The Problem with the Influence of the Moving Image in Society Today, the Alter-Modern and the Disappearance of a Focus on the Internal

Scientific Essay, 2016

28 Pages


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Since the early twentieth century, civilization’s obsession with the moving image, has helped it to go backwards instead of forwards. Because of the nature of the way moving images are proliferated especially during our present age of digital expansion, the past and the history of the past produce a cultural amnesia which creates a misperception that we are greatly ahead of our past. Much of this is because our continuous fascination with the moving image has undermined and effaced a Modernist reasoning which had been more concerned with searching for an internal depth in objects and things which were reflected in the human being. As a result of our visual thirst for the moving image which takes us away from this, we now live in a situation void of causal reasoning which makes it very easy for very little reason, or difficult, for well-justified reasoning to exist since our thirst and addiction to the moving image has seen a spiritual shift away from the search of internal value and meaning that has been tied to our culture and cultural perceptions. By tracing civilization’s obsession with the Classical which it had once used as a ‘steadying metaphor’ the paper attempts to explain some of the influences that have made us lose our focus on the importance of the internal and offers to explain why we are now more than ever before bereft of a focus for searching for the internal depth that exists within people, objects and things.

Table Of Contents

Problems Today ... 3
Moving Images ... 6
The Classical and the Instinctive Attraction to the Idea of the Limited Whole: A Reflection of Civilisation’s Need for a Steadying Metaphor ... 8
A New Global Reflex and Steading Metaphor in the Twentieth Century ... 12
Today’s Alter-Modernism. ... 17
Conclusion ... 20
Notes ... 23

Problems Today

It is evidently clear that within our present era of ‘Alter-Modernism’,1 in contrast to the past, moving images—especially digital ones—have become far too hypnotic. While the search for an internal self reaches back to the beginning of man and had once upon a time been more concerned with a search for a hidden depth within people, objects and things, there is a shift in focus today which often sees knowledge or one’s idea of knowledge much more derived from the surface of things and the world of appearance. This is because problematically, our previous focus on, and search for the internal depth within people, objects and things seems now to have become replaced by a culture of the superficial often conveyed in the content of moving images, which now seems more generally accepted. Based upon the false assumption that technology always means total undeniable progress for all and sundry, problematically, the digital world, unlike nature, is something we have built ourselves. It is a world which has no boundaries anymore and which now is almost entirely devoid of any commonly agreed upon morals, frameworks, verifiable mainstream systems for thinking and objective contexts and recognisable ‘goal posts’ which we can aim for. Life has become more horizontal rather than vertical, and different degrees of correctness and various points of view have become increasingly indistinguishable from one another. Boundaries previously separating high and low culture have amalgamated and morphed into being read and perceived as belonging to a single level indistinguishable from one another so that the importance of the “internal” previously directed towards the cultivation and subsequent appreciation of an internal depth within people, objects and things in society, which was once based upon measuring standards of things has now dissolved or almost dissolved.

In this strange circumstance, we no longer have a general mainstream audience receptive to accept anything justified or proven by causal reasoning. 2 These days, contrary to the past— when a time had existed when it had once been considered impressive, causal reasoning now seems to elicit extreme boredom in others. Instead we are bereft of fixed frameworks and contexts for discussion moderated and dependent upon them, which had once been the way things could be commonly and properly read and understood, allowing us to derive common meaning and a shared understanding. In contrast to a period of Modernism and pre-internet days, when certain general ideas and assumptions within daily conversations to an extent were once able to be formed and also maintained, nowadays they dissolve and plummet into an undistinguishable vortex. In this situation, in which a particular or sensible theory or a perception of something no longer can retain as much power as it once would have done in the past—for example, when (non-digitally related) binary structures—(i.e. a system of opposites)3 had allowed the existence of a mainstream to be opposed by a counter-culture—its polar opposite, which had helped us measure the status quo of our culture), in our digital world, we have been forcefully eidetically globalized into a single and dominant world culture. In such a world, facts are no longer as concrete as they once were and as writers such as Baudrillard and Fukuyama have already claimed during the 1980 and 1990s, history is already at an end. In relation to this, Banks and Vowles have already pointed out, that culture has already become:

“All co-opted, celebrated and packaged side by side in the eternal present of the Museum, and inhabiting the same space as Big Brother and Little Britain, Hello magazine and mass Attention Deficiency Disorder; in a dystopian world where everyone is a celebrity (including artists) and everyone is a critic (excepting artists); both absolutely essential and totally disposable, both subversive and mainstream at the same time. The Triumph of Culture as the emancipation of banality.”4

As a result of our now being overly dependent upon running upon digital logic shaped and imbued by the internet’s hyper-textuality, interactivity, multi-mediality and its fragmented, overlapping structure, one could argue that we all live somewhere in which the ‘aura’ 5 which Walter Benjamin had referred to is non-existent in a culture almost entirely derived from and dependent upon perceptions within a digital world.

With our boundaries no longer present, it is no longer easy to affix our apperceptions and consciousness or find relevant any guidelines that would help us to perceive, or have the will to find individual interpretations towards a goal of finding internal depth. As Catts and Zurr have stated,

“... in terms of knowledge, applications and comprehensions of meanings and consequences…one can say that we are in a precarious stage of crude ontologies…”.6

Notwithstanding this, much of civilisation’s globalized focus on believing the surface appearance of things intrinsically engendered, encouraged and supported by such things in the mainstream as mainstream infotainment is now firmly embedded in our cultural hegemony, which continues to be overly furnished with an unreasonable and unreasoned amount of importance and significance. With no common denominator left, and in contrast to the fact that the American writer Terence McKenna has stated that, “The planet is clearly a boundary defining topology,”7 the world community lives in an increasing standardizing and ‘horizontalising’ mental environment where the judgement of differences between things and levels of meaning are now limitlessly left wide-open and are anyone’s guess.

Yet despite this unreal world of ‘artificial intelligence’ and its superficiality permeating our consciousness, much of this appears to be generally unrecognised and accepted. Instead, there exists in the individual a new-found feeling of autocratic power, which furnishes a false appearance of the self, false sense of knowledge and false sense control. In fact, Andy Warhol’s vision that in future everyone will have their 15 minutes of fame is now manifest as a typical daily indispensable routine within a general climate and epoch of the Alter-Modern born out of the omnipresence of the internet’s properties and characteristics dependent, co-efficient and synchronous with its hyper-textuality, interactivity, multi-mediality. In relation to this, Gach has stated that,

“…in our fast-forward pace, Andy Warhol's original dicta that everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes has been abridged to fifteen seconds. Or five. Hence, Twitter, the minimalist mainstream measure of cellphone social networking: 140 characters (spaces included).” 8

As such, in place of our past structures, contexts and boundaries and hierarchical systems we are provided an autocratic attitude and megalomania that would stem from a false appearance of the self, which would lack a sense of humility arisen from the denial of past attitudes and a previous focus towards the internal. While the internet promises that one only stands to gain ‘absolute’ freedom, power and control, rather than increase the individual’s depth of opinions and apperceptions for accruing wisdom, it narrows them, since its ersatz nature only provides us with ephemeral data in contrast to the previous pre-internet eras of Modernism and High Modernism before a time when the internet did our thinking for us and when much of civilisation’s apperceptions had been more related to an internal response to the internal of things. This seems to be the case in our current epoch of ersatz and diminishing reason, which would join, shape, meld, curb and delimit us towards our taking a wrong turn away in our search for and focus on an internal depth within us, objects and things. Therefore it is not even surprising that despite the fact that certain events related to the history of the culture of the past in one way have been kept alive via the internet, via video-sharing websites such as YouTube etc., many of the important values once central and embedded within pre-internet days have been erased and dissolved.

Yet while a false belief leads many to feel that we have greatly progressed, unfortunately our life is based upon denying, ignoring and obliterating the reasoning and logic that had existed in pre-internet days, much of which was engendered through gradually acquiring knowledge through experience and causal reason to build and improve civilisation. Instead we have replaced this with an all too encompassing belief in progress and in the fact that everything new is undoubtedly superior. While our impermanent logic is void of any form of causal reasoning, it would lack the substance produced by more traditional forms of reasoning derived from justified true beliefs and the proven legitimate standards inherent in the past, and now continues to be justified through its representation of a process of non-confirmation which embodies everything with an almost uniform unquestioned regularity and normality extending Post-Modernism’s lack of a referent. Unfortunately, this has permeated everything affecting our apperception relating to the way we view, experience and think about everything.

Commenting upon the term Alter-Modernism, Jesse Richards, filmmaker and founder of the ReModernist film movement dismissed today’s Alter-Modernism as just being "more Post-Modernism" in a recent interview: “It just seems to me to be more Post-Modernism and nothing else. The Tate people just found a hip new way to say the same old things. The difference seems to be that Post-Modernism and “Alter-Modernism” which looks like the same thing to me, is pretty much an external, surface thing, while early Modernism and reModernism are more internal, and come from beneath the surface”. 9

Moving Images

Within and bound up with the aforementioned circumstance, conveyed via the internet, on digital TVs, computers and in films and advertisements, the moving image—especially the digital moving image—can be seen as being particularly problematic. Civilisation’s heightened obsession with and attraction to digital moving images assists the climate for transcending any form of causal reasoning, which had originally stemmed from traditional philosophical aesthetics and reason. Instead, our obsession for them now strongly contributes to, and reflects today’s epoch of speed, which does not allow the time for causal reason and effaces any inclination towards this. The images we are fed distract and furnish us with merely temporary and ephemeral information instead. In this world within a digital framework, much of our consciousness is only peppered with fleeting glimpses of things, which often control and condition us promoting and then re-enforcing its own conditioning of our responses in a similar way to how Nazi propaganda during WWII had promoted some things while censoring others. Our fleeting glimpses of things within an environment of entertainment, has been created to distract us and is generated by the various corporation’s need to ever increase their wealth. Due to this, we are provided very little precise or concrete perception of almost anything. Today, the mass reproduction of images is greatly multiplied through auto-reproduction in a dissemination of imagery within a mass circulatory digital world, increasingly repeating the problem and radically deflating the authenticity of the reproduced image in comparison with the original thing photographed, filmed and reproduced. This ubiquitousness has resulted in its invisibility within our ever-present digital universe undermining the importance of our search for an internal depth within people, objects and things and its hypnotic effect and widespread proliferation in the world blocks us from connecting to the internal within us. In a somewhat similar way to what has now happened to music today, which is overused and over shown, and thus devalued, yet more popular than ever before, increasingly from a period of Modernism during the first half of the twentieth century through to Post-Modernism 1980-2000 app. and up to the present, much of civilisation’s immersion in a world of moving images has reduced its perceptions and quest for a more deeply reflective capacity related to an internal and spiritual focus for thought, concentration and contemplation more akin to what had been focussed and built upon in the past. Thus within our digital universe, in opposition to the past, our ongoing globalized focus, obsession and idée fixe on the moving image increasingly creates disequilibrium.

This obsession relates to and stems from a past period that had begun with industrialization and the process of the mass marketing and a ‘mass conveyer belt’ system of reproduction that had first begun during the industrial revolution and was a powerful outcome of it. It is an idee fixe resulting from the mass reproduction of images of the original object and the original image which became mass produced in magazines, film and later, on television. It had come out of the invention of photography, and early film and their mass reproduction, propagation in and manipulation of society and has come about due to a “global reflex and impulse,” as most of the planet continues to be overly hypnotized by the shallow and indeterminate message the moving image would convey.

The Classical and the Instinctive Attraction to the Idea of the Limited Whole: A Reflection of Civilisation’s Need for a Steadying Metaphor

To understand the basis of what had been the original cause of the obsession, we need to recognize that from time immemorial, civilizations, cultures and societies have always needed something to hold on to—that is, something that would help to anchor themselves in something reassuring and comfortable. In other words, many civilizations have needed, as it were, a crutch or, “steadying metaphor” to help them through periods of transition whenever they were unsure or uncertain about the future.10 In finding something to capture the imagination which could help create a feeling of security, they would immerse themselves in its spell.

From ancient times, instead of the ‘democratisation’ of the internet, the unstoppable, almost global ubiquity of digital logic and much of civilisation’s obsession with the moving image, Classical ideas and their associated concepts had often provided many with a general code of conduct and practice for thinking, living and being. As a support mechanism and steadying metaphor for scholars, philosophers, architects, politicians and leaders etc., it had often helped to contribute to civilized discourse often serving as a guide when people looked to make stronger their search for internal depth and strength, when this was lacking or had felt diminished. As Terence McKenna pointed out in relation to this, turning back to Classical ideas for inspiration had been “a strategy for human survival—an animal strategy not an intellectual one—which had unconsciously been looked for in reaching back into its mythology” and11 today we can still see the influence of the Classical and ancient Greco-Roman influence in our towns everywhere.

Often at the centre of Classical definitions of art, sculpture and architecture, had been the concept of the limited but complete whole, or the idea of ‘One’—which had been related to something existing as a whole within people, objects and things. This fundamental and instinctive concept had been instinctive because the idea of the limited whole was often related to the conception of anything containing substance being akin to the idea of a complete whole of that something to be found inside and deep within the person.12


[1] For a definition of this term see
[2] See any of Plato’s books in which Plato’s character Sophocles forms part of the discussion. See also Immanuel Kant.
[3] See for example, Claude Levi Strauss. “Levi-Strauss approach to narrative <br / >Claude Levi Strauss studied hundreds of myths and legends all around the world, from that he found out that we as humans make sense of the world, people and events by seeing and using binary opposites. <br / >He found out that narratives are arranged around the conflict of binary opposites.” Claude Levi Strauss,; accessed: 11/02/16.
[4] Glyn Banks and Hannah Vowles, ‘Theory Beyond the Codes: The Triumph of Culture’, ; Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, Editors; accessed 26/10/11.
[5] For Benjamin’s discussion of his concept of aura see Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, 1936,
[6] Crude Life: The Tissue Culture & Art Project / Oron Catts + Ionat Zurr,, p. 94, accessed: 27/01/15.
[7] McKennna, T., ‘History Ends in Green’,, accessed, 10/11/11.
[8] Gach, G., ‘Why I do not own a cellphone’, Resetting Theory: Need Speed Health in; accessed 26/10/11. Resetting Theory: rt015; accessed : 21/12/2009., Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, Editors.
[9] In addition to grasping the idea of the Alter-Modern for a further discussion of the state of art and culture and how much of it may be a sham of sorts refer to the online article ‘Theodore Roosevelt’s Common Sense Criticism’;, accessed: 21/12/11.
[10] McKennna, T., ‘History Ends in Green’,, accessed, 10/11/11.
[11] McKennna, T., ‘History Ends in Green’,, accessed, 10/11/11.
[12] In art and architecture, building on the conceptions, techniques, theories and ideas of Greek art and their attitudes concerning culture. Ancient Rome had re-interpreted and re-instated the expression of the Classical and essential essence of perfect, flawless total ‘unified’ authoritative limited complete wholes (and unity) and their related contours and concepts. This had manifested through a use of new technological developments which would extend the Greek techniques. One needs only to look at buildings such as the Pantheon “…in Rome and the Scenic Triclinium at Hadrian’s Villa” to see that much of their “influence particularly their interiors would be found in styles that would dominate up until the twentieth century”. For many years, these programs for art and our attitudes about culture had continued to influence western ideologies of art and our attitudes about culture of the past in pre-internet times providing an artistic expression of the internal. See Kohane, P. ARCH1121, Architectural History and Theory 1, Course Guide, UNSW, 2010.

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The Problem with the Influence of the Moving Image in Society Today, the Alter-Modern and the Disappearance of a Focus on the Internal
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This academic paper began when I was lecturing at the University of Technology in Sydney, 2011, after stopping work on it in 2011, work resumed late in 2015 and it was completed in February 2016.
Internet, Media, Moving Image, Art, Architecture, Classical
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Cyrus Manasseh (Author), 2016, The Problem with the Influence of the Moving Image in Society Today, the Alter-Modern and the Disappearance of a Focus on the Internal, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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