Saturday, September 27, 2008

Vision Test

I'm no intellectual property lawyer, but I watched this video about the film Children of Men with commentary from theorist Slavoj Žižek with great interest as what seemed to me an example of online digital video that would seem to be a classic case of fair use, in which use of the footage could be justified by the clearly pedagogical and critical orientation of the material and its attention to background details rather than the "heart of the work" in arguing for his thesis about the "paradox of anamorphosis" in which the "signs of oppression" and "ideological despair" can not be looked at directly in cultural production under conditions of late capitalism. And yet, shortly after Žižek says that such films "can guarantee that cinema as art will really survive," a copyright acknowledgment appears from Universal Studios, so that the careful viewer is made aware that Žižek at least solicited formal permission from the studio's lawyers and may have even produced this piece of latent Marxism in cooperation with Universal's marketing whiz kids.

Of course, Žižek has exploited the Internet in a number of ways to put forward himself as a public intellectual with much more imagination than his colleagues in media and psychoanalytic criticism have thought to do here in U.S. It may have begun when he published "Welcome to the Desert of the Real" online four days after the September 11th attacks. Since 9/11, videos of Žižek's talks, such as this one on politeness and tolerance -- two issues often important in computer-mediated communication -- in which he describes threatening to put "in his free Professor Žižek time surfs the Internet for pedophilia" on a recent book jacket, are frequently disseminated through Internet channels. As a celebrity in academic circles, even his wedding photos have been much commented upon in the scholarly blogosphere. (My favorite example of Internet ephemera related to the philosopher from the former Yugoslavia is this video of a Žižek impersonator in a Halloween mask.)

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