How to Cite

Johnson, A. (2007). Zeitgeist. M/C Journal, 10(1). https://doi.org/10.5204/mcj.2616
Vol. 10 No. 1 (2007): 'mobile'
Published 2007-03-01

Zeitgeist, a cycle of digital collages, of images within images, references the visibility and invisibility of communication via the personalized icons of the hand phone and dust mask.

The mobile phone affirms and denies what is immediately present before us. It carries images and sounds customized to represent individual callers, however remote. We believe that they offer protection and lessen fear, especially fear of another’s aggression, address, glance or absence. Their capabilities provoke meditation on degrees of immanence through an amalgamation of personal and public space. When speaking on a hand phone, one typically looks down, withdrawing from the immediate environment. The proximate withdraws from consciousness as the distant approaches, as in any telecommunication, but now this creation and collapsing of relations is on public display. Infected with the promise of greater and ubiquitous intimacy and exchange, we remain insecure hosts.

Dust masks, common on the spring streets of Seoul, are social shells that conceal and reveal collective contamination and individual sacrifice. They isolate and bind and make anonymous. Often they are borne by the sick (hosts, again) so as not to spread disease. But they are also worn by protesters to preserve anonymity and for protection from dispersing fumes. Indicative of social challenge, personal vulnerability or pandemic infection (especially in the case of Avian Flu), the mask is permeated by fear floating freely between peoples, countries, and continents. Floating in the air — microbes, infections, apparitions, voices beyond.

The cell phone, with all its messages, texts and images, signals the spirit of the times, a zeitgeist of promise — instilling the need for constant connection, paradoxically breeding dependency amidst isolation.

Author Biography

Andrew Johnson