Duplication and control

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Something new is afoot. Something new has always been afoot. In 2019, Professor Shoshana Zuboff denounced a new paradigm she calls surveillance capitalism whose objective is the effective and irresistible control of consumers seen as the extraction ground for a new generation of businesses. In the late 1980s, the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze predicted a post-millenial society of control, based on consensual servitude in the name of convenience and communication.

An earlier example of industrial control may be found in the printing revolution. Before the information revolution fulfilled Deleuze’s prophecy, the printed book created the medium through which information and knowledge were captured, controlled and submitted to the approval of established authorities.

The printed book was the first form of control and domination of the manuscript.

The printed page controls the text, the press controls the exact duplication of each copy and a host of interested parties make sure to control the production, distribution and consumption of books.

What is written, stays written. What has been printed stays the same for thousands of copies. As photography is the control of visual reality and the mise en captivité of imitative, figurative painting and portraiture, so is printing the subjugation or, as Michel Foucault would have said, the enfermement of the written word in the pre-established, unmovable asylum of type, standard and structure.

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