Dziga Vertov and Steve Mann: The Embodiment of the Master Metaphor of Vision

Intersections 2005: Hybrid Entities. eTopia: York University, Toronto, 2005. 61-71.


The privileged status of sight in Western culture can be understood as part of the striving to see the world more clearly, to combat distortion and gain an “objective” view. At the turn of the century, new imaging technologies were put into practice as a part of a utopic hope for the future, progress in the modernist project to dispel myth. At the turn of the new millennium, the ubiquitous presence of technologies comprises a controlling system against which we must renew our vision once again. In both contexts, the use of imaging technologies offers liberating possibilities by bringing attention to controlling structures which conspire to remain hidden. Further, theoretical insight into the study of technology and culture is often concerned with questions of vision, and methodologies are often articulated through metaphors of vision. This paper makes use of Paula Saukko’s approach of “combining methodologies” to examine the way in which both Vertov and Mann synthesize human abilities with imaging technologies in an effort to see more clearly. Within this framework, the writing and practice of both Dziga Vertov and Steve Mann can be studied as embodied approaches to the meeting place of theory, technology and culture. Even though the works of Vertov and Mann can not be strictly categorized as cultural research, they can be understood as extensions of a bias towards visual metaphors in cultural theory, as well as part of the methodological practice of using a carefully constructed apparatus in order to see the world more clearly.

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