(About this image) Construct

A recent class I enrolled in on the history of western civilization, had me read Plato’s Republic Book VII: Section I. The allegory Plato presented was of a prisoner in a cave being released and seeing the moon, stars and sun for the first time. In this story, Plato’s cave represents the limited beliefs and the material world that immediately surrounds us. The outside world and it’s components, i.e. moon, stars and sun, represent knowledge and enlightenment. If the prisoner was returned to the cave, his fellow captives wouldn’t believe what the escapee saw, they would have no way of understanding what was beyond their knowledge of the cave. The premise of the text is we know of the world by what we surround ourselves with. This synopsis is a gross simplification of the story’s message, however at it’s core it resonated with my own belief structure.

The allegories depicted hold value in contemporary society, and most likely has for societies throughout the last 2,000 plus years. At a glance, it’s not hard to see a correlation in the text with events happening in our politics and communities. Understanding and knowledge of the world has become polarized within isolated groups of individuals. Openness to the world outside our sphere is shrinking, we wall ourselves off from people with different ideas. Speaking allegorically, if the darkness inside Plato’s cave is our understanding and knowledge of the world, then what is the cave?

Plato uses physical space, the cave, as the perpetrator of darkness in The Republic. Therefore, would it be reasonable to assert that the manipulator of contemporary beliefs and values, is an object and also space? From a quantitive perspective of the cause, looking to the most prevalent object accompanied by people – the smartphone, we find a commonality. However, without the internet a smartphone is not  smart, but combined they create a cave, a darkness that limits our perception.

This situation, our self invoked blindness, is what distress me. 20 years ago I began working in the internet industry, the possibilities and potential our new technology could deliver was exciting. Knowledge, communication and connectivity had been unleashed and it seemed there was no way to put the genie back in the bottle. What we have done to our creation is a perversion of its nature. It’s now a weapon being wielded against us, by groups hoping to gain power and corporations to subliminally manipulate or implant ideas.

My evidence to this claim is this: I worked in advertising as a web developer for a number of agencies throughout my career. In the start, web properties existed to promote or sell a companies product. As the industry matured, the purpose of our endeavors took a more sinister turn. We were no longer selling anything, the entire intention of our work became to saturate a communication channel with brand keywords and triggers that would associate a consumers perception of an object or act with a brand. In essence, we were manipulating the thoughts of people for the gain of a corporation.

Like the prisoners of the cave depicted in The Republic, we have imprisoned our peers in a virtual cave of darkness. Exploiting their thoughts and even identities for the benefit of the powerful. My example of  manipulation and the growing darkness is small and seemingly inconsequential. Consider though, if corporations are willing to employ these low level tactics, it would be reasonable to assume they would harness the power of a device that reports a users activity, identify their vulnerabilities and coerce them. This is not something I signed up for when I started my journey into technology.

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22 Responses to “Construct”

  1. sherri

    neither did i, but even people who are not as involved to the extent of some of us still have no expectation of privacy

    people who never frequent the internet themselves have their personal information passed across the internet by banking and such entities

    here’s how i’ve come to look at it. the climate in which we live is very sinister, but it is what it is. sure, be cautious and careful, but don’t let them win by keeping us limited from the the things where we find a hobby

    if those who would destroy our democracy gain more power than the level headed peoples with American hearts, then we are doomed so, enjoy life now

    wonderful image

  2. Robyn

    Gosh Will you have touched a nerve for me. This is my most favourite from Plato and a cursory read of your take on it makes me think it deserves more. I look forward to rereading your post.

  3. Elaine-

    there’s a psychopath who found Jesus out there on youtube, giving his testimonial, which is shocking and horrifying… he starts off by walking down into a subway station, and saying if everybody lived underground they wouldn’t believe the Christian that came in and told them about the earth… to me that is a problem for Christians, trying to describe the face of God to unbelievers… remember that douglas coupland metaphor of a frog trying to tell the fish that there was a whole world ‘up there’…
    the internet was so fun at first, i used to challenge myself to make pretty html websites, but now? it’s a prison of youtube, facebook, twitter and instagram… it’s a prison that, if everyone is honest, we can no longer escape.

    • Will Williams

      In my opinion, not being able to visually represent the face of god has been an advantage to the abrahamic religions. It simplifies the process of worship. I believe a problem arises when individuals distort the “facelessness” to pursue their own agenda, like in the youtube example you gave. That’s my humble opinion from an armchair philosopher 🙂

      I think we do a decent job avoiding the content entrapment of the social media giants. Self publishing content does feel liberating. Thanks for the awesome “food for thought” Elaine!

  4. ruthiebear

    Very thought provoking words. I was a very late adopter of technology. I have never been truly immersed but I allowed it to take up time. IN the ast several months I have stepped back a bit and focused on my photos – on my photoblog and instagram. It has brought me peace to say away from the invasion found on FB and other social sites. WHen technology causes us to alter who we are and how we think, it has outlived its benefits.

    • Will Williams

      Thanks Ruthiebear! I did the same with Facebook, the negative pollution present on that site was becoming overwhelming. Since deleting my account and removing drama, it’s been a lot easier to focus on my creative outlets.

  5. ....peter

    hello Will
    this is my first visit to your sight… this image with the duplicated overlay of lines of the structures is a superb treatment and i have no idea how to do it… thanks for sharing it….peter:)

    • Will Williams

      Thank you for stopping by Peter 🙂 The addition of the outlines was my attempt to invoke a sense of artificial reality in an urban setting. I’m glad you like it!

  6. Steve

    A beautiful image. I find the BS spouted by certain high profile politicians even more disturbing than that produced by the corporate world.

    • Will Williams

      I completely agree, its horrifying. It’s also disturbing to me how those politicians and other bad actors are able weaponize the tools produced by the corporate world for their own means. Thanks for stopping by Steve, I’m happy you like the image.


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