Subliminal Culture

Friday, September 21, 2007

Lately I’ve been reading more of Lev Manovich’s ( Language of New Media. Manovich discusses the methods in which we access new media. He mentions some research done by Paul Virilio on the collapsing effect technology has on the distances between people and content. Before, if a person wanted to see the works of Da Vinci they’d have to travel to a book store or an art museum. With the advent of new media it’s as simple as pulling up a browser.

The consequences of this immediacy are somewhat evident. The moment of seeing a work like Ginevra de Benci ( on a screen is most likely followed up with going to Digg or checking email but seeing this 15th century master work at the National Gallery ( is followed with indescribable emotions. The immediacy of content to some degree robs us of these experiences, but we’re still absorbing content on a subliminal level.

These fleeting moments of content absorption can heighten the experience of standing in front of the real thing. By skimming da Vinci’s Wikipedia entry I’ll have seen Ginevra and maybe even read a few lines about her so upon seeing the piece in person I may have a slight familiarity which leads to a better appreciation of the work thus heightening the experience. In advertising we call this subliminal advertising and judging by this little experiment (, it proves to be very effective.

Virilio seems to think the immediacy of the web will stunt peoples physical interactions with content thus stunting reflection and critical thinking. I see his point but I think it has the potential to heighten and increase our experiences.