IT’S NOT YOUR IMAGINATION… WHO’S THERE? (The Mire)

Steve Goodman’s presentation at the excellent hauntology event last week focused on the phenomenon of ‘audio spotlights’, which deploy ultrasound to precisely target sonic messages at individuals. Predictably, the use of this Philip K Dick-like ‘holosonic’ technology – explained in the YouTube clip above – is being pioneered by advertisers to cut through the urban cacophony to reach consumers as they pass billboards.
It’s interesting that the ‘related videos’ on YouTube are predominantly not about technological developments but the paranormal – not surprising when you watch the clip below, which shows how advertisers have insinuated an insistent voice saying ‘It’s not your imagination … who’s there?’ into the heads of passersby. (I’m reminded of Carpenter’s Prince Of Darkness , in which technicians transmit a message into the sleeping mind of the receiving subjects, saying ‘This is not a dream’.)

It’s as if the voice flips from being a voice in your head – an invading signal, performatively announcing its own reality (it’s not your imagination) – to being thevoice in your head – your ‘own’ ‘inner’ voice, asking who’s there? On the face of it, this seems to be another vindication of Althusser’s theory of subjectivity as an effect of hailing (or interpellation). But, as someone in the audience at the Hauntology event suggested, in projecting itself directly into your head, the holosonic hail almost risks schizophrenically subverting the interpellation process. Instead of the standard (mis)recognition of oneself as the object of a hail, the holosonic projection could invite a recognition that what you thought of as your ‘inner voice’ does not belong to interiority at all.

The laser-like targeting of sound contrasted fascinatingly with a protest by Unite, the Trade Union, outside a building near to The Wire’s offices last week. In pursuit of minimal workers’ rights for the building’s cleaners – such as paid holiday/ sicknesses – the protest was an exercise in noise generation, using the voice, whistles and improvised percussion in an effort to disrupt the working ambience of City drones. Unfortunately, I don’t know how successful it was, either in its aim of distracting the smooth flow of capitalist immaterial labour – maybe the building was too effectively sound-insulated for the noise to penetrate – or in getting the cleaners’ demands met. But here are two illustrations of the way in which sound – at least as much as images – is crucial to the management of contemporary social reality. While the role of images has been endlessly discussed, the role of sound remains undertheorised. What, for instance, is the sonic equivalent of the visual Spectacle?

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