SPEED: Dromology, speed-space and light-time
DOI link for SPEED: Dromology, speed-space and light-time
SPEED: Dromology, speed-space and light-time book
The emphasis placed on movement and on speed of transmission as key forces which shape social and political space leads Virilio to make sometimes startling claims. In Speed and Politics, for instance, he asserts the following: ‘there was no industrial revolution’, but only a ‘dromocratic revolution; there is no democracy, only dromocracy’ (Virilio 1986: 46). He has insisted in works such as Negative Horizon that ‘movement governs the event’ and that the ever increasing speeds which have determined movement in modern
society have ‘caused the traditional political structures to implode’ (Virilio 2005a: 105, 60). However startling or peremptory such assertions may at first appear they are made within the context of a more general argument which is developed in a fairly systematic fashion across the range of Virilio’s writing from the 1970s to the present day. In an interview with the media theorist Friedrich Kittler he summarizes his view that contemporary global society has hit a ‘wall of acceleration’ (Armitage 2001: 97-8). The argument runs as follows: societies have hitherto developed according to a logic of ever increasing acceleration of the speed of both transport and communication; we have moved from the age of horseback or horsedrawn locomotion to that of the railway, from the age of the telephone to that of radio transmission and then to television and digital or information technology. The ‘progress’ of each age in relation to that preceding it has implicitly been defined by the accelerated transmission afforded by new technological means: train travel exceeds that of horse-drawn locomotion, the aeroplane that of the train, the digital transmission of data outstrips the speeds of transmission accomplished by the technologies that came before. Virilio’s contention is that contemporary society is reaching a critical point at which further acceleration may soon no longer be possible. If, in the age of the internet or digital and satellite communication, information can be transmitted quasi-instantaneously worldwide, or if, as planners and aviation engineers expect, hypersonic aeroplanes will soon be able to traverse the globe in around two hours, will society not reach a point where any future progress of acceleration is impossible? What are the broader implications for a society which has reached such a stage? This, at least, is the state of affairs Virilio is referring to, and the question he is posing when he talks about our society standing at a limit or at the ‘wall’ of acceleration.