Monday, May 16, 2011

The Observer and the Observed

In his interesting blog post, The Producers: Are Pictures Detaching Us From Life?, UC Berkeley Prof. Alva Noë writes of the creeping wedding-ization of experience. The proliferation of technology, especially digital imaging technology, is making us all detached producers rather than active participants in everyday life, he suggests. While the point is well taken, I wonder if we can't make a broader point about observation and the observer. In quantum physics, the observer and the observed are linked; the observed is affected by the observer. The video of Osama watching himself on TV, remote in hand, offers a stark recursive example of this phenomenon. The technology that is available today has no doubt democratized the producer function and with that created a new need for composers and editors as well as a realization that participatory detachment from the activity has its own impact. Yet, with or without technology, observation has the power to alter the observed. Our awareness of this law of nature and our knowledge thereof offers us our only real method to control how and to what extent we observer-participants impact that which we seek to merely observe.

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