Design as Power: Paul Virilio and the Governmentality of Design Expertise

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Using sources from popular media, and ethnographic data collected from a university-based urban design studio, I challenge Paul Virilio's assertion that the modern human condition is dominated by a process of emotional synchronisation based on fear (the result, according to Virilio, of a collusion of technology and speed), and offer the analogous idea that contemporary consumer capitalism works toward a synchronisation of desire, operating, at least in part, through the ideologies and machinations of the idea of design. To do this, I analyse designerly approaches to problem-solving as potential disciplining forces, or technologies of governmentality, which help to create order by manufacturing certain subjectivities like consumer, community member, or sense-of-place - subjectivities that are amenable to neo-liberal notions of civil society in consumer-capitalism. Ultimately, I argue that Virilio's 'art criticism of technology', but also common critiques thereof, both depoliticise aesthetic judgement and work together toward the obfuscation of power within the symbolic economy of neo-liberal consumer capitalism.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: October 1, 2007

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