transforming and reconfiguring it: they are actions that could confirm or modify the invisible distribution of the sensible. Therefore urban settings should enable people to be active as interpreters, storytellers, and translators, rather than merely being passive observers. Urban settings should open up to allow people to appropriate the story of the city, and to make their own story of it. However, this way of looking should not be confused with seeing only what one chooses to see, or with identifying what one sees with the truth or a given reality. Rather we should remain ← 260 | 261 → open to the gaze, acknowledging that it is not about seeing things as they are, but seeing things as they could be.

This way of seeing...

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