[iDC] Blanking________ (the aesthetics of disappearance...)

Christiane Robbins cpr at mindspring.com
Mon Jan 1 18:36:17 EST 2007

Just wanted to enter the fray in the beginning of what I hope to be a  
wonderful New Year for us all - I'm pasting below a brief excerpt of  
a paper I gave a few years ago in hopes of adding to the discussion:

"  ... What is implied time and again by Virillo in " The Aesthetics  
of Disappearance"  is a disturbance in the
perception of what reality is — it is a shock, a mental concussion or  
sorts. Experience entails a loss of
orientation regarding alterity — a disturbance of the relationship  
with the other and with the World.  What I am
suggesting is that this dislocation, this non-situation, initiates  
our embrace of disequilibria in the digital realm.

For those of us who benefit from the rather dubious privilege of  
"knowing" modern reality and its co-star,
hyper-reality, we experience at once an abstracted yet more  
physiological and cognitive type of disequilibria,
connoted by absence. Virillio posits the contemporary subject as  
being susceptible to a mild form of epilepsy,
using the word "picnolepsy".   Picnoleptic states are known as  
cognitive forms of absence or disappearance
from one's body.  Such ruptures of the mind/body are easily observed  
(and experienced) in our daydreams, in
moments of intense concentration or driving a car — all, which  
temporarily disable our sensory receptors.
More often than naught, a thought, a conversation, or a task can  
easily be restarted following the disruption of a
momentary picnoleptic event. Paul Virilio describes this state of  

“For these absences, which can be quite numerous... we'll be using  
the word "picnolepsy". However, for the
picnoleptic, nothing really has happened, the missing time never  
existed. At each crisis, without realizing it, a
little of his or her life simply escaped. Children are the most  
frequent victims, and the situation of the young
picnoleptic quickly becomes intolerable. People want to persuade him  
[or her] of the existence of events that
he [or she] has not seen, though they effectively happened in his [or  
her] presence...”
(The Aesthetics of Disappearance 1994, pp. 9-10)

... The argument I am supporting is that digital technologies  
generate (and protract) picnoleptic events. And that
these phenomena will result in an aesthetized state of absence, which  
might aptly be characterized as a digital
interruption in an analogic life. "

With all best wishes for 2007 -


On Dec 31, 2006, at 11:55 PM, Michel Bauwens wrote:

> Two short remarks.
> One on blanking out. I believe this phenomena is not new. In my  
> case, I've had it as a kid, when walking (I would inexplicably  
> arrive at my destination, without recall of how I got there), and  
> later, as an adult in the car (this is of course more scary, but I  
> never had an accident).
> I actually wonder if it is not a mild form of epilepsy.
> Information overload, I think the term is useful precisely because  
> of its negative connotation, and CPA have a danger which we could  
> call a narrowing of consciousness. In highly stressfull  
> environments, which is most of our corporate environments today,  
> the overload and multitude of to do's lead to a focus on the  
> immediate future, and a loss of thoughtfullness and awareness of  
> the past and future. This is a real pathology in our culture, and  
> reinforces the tendency of not caring about the long-term effects  
> of our actions.
> It's actually one of the main reasons I decided to quit the  
> corporate world, and live here in Thailand, as a 'refugee of  
> Western civilization', and I must say I successfully recovered that  
> sense of the long now, because of the slower pace of life. It is  
> important, for individuals and for our culture, to recover a richer  
> sense of mulitple time and temporal experiences (the rich now of  
> tribal cultures, the cyclical time of agricultural civilizations,  
> the linear and spatialized  time of the industrial West ,the  
> timeless witness stand of meditative psycho-technologies, etc...).  
> Positively interpreted, CPA is an achievement of the informational  
> era, and it is fine, as long as it doesn't destroy the other and  
> older capabilities, one of which is the capacity for 'slow,  
> focused' intake.
> Yes, speed reading is useful in some circumstances, but it is  
> nowhere as 'digestively' rich as a slow reading process allowing  
> ample time for reflection and meditation.
> My conclusion is not that one is better than the other, but that a  
> full human being needs the inner capacity to switch to the most  
> appropriate temporal skill, according to circumstances.
> Michel Bauwens
> On 12/31/06, Andreas Schiffler <aschiffler at ferzkopp.net> wrote:
> > There is a new psychological phenomenon emerging in this era of  
> hyper-
> > telemedia, information abundance and overload. People of all ages  
> and
> > walks of life are 'blanking'_______that is, they are shutting  
> down or
> > experiencing momentary ruptures of consciousness, or in very  
> severe cases,
> > 'blanking' sometimes lasting for days.
> While I don't agree on the negatively-charged term "overload",  
> there is
> certainly an abundance of input these days. I'd warn though to connect
> this solely to the latest developments: Internet, Hypermedia,  Web2.0,
> etc.. These are really just elements of a general trend for  
> "enriching"
> our environment, making things nice, designed, pretty, active,
> experiential, available, etc which has been going on for  
> centuries.. As
> Wolfgang Welsch call it: we are living as "Homo aestheticus" these  
> days.
> And since information is an ingredient for some people (not all of
> course) in this enrichment process, information technology plays a  
> major
> role when we are "aestheticising through information".
> Physiologically, the effect of "blanking" makes good sense though.  
> It is
> probably comparable to the tinnitus after attending an ultra-loud rock
> concert, just at a higher level of sensory processing. Maybe it can
> compare better to the silence in the car with your friends, after an
> overloading entertainment experience of a night out (ok, ok that might
> be caused by the drugs or the beer as well). To make it a treatable
> problem sound's fishy to me ... just like ADHD is probably a big  
> problem
> for some kids, the scope of the public treatment with  
> pharmaceuticals is
> likely "manufactured" by the drug companies for economic purposes.
> Personally, I don't blank. At least I don't recall it - which is  
> maybe a
> function of the cause: it is supposed to be a loss of consciousness,
> isn't it. Maybe the real problem is that we are becoming aware of such
> blanking periods more often. Sorta like dreams: we all dream at night
> (scientists claim) but we don't experience these dreams necessarily.
> They disappear again into the windings of the cortex. I, for example,
> remember dreams extremely rarely. Usually only when I have a cold with
> fever spells (and bad sleep patterns). I guess my "non-blanking"  
> has to
> do with a general sensibility to avoid such overload. A feature people
> likely develop when growing older. If I would do my programming with
> loud music, "spaghetti code" would surely be the result.
> Happy New Year (... whaaat not '06, its already '07 ... s**t, must  
> have
> blanked for a whole year. :-)
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Christiane Robbins

J e t z t z e i t
Los Angeles  l  San Francisco

... the space between zero and one ...
Walter Benjamin

Dreams pass into the reality of action.
 From the actions stem the dream again.
This interdependence produces the
highest form of living.
- Anais Nin, (1903 - 1977)

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