This article in Wired, which I discovered by way of Graham Harman’s blog, analyzes results from an experimental study in which people used both functional and broken computer mice without being told which they were using and concludes that Martin Heidegger just might’ve been onto something with his well-known tool-analysis from his 1927 book Being and Time. (In short: people take certain things—particularly tools we use on a near-daily basis—for granted, becoming almost oblivious to their presence in our worlds despite the very significant roles they play.)

So what does this all have to do with cinema? Well, how often do you actually notice the proper functioning of a movie theater’s projection apparatus? Now how often do you notice it when it breaks down? What about your fellow audience-members? Do you notice them when they aren’t obnoxiously chatting or munching?

The movie theater, it seems, is yet another place that fits comfortably into the Heideggerian dichotomy of the luminous presence-at-hand (what we really notice) and the shadowy readiness-to-hand (what we really don’t). But does this mean, pace the article’s thesis, that the theater itself is a part of the people who occupy it during a screening?

And for the record, I think that most of what happens on the screen during a film is also ready-to-hand, but that’s a whole ‘nother can o’ worms (and by “can o’ worms” I mean “densely written philosophical post addressing an audience of one or none”).



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