The Window

I spent the day today working by the window in my room.  I love sitting by the window at home, in restaurants, on the tram, and on the plane.  The window gives me a feeling of being between worlds, not quite out, but not completely in either.  There is a weird feeling of safety and vulnerability to being behind a window.

At a lecture this past week, technologist and futurist, Alan N. Shapiro, gave a talk called Software of the Future: The Model Precedes the Real. In his presentation, he spoke about glass, the window and Jean Baudrillard, a French sociologist, philosopher, cultural theorist, and apparently, photographer. Here is an excerpt from his talk:

In the first part of The System of Objects, Jean Baudrillard, mentions a certain material substance – out of which a plethora of contemporary objects is made – that catalyzes the transformation of the object from physical and vigorously singular to virtual and merely a signifier: Glass. A French advertising campaign of the sixties designates glass as the “material of the future” – and this same future is touted by businessmen, politicians and intellectuals alike as “transparent” and “value neutral.”  Glass exists at a “zero level of matter” and embodies a “universal function in the modern environment.” It is “the material used and the ideal to be achieved, both ends and means.” But what glass actually effects is the opposite of what is promised and intended.  The promotional discourse of the glass window claims that this aperture enables us to see more objects, thereby extending our horizons.  What the windowpane really does is to introduce more objects – including nature and landscapes – into the systemic unity of our own self-contained environment.  Although it appears to be an opening up to the outside or onto the world, the glass window in fact diminishes the world by bringing it into our closed-circuit atmosphere or system of ambient signs as a mere component. In an analogous way, media technologies assure through their transactions that all of reality gets “integrated as spectacle into the domestic universe.”  In the high-tech era, the pictures imported into the subject’s ambient network are computer-generated, as the interface to her surroundings is upgraded from glass panes to monitor screens.

I am intrigued by this idea that the window reduces the outside world and brings it into our private space in easily digestible segments.  I think about how I look out the window because my dreams are too big to be confined to the inside of a room and how the outside might be too big to be perceived and thus must be confined so that I can see it.  As is the nature of their work, both window prostitute and photographer contain the world behind a pane of glass.

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