The smartphone screen as railcar window

“With speed, there is quantitatively more for the brain to deal with. This is not specific to the railroad but part of modernity more broadly, including the rise of the city. The classical social theorist Georg Simmel described this urban perception as an ‘intensification of nervous stimulation,’ as opposed to slow, lasting impressions which ‘use-up, so to speak, less consciousness than does the rapid crowding of changing images.’ The modern condition was thought of as a general onslaught of things to pay attention to, newly positioning the urban railroad-riding individual as a kind of spectator to an existence slipping quickly by.

The railroad positioned the world for the traveler as some thing passing, distant, to be taken as scenery framed by a cabin window. Schivelbusch expands on philosopher Dolf Sternberger’s description of this way of seeing as a ‘panoramic vision,’ a view that foregrounds the back—the passenger barely noticing that which is most near, reduced to an incon sequential blur by rapidity—and detaches the passenger from this space immediately surrounding the train car. Opposed to slower travel, where the passing landscape can be lingered upon and seen in great detail, railway speed produced a panoramic vision where the landscape is not seen for as long or intensively, its particularities are instead taken in as a part of an ongoing flow instead of discreetly. Always quickly vanishing, the landscape becomes more impressionistic, evanescent; panoramic vision is seeing the world as montage. This panoramic vision produced by the rapid succession of imagery is a useful way to frame the contemporary type of vision that social photography encourages, both in how we make and consume the images. The social photo is often viewed through the grid, stream, or story to be finger-scrolled, swiped, and tapped. The images in their proliferation and rapidity create an emergent stream in aggregate, and for the person doing the swiping, there is a more panoramic view of social life, akin to the montaged scenery from the train window.”

London’s super-rich: geography, mobility and visual exposure

Quoted from Alpha City by Rowland Atkinson

“The mobility of the alpha city’s rich is facilitated by a Möbius-like remaking of city space. The lifeworld of the city becomes a kind of a continuous strip over which rapid movement can be made, stepping from one zone to another, or from one mode of travel to another. These characteristics are important because being on the move also entails a kind of vulnerability in terms of feelings of exposure, unwanted attention or the security risks that may be experienced, although the latter may be influenced by national background. For the super-rich, visibility is often seen as a problem. This is particularly so in an increasingly synoptic age in which the many watch the few through social media, and where cameras, drones and mobile phones enable reports on the activities of the wealthy to be relayed far and wide.

The photographer Dougie Wallace highlights this unease in his series of portraits of the wealthy as they cross the last few feet of pavement -the vulnerable somatic world of the street- from a private car or taxi to the environs of Harrodsburg (London, not Kentucky). Many of them appear startled or on the cusp of furious indignation as they stare into the lens.”