The capsular experience

March 31, 2011

Referencing "The Creation of Adam" by Michelangelo (1511)Referencing “The Creation of Adam” by Michelangelo (1511)


Lieven De Cauter’s essay looks to explain how we (and by ‘we’ I mean first-world citizens) are dealing with the world and everything that is going on in it. And seemingly, it is by ignoring it, ‘capsularising’ ourselves in a membrane that protects our accepted, expected and aspired-to way of life.

Whilst it is useful to consider the capsule as a physical entity, and in many cases it is, De Cauter’s critique is allegorical. Each of his deducted laws of capsularisation are a response to an increasingly intense and invasive human experience. Technological and societal evolutions occur at scales beyond the individual and are also beyond the control of any one person. As De Cauter outlines at the beginning of the essay, there have been historically, a number of people who have seen the capsule in a positive sense, as a tool that works as a natural extension of the body; enhancing, streamlining, economising, protecting and multiplying our lives. And to an extent this is true, technological advances have made information, communication and experiences available to many; motorised transport, mass production, books, computers, phones, computers and the internet. These objects of desire and necessity encapsulate us, we consume them as each one consumes us.

However, it comes at a cost. The cost is a dulling of the senses, internalisation, ignorance, fear. And, as De Cauter explains, these symptoms of capsularisation become reasons for the capsule’s existence, feeding and providing in increasingly vicious cycles.

As alluring and entrancing as a first-world life is, it places new types of demands on its citizens to keep moving, to stay ahead and in touch, to consume or be consumed. For the most part, struggles over shelter, food and health are eliminated, though these have been quickly replaced with the unreal, contrived and induced struggles that take people further away from reality.

Grossly imbalanced material and resource consumption, that cannot be objectively justified, (and of which I am a part), make the lives of the ‘other’ more difficult. The ‘other’ that I am simultaneously connected to and distanced from, that I am dependant on yet maintain physical and mental separation. My way of life is built on the invisible relationship with the ‘other.’ Protected by my capsule, I preserve the imbalance.




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