May 01, 2003
Cyberspace and the Lonely Crowd

by Greg Van Alstyne

In this essay I have tried to elucidate a number of crucial theses from Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle by reexamining them in view of conditions within the growing digital economy. I have also considered what the spectacle is not in the hope of avoiding the kind of oversimplification of Debord's theory which is all too common.

"The whole life of those societies in which modern conditions of production prevail presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. All that once was directly lived has become mere representation." (Guy Debord,The Society of the Spectacle, thesis 1)

Originally published in Paris in 1967 as La Societé du spectacle, Debord's text, a collection of 221 brief theses organized into nine chapters, is a Marxian aphoristic analysis of the conditions of life in the modern, industrialized world. Here "spectacular society" is arraigned in terms that are simultaneously poetic and precise: deceit, false consciousness, separation, unreality. Debord's influence today is beyond dispute.

Upon revisiting this book I have been impressed by the immediacy of the theory. For Debord seemed to be describing the most intensively promoted phenomenon of this decade, the planet-wide network of existing and promised digital commodities, services and environments: cyberspace.

Cyberspace is supposed to be about interactivity, connectivity and community. Yet if cyberspace exemplifies the spectacle through the relationships which we will investigate here, it is not about connection at all -- paradoxically, it is about separation.

Posted by Brian Stefans at May 01, 2003 04:45 PM | TrackBack

Each Stack Frame represents a function. The bottom frame is always the main function, and the frames above it are the other functions that main calls. At any given time, the stack can show you the path your code has taken to get to where it is. The top frame represents the function the code is currently executing, and the frame below it is the function that called the current function, and the frame below that represents the function that called the function that called the current function, and so on all the way down to main, which is the starting point of any C program.

Posted by: Denton on January 18, 2004 10:15 PM

The Stack is just what it sounds like: a tower of things that starts at the bottom and builds upward as it goes. In our case, the things in the stack are called "Stack Frames" or just "frames". We start with one stack frame at the very bottom, and we build up from there.

Posted by: Randolph on January 18, 2004 10:16 PM

Seth Roby graduated in May of 2003 with a double major in English and Computer Science, the Macintosh part of a three-person Macintosh, Linux, and Windows graduating triumvirate.

Posted by: Digory on January 18, 2004 10:16 PM

The most basic duality that exists with variables is how the programmer sees them in a totally different way than the computer does. When you're typing away in Project Builder, your variables are normal words smashed together, like software titles from the 80s. You deal with them on this level, moving them around and passing them back and forth.

Posted by: Cesar on January 18, 2004 10:17 PM

Our next line looks familiar, except it starts with an asterisk. Again, we're using the star operator, and noting that this variable we're working with is a pointer. If we didn't, the computer would try to put the results of the right hand side of this statement (which evaluates to 6) into the pointer, overriding the value we need in the pointer, which is an address. This way, the computer knows to put the data not in the pointer, but into the place the pointer points to, which is in the Heap. So after this line, our int is living happily in the Heap, storing a value of 6, and our pointer tells us where that data is living.

Posted by: Evan on January 18, 2004 10:17 PM