Looking at Graniteville through Massumi’s lens

Take a look at the four images above.

Try to rate which one you find more pleasant/unpleasant and happy/sad.

While looking at the right column, your eyes are drawn to the shortcomings of the landscape; the destruction and disorder of the natural state.

Aren’t you just wishing that the images on the right could resemble those on the left in terms of the peaceful and stable scenery?

Aren’t you just wishing that this manmade destruction could revert back to its original state?

Looking at them from Massumi’s lens, the sad one is going to leave a long-lasting impression. During his study, he was able to emphasize the “primacy of affective in image reception” (Massumi, 24)  

        Massumi’s reading made me realize that people remember situations that are unpleasant or contain a bad experience more than pleasant situations. The strength of an image and duration is not affected simply by its content but by its effect on humans (as in increased breathing or increased heartbeats). During the snowman experiment, the children found the factual version less interesting as it reflected expectations. However, the emotional version diverted from the objective format and enhanced the effects of the image, making it more favorable. The understanding of the affect in Massumi is linked to another key term in his research: the virtual. He defines affect as “the critical point shadowing every image/expression-event” (Massumi, 33).   The virtual is linked to the human perception of external stimuli, this occurs on at least two levels, the form/content and the intensity/effect. The form/content is what is presented and the intensity/effect is how intense is the information and whether it leaves a lasting effect. As he says, “The strength or duration of an image’s effect is not logically connected to the content in any way” (Massumi, 24).

        The example of Ronald Regan perfectly illustrates the Affect Theory.  Although Ronald Reagan neither had the intellect nor the grammar, fluidity, or logical content of a great speaker, but his body language and the timbre of his voice were affective. He was able to “politicize the power of mime”. The double-dysfunction and jerky movement confused the public and also allowed for individuals to take specific meaning from his speeches. They were vague enough to allow the audience to imagine what they thought Reagan was trying to convey to them.  The reaches of affect are far and wide. This proves that the media uses the affect theory to have maximum effect on people’s reaction to social, economic or political issues. The way a report is structured and broadcasted leaves either a lasting impression or no impression at all.

        My ecology and precarity has to be presented in a way that would impact the viewers. The way the video is going to be shot, the voiceover of the local speaking and the images have to be presented in the most effective way in order to convey the plea of the residents of Graniteville and to make use of the affect theory. As they say “A picture is worth a thousand words”, the fact that a picture conveys a message more effectively than the written word is well known as the human brain which is the main processor reacts well to images.

My reporting should not be strictly factual as it should attract interest and in turn, be memorable. The emotions of the residents have to be conveyed in a way which shows that real estate developers are putting the site, and locals who benefit from it at risk. Since emotion moves people, the webpage I am going to create has to be sympathetic to the locals. I want a local resident to share her story about how this ecosystem saved her home from Hurricane Sandy. I want to emphasize the point that it provides a crucial physiological function to locals, by acting as a natural buffer to floods from storms and rising sea levels besides the important fact that the swamp had for generations been the home for several species of plants and animals some of which are moving towards extinction due to human overdevelopment that continue unabated and with disregard to the importance of preserving natural life.

I want to create a website to garner awareness, in hopes that there will be enough local support to derail the proposed developments, and to allow the developers to recognize the consequences of said propositions.

-Celine Seifi

Text Cited:

Massumi, Brian. “The Autonomy of Affect.” Parables of the Virtual. Duke University Press, 2002. 

~ by celineseifi on October 12, 2019.

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