In our cultural landscape of blogs, webcams, profiles, live journals, and videosharing sites, the intimate lives of everyday people are on parade for all to see. One could say that a new culture of erotic exposure and display is on the ascendance, fueled by the impulse to reveal the self, and streamlined by DIY media technologies. In many ways this culture would seem to be less a representational than a presentational one, where we are compelled to solicit the attention of others, act for unseen eyes, and develop new forms of connective intensity -- as if this were somehow the very condition of our continued existence, the marker of our worth.
Within this new culture of self-exposure, one could say that the dream of panoptic power has vanished, or reversed course. Does the drive to willingly display the self constitute a surrender to the controlling gaze, or simply a shift in the dynamic of the game? For within these presentational environments, performance and role-playing reign supreme, and new forms of subjectivity and identity emerge.
These new cultures of self-display challenge us to rethink foundational concepts in film and media theory and, consequently, to rethink the very conditions of our approach. For clearly these cultures are not necessarily those of mastery and visual pleasure. They do not resolve easily to questions of perception, power, and language. They are cultures of showing as much as those of watching. Instead of a reliance on questions of spectatorship, representation, and scopic power, we are challenged to foreground issues of performance, affect, and display.