There are seemingly innumerable ways in which our lives are mediated by the structures within which they exist. These structures effect the way in which we approach relationships, jobs, hobbies and even the most everyday objects. They especially affect so-called once in a life-time experiences which occur on planned trips or excursions. The extent to which this mediation takes place can be judged to be the case with regard to the apparent disappointment that many people feel when they encounter monuments or natural phenomena which may at one have been overpowering but that in the modern world have been reduced to simply a copy of a copy of a copy. It is this experience of mediation that is the subject of the essay “The Loss of the Creature,” a piece of writing that seeks to examine the way in which any actually authentic experience is lost to capitalism and to the scientific, rationalistic modes of thinking that it propagates.
The essay begins by presenting a view of the feelings that may have been present within the first person who discovered the Grand Canyon, and then comparing this indescribable excitement with the banal experience of the same site that is experienced by hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. The Grand Canyon now exists within an economy of representation whereby it is no longer possible to ever “experience” anything in a manner in which it may have appeared to those who lived before an age of mass tourism. Crucially, the essay does not appear to suggest that tit is simply because one has seen the Grand Canyon before that any actual adventurous experience of it is foreclosed, but rather this fact results from the fact that all experience now exists as a commodity which can be bought and sold. Within this context, people are essentially raised from birth to understand experience in an essentially fungible manner that can be shared and circulated easily.
While I would argue that this is certainly true with regard to the objects that the essay covers, it can even be argued that this can now applied to even more extensively than it could be at the time that it was written. Social-networking technology now enables people to instantly externalize their own lives and to connect random events up into a easily viewed narrative. This narrative may then itself be viewed by hundreds of other people at the touch of a button. Likewise, apps such as Instagram encourage people to document their lives as much as possible and, by doing so, to make this life exchangeable with the lives of other of other people. Indeed, were “The Death of the Creature” to be written today then its arguments could be extended to every facet of social life. Not only do people actively buy into the tourist themed trips and vacations, but they can even be argued to have become tourists in their own lives. As such, not only is the essay accurate in its portrayal of the way in which social relations mediate experience, but it could even be argued that a significantly stronger argument regarding this could now be made.
The second form of mediation that the essays suggests involves scientific mediation; specifically, a failure to understand the world in anything than a hyper-rationalistic way. Not only does this failure greatly reduce any chance of actually experiencing the world, but it also generates a situation in which it is no longer possible to treat people as actual individuals. Rather each person, or indeed each thing, becomes nothing but an instantiation of its type. According to the essay, this can be seen to be the case in the stark difference between the way in which a scientist may approach a particular tool, and the way in which that tool will be approached by the person who uses it. The scientist would never be able to understand all of the meaning that this tool may hold, or all of the ways that it might function in the world. Rather, any meaning that can extracted from it is completely determined by the reductive nature of scientific thinking and language.
Once again, this is a convincing argument. However, once again it can be taken further than it is in the essay. Given the current crisis in global capitalism, it is more and more the case that people are simply treated as numbers, as social security claimants or as potential holders of useful labour power. Indeed, it should be argued that the predominance of this face is a pre-condition for policies of austerity that are currently pursued throughout the Western world. Such policies require the reduction of life activities to a numerical value, and for these activities to be judged according to this value. As such, not only does scientific and instrumental reason alienate people from understanding particular objects in the world, but it can be argued to ground the conditions according to which entire social classes are defined.
In conclusion, therefore, “The Loss of the Creature” presents two primary ways of thinking about how out everyday experience is mediated by the context in which it occurs. While I find both of these convincing, I would also argue that they can both be taken much further than they are within the essay itself. Indeed, if this is done, then it is possible to use the essay to perform a full scale critique of the social relations with which it is itself concerned.