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The Mind Screen

Identification Desire and Its Cinematic Arena

Georg Schmid

For well over a century cinema has exerted enormous influence, yet many questions regarding its fascination remain unanswered. Films work so well because the viewers tend to unconsciously identify with the actors/actresses. The desire to become another, substituting identity by identification, can be traced to the illusion that the filmic heroes/heroines are immortal – identifying with them raises the possibility of gaining «deathlessness.» Viewers can, without real life risks, experiment with the existential drafts presented; the power of imagination is mobilized. Based on a multidisciplinary approach (semiotics, psychoanalysis, cultural anthropology, plus a healthy dose of film history), this book presents prolegomena of a philosophy of cinema.
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34 Uncertainty and Indecision


“Tightly coupled systems”–systems that are so complex that minor interferences, intentional or not, have unforeseeable, incalculable consequences–have become run of the mill; only they don’t run like a mill. That is to say, most systems in place are so complex as to defy imagination; while their development and even putting them into operation does not pose insurmountable challenges, their flawless running can by no means be guaranteed. Sooner or later, a failure (Murphy’s Law!) the effects of which nobody ever guessed will occur, and these effects will extend in geometric progression, under certain circumstances leading to catastrophe. This is particularly true of machinery; in metaphorical terms it can be applied to political systems and even to the sphere of the arts.

Tight coupling is borrowed from computer science where it refers to the interdependency of hardware and software or to operating systems with specific relations to peripheral services. Nuclear technology nicely–well, nicely isn’t the proper word, le mot juste would rather be: terribly–illustrates what we have to imagine here. If one pictures this technology’s history since 1945, it seems unimaginable that there were not more catastrophes or the ultimate one which would have left no one to imagine or not to imagine. (The odds are, of course, that that is still to happen.) Suspension of disbelief is one of the more frequently heard catchwords. It is very much in place here. Just Three Miles Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima? Apparently hundreds of military “glitches...

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