"Two very beautiful naked girls are crouched facing each other. They touch each other sensually, they kiss each other's breasts lightly, with the tip of the tongue. They are enclosed in a kind of cylinder of transparent plastic. Even someone who is not a professional voyeur is tempted to circle the cylinder in order to see the girls from behind, in profile, from the other side. The next temptation is to approach the cylinder, which stands on a little column and is only a few inches in diameter, in order to look down from above: But the girls are no longer there. This was one of the many works displayed in New York by the School of Holography" (Umberto Eco, 1975, p.3).
Umberto Eco cleverly juxtaposes desire and reality in the opening lines of his essay "Travels in Hyperreality" and its observation of the hologram. Naturally, the objects of our desire assume greater value to us the more they approach a real that has purportedly been denied to us. Or, perhaps more correctly, when they return in a hyperrealized form from a "real" that was always already there for us to seize. And so much the better if these two writhing nymphs can lift themselves off the surface of the page or screen (not unlike those silicone or elastomeric gel sex dolls designed for intercourse) to build an edifice of technological titillation on the abject foundation of absent sensuality.
The process of creating such a hologram is in fact a double process as well as a process of doubling. A beam of light (laser or white light) is split such that one beam illuminates the object from which some of the reflected light falls on the recording medium. The other light beam resulting from the split, known as the reference beam, also illuminates the recording medium such that an interference pattern occurs between the two beams, which forms the hologram itself. Once this hologram is illuminated with a beam of light identical to the original reference beam, it becomes visible to the human eye as a represented image seemingly within the surface of inscription.
But to create Eco's beautiful naked girls requires a second process. By recording a hologram of a hologram we may create an image "in front" of the photographic plane and produce the sorts of three-dimensional projections that induce such awe in the society of spectators, with their desires and realities. As Eco points out, these second-generation holograms are no mere child's play, as they have serious applications in astronomy, medicine, manufacturing and art.
Of course in credit cards, Olympic tickets, or NBA merchandise the "lesser" first-generation hologram also eludes mere play, having become a serious marker of value and authenticity (one of many in what me might refer to as a security assemblage). The hologram provides a sufficiently complex technology of mass-produced inscription that fashions a volumetric projection of a three-dimensional figure in the non-space created on a two-dimensional plane (credit card, ticket, authentic replica jersey tag). In representing the "authentic" it also serves to assure the identity of the owner.
Is it so difficult then to entertain the notion that the superstar identity-vehicle within an NBA videogame, a three-dimensional or volumetric construct within the non-space created on the two-dimensional plane of the screen (and its offer, rooted in desire and hyperrealism, of prosthetic talent or surrogate style), might also stand as an assurance of identity?
In case this wasn't clear from the outset of videogames, it becomes even more certain in the age of online multiplayer gaming communities (eg. PlayStation Network, Xbox Live). Those who wish to participate in these online communities must gain passage to the space and its identity-vehicles by following two steps: first, by paying the toll of a subscription fee, and second, by guaranteeing identity through the financial means of payment.
FirstnameLastname (the unasked-for original gift) to SocialInsuranceNumber to BankAccountNumber to CreditCardNumber to OnlineGamingCommunityID to SportsVideogameIdentityVehicle, each link in the modulating chain of identification a unique number in a relational database table.
We reiterate: if the function of power in disciplinary societies served to produce docile bodies, its correlate in the societies of control is to produce docile identities, which may also include docile bodies.