Karen Lang will be the Slade Professor of Fine Art at the University of Oxford (2019—2020). She has published widely on modern and contemporary art, aesthetic theory, and the intellectual history of the history of art. The edited volume Field Notes on the Visual Arts. Seventy-Five Short Essays has just appeared.
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In 1975, Roland Barthes was asked by the French newspaper Le Monde to respond to three questions about the principle function of the intellectual in society. He concludes his reply by asking three questions of his own: What would be the worth of a society that ceased to reflect upon itself? What would become of it? And how can we see ourselves except by talking to one another? In our time, the many hours each day in which the average user spends on social media makes it appear as if our society is reflecting upon itself. Rather than ceasing to reflect, perhaps our cascading responses constitute the opposite: unceasing reflection. As for talking to one another and seeing ourselves by talking to one another, the platform would appear to extend possibilities as never before. Moreover, we can be whoever we want on this medium. The chance (all of chance) is ours. Except of course it isnt.