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What if a Camera Could Document Your Entire Life?

A strange new technology could be media for the masses. Or complete narcissism.

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Nonetheless, Brecht, Tretiakov or Enzensberger would have seen the technologies of today as a consummate fulfilment of their prophecies – even, probably, Memoto. "Each receiver is a potential transmitter", wrote Enzensberger, and so it is. They would have relished, for instance, the way that the cameraphones of both demonstrators and passers-by recorded the killing of Ian Tomlinson, instantly disproving the police's hasty, centralised statements; although their use by all sides during the August 2011 riots showed that this footage could be just as easily used by the courts.

Much of the left, especially its anarchistic and autonomist fringes, has long been comfortable with new media. It was the original Autonomia in 1970s Bologna that appropriated the new apparatus, in the form of the pirate station Radio Alice. What is missing, perhaps, is organisation that could focus these media into something strong enough to shout down the internet's ever-present narcissistic babble; maybe "autonomy needs its Willi Münzenberg", as the critic Steve Edwards has claimed. Inanity still dominates the new media technologies. But what the left could be focusing on is what they make possible.


Owen Hatherley is the author of Militant Modernism; A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain; and Uncommon, about the pop group Pulp.