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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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13 To See the World as It Appears: Vision, the Gaze and the Camera as Technological Eye


My basic view of things is – not to have a basic view of things. From having been exceedingly dogmatic, my views on life have gradually dissolved. They don’t exist any longer …


[B]ut Thou, O Lord […] didst turn me round towards myself, taking me from behind my back where I had placed me, unwilling to observe myself; and setting me before my face […] And if I sought to turn mine eye from off myself, and trustedst me before my eyes, that I might find out mine iniquity, and hate it.


The Vision and the Gaze

A Brief Introduction

In this chapter, my aim is to take a phenomenological point of view toward the ‘hard core’ usage of surveillance technology, and particularly the ocularcentric ones. In so doing, my analysis will demonstrate aspects of seeing ← 263 | 264 → and technology that are interdisciplinary, and contribute to the complexity of the subject of what it is to see, and what happens in different sorts of relations when we see, either through the camera lens, through our own eyes, or with an ‘inner eye’. Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s thoughts on visibility and invisibility are particularly fascinating and useful to me in this investigation, since he strives to dismantle the distinction between subject and object, a problem Jean-Paul Sartre and other Western philosophers have struggled with since René Descartes.

In this chapter, Merleau-Ponty’s arguments about seeing as...

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