Paul Virilio – Open Sky

Paul Virilio’s Open Sky is a book that was referred to me by David Moore, who recommended I read it to explore further ideas associated with the digital world and technologic processes. The fact that Virilio comes from a background of philosophy would add more depth to my research however I must take into account that it might have the capacity to be speculative as opposed to making a point founded through research. The notes and my reflection on this title can be seen below:


  • Concerned with the speed of the ‘real-time’ transmission tools
  • However we should be concerned about the hole in the ozone layer
  • ‘Our sky is vanishing’
  • We need to shift our sights upwards, and consider space-time matter
  • Conception of the world is drawn through perception
  • Without a horizon there is no reality

Part One

The Third Interval

  • Acceleration of communication
  • We are the beneficiaries but also the unwitting victims
  • Technology eradicates duration
  • Mass revolution changing real space to real time
  • Notions of atopia and utopia and teletopia
  • Meeting at a distance, being telepresent
  • Optoelectrics, facility of the body being transferred one by one to machines
  • Urbanisation of real time is transferring activity into interfaces
  • Transmission revolution means speed and instantaneous communication
  • However the interval of the light must be considered
  • Real-time technology bypasses time (duration) space (extension) and light (limit-speed)
  • Teleoperator (human-robot interface) televiewer (activity is not spatial but temporal)
  • Interactivity informs us of a remote reality to the detriment of our apprehension of the real
  • Debate is not global versus local or transnational versus national – it is now a temporal switch to an existence where no one has any control
  • A journey without trajectory is fundamentally uncontrollable
  • Increasingly partaking in remote interrelationships
  • Paradoxes of acceleration ‘distant’ takes away from the near
  • Teletopical city housing terminal citizens
  • At the end of the century the planet will be reduced to nothing by teletechnologies of generalised activity

The Perspective of Real Time

  • Unnoticed phenomenon of world’s dimensions – dromosphere (dromos: race, running)
  • Contamination, world has been gradually reduced to nothing by the digital tools
  • Transparent horizon not an apparent horizon, transparent is the product of the optical (optoelectric and acoustic)
  • Close perception between collective practices of communication telecommunication
  • Charles Peguy ‘there is no history, but only a public duration’
  • Objectivity and subjectivity but not trajectivity
  • Between subjective and objective there is no room for the trajective
  • The end of the outside world, forgetting spatial exteriority for temporal exteriority
  • Real-time image no longer offers concrete/explicit information, it offers discrete/implicit information
  • Square horizon of the screen, the teleportical society is constructed around the ‘window’ and the teleport
  • Classic photograph is no more than a ‘freeze frame’
  • Is punctum vanishing from perspective
  • Surface of a negative freezes the time of representation of movement
  • Real-time perspective is video
  • Experience splits open to become a ‘fractional’ dimension
  • Screen has geometric and optical properties that suggest a window or the frame of a painting
  • Constitution of videoscopic information depends on the acceleration of the frames
  • Hegemonic influence of technological culture is spreading and taking over
  • Void (the void of quick) depends on the interface of instantaneous transmission
  • Dromospheric pollution attacks liveliness of subject, mobility of the object by atrophying (wasting away) the journey so it becomes needless

Optics on a Grand Scale

  • Passive objects/small scale optics (glass, water, air) active optics/large scale optics (disregarding notion of horizon)
  • Virtual reality provoked ‘adaptive optics’
  • Trans-appearance (transparent, transient appearance)
  • Distance has given way to notions of power, endless transmitting power
  • Problems with ‘signal digitisation’ representation of tangible reality
  • Digital/virtual dismantles the necessary conditions for sensory experience


Part Two

The Law of Proximity

  • Technological reductionism is spreading through communication
  • New electromagnetic proximity about which we know little about
  • Beginnings of third revolution, the transmission revolution as a result of electromagnetic processes
  • ‘Law of proximity’ interval of space type, interval of time type, interval of light type
  • Electromagnetic proximity is outstripping mechanical proximity
  • Less is more, to what extent? If it is a completely virtual representation, an image of an image
  • Capacity for instantaneous action
  • Key notion of (photography, radio and TV) signal input and output have replaced the actions of the humans to an extent
  • Contrary to traditional proximity, electromagnetic proximity is not spatial, more temporal

Grey Ecology

  • The word nature is changed and replaced by a new definition in the digital world, we are confronted with media ecology
  • The nature of our new habitat can’t be determined until we decide what our relationship is with this new environment
  • It appears there is a death of geography in this land, the distance between us is both lessened and increased at the same time
  • We seek relief in virtual reality, a different dimension which exists in the media ecology

Continental Drift

  • In the digital world, time and space are not relative
  • The centre of this world is nowhere but the circumference is everywhere
  • We are seeing an emerging ‘business tourism’
  • Concept of distance is yielding to the concept of duration
  • The infosphere will rule tomorrow’s biosphere


Part Three

Eye Lust

  • Is there any photography left, if we characterise it as this ‘freeze frame’
  • We still need to determine the ethics for contemporary perception
  • Perceptual disorder, we can’t rely on the image to be objective, status of eye witness is lost
  • Methods of algorithmic photography could be referred to as visual reconstruction, with the data being potential image energy
  • Is there a ‘right to blindness’, for the individual to choose not to be confronted with all of the imagery in the digital age
  • The strategic value of visual displays has been recognised by many authoritative individuals
  • Concept of geopolitics is being replaced with iconopolitics in which the image dominates

From Sexual Perversion to Sexual Diversion

  • With cyber sex, it is a process of disintegration, built on a mutual rejection
  • Technologic proximity allows the individual to be emotionally close but not physically close, to avoid the risk of contamination
  • What originated as a vital process of copulation, has changed and been incorporated into the digital world as a practice of convenience
  • Processes of love are now complex diversions, no longer an ‘animal’ impulse but mechanical, technological

Escape Velocity

  • There is an object, the subject and the path is the distance between them
  • The path is the means to get the subject to their specific objective
  • Scientific discoveries characterise our progression, the constant need to contextualise ourselves in our universe, technology facilitates our individual processes of contextualisation
  • The concept of trajectory has replaced the notion of geography
  • In cyber space we are performing, not living and experiencing



This book, although really quite hard to read is brilliant at introducing new ideas to the discussion of digital technology. As Walter Benjamin originally discussed in relation to reproduction, in the digital world the concept of proximity is completely distorted, an individual can be closer to, but distanced from one another at the same time. Whilst their is conceptual, emotional closeness, the actual distance between individuals can be vast. Two individuals could be in the same physical proximity, but by engaging with technology they can be emotionally distant. These concepts relate to the idea of online communication, where virtual reality and convenient communication alters the way individuals connect to each other. As I have also researched, the effect of technology is to inhibit the emotions of the user, causing unnatural and perhaps asocial behaviour. The notion that society is defined by the ‘frame’ and the screen is an idea shared by many other practitioners and is definitely something I can pursue in my creative process. Perhaps in order to experiment I need to break out of the frame, or in order to make a statement I could experiment by restricting my work into this rectangular shape. In addition to this I must recognise that the frame itself is actually changing, applications and social media platforms such as Instagram have changed the frame from a rectangle to a square in the digital environment. This creative decision was most likely made to reference the Polaroid picture which was a defining feature of the relationship between photography and social activity. Virilio constantly references that the digital world has no space-time dimensions, there is no physical presence in this world and this alters the way that we react and interact with it and other people. Here the image has no physical weight, it is constantly being transformed, constructed and deconstructed wherever necessary. If we take this concept and apply it to a portrait, we can conclude that an individual’s identity is being constructed and deconstructed at the convenience of others. In my project I am aiming to investigate how the identity and the representation of the individual changes in digital communication, therefore I must consider how the portrait fits in this equation. In the digital world, the image of the individual is one of the predominately aspects of identity, as the individual themselves can’t be there to physically represent itself. Researching this book has been extremely beneficial as it has introduced new ideas to my project, as well as confirming some of the concepts I had already engaged with. I will definitely be referring back to the ideas established throughout my creative process in order to produce the most appropriate and effective outcome.


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