Thursday 30 May 2013

On pornography

I learned today that a new pornographic application has already been developed for Google Glass, the innovative gadget thingummy which enables the wearer to see stuff before his very eye.

Whenever a new visual medium or technology emerges, whatever its ostensible use, there's an immediate secondary exploitation by opportunistic pornographers. I expect within hours of the first daguerrotype there were filthy postcards being hawked to tourists in the Tuilleries; the second VT recording was a Russ Meyer bootleg; the second email attachment showed a naked IT nerd sporting a 'come-on ladeez' look, and so on. Pornography seems to be waiting to pounce on and exploit any technology that trades in images, so it comes as no surprise that Google Glass has already been co-opted by mucky film-makers to expand their global empire. We can expect any day now a frightening medical report that links GG pornography and teenage cataracts.

One medium that I thought could never be appropriated for lewd display was the magic lantern, that innocent pre-cinematic entertainment of the last quarter of the 19th century. I was wrong.

Ban this filth!

It seems that between the wars (when moving pictures had almost entirely displaced public magic lantern shows) there were still two markets for the manufacturers of the projectors and the slides. One was the nursery (see above), a setting in which magic lanterns or their descendants still make the odd appearance, although Spongebob Squarepants has taken over from Scenes of the Raj. The other was in private men-only clubs where (in smoke-filled rooms amid much connoisseurial chuckling) sexually explicit images were projected as part of the evening's entertainment.

It's a murky area and there's little archive material relating to what was by all accounts a substantial underground industry, linked to What-the-Butler-Saw machines and similar titillating technologies. But one might imagine, based on the sums of money involved in what one has to refer to as 'the industry', that it's an established driving-force in cultural history. This Google Glass application is simply the latest, and not the last, in a very long line of libidinal exploitation. Hey ho.

Prototype Google Glass?

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