Paris, 13th arrondissement

Above: H.L.M. public housing in Paris, 13th arrondissement, 2005. Credit: David Monniaux.


Above: View by night of an H.L.M. apartment building (social housing), Aubervilliers, 2004. Credit: Steven Strehl.

Erik Moller

Above: Portait of Erik Moller taken by his neighbor Bertram Korves. Credit: Bertram Korves.

Good neighbor

Above: The Good Neighbor (Yemen), 2015. Credit: Julien Harneis.

Neighbor Rick

Above: Neighbor Rick, 2012. Credit: Gushman68.


Above: City view, Besancon, France (detail). Credit: Toufik-de-planoise.


The hope or belief that the digital communications era will bring about an epoch of unlimited love-for-all is an annoying and actually toxic myth. In particular Virilio takes issue with the Web etiquette which provides that Internet users should love one's distant neighbor as one's nearest. (Virilio is fond of this epigram which he traces back to Nietzsche in Zarathustra, i.e., "I advise you not to neighbor-love--I advise you to furthest love!") For Virilio any such sentiment or belief is "a major illusion today [1996] (VW: 19-20)." This is because a neighbor is by definition a near neighbor, that is, someone who is often irritating for the very fact of their being in close proximity and unavoidable--it is their close proximity which is intrinsically inconvenient, "because they're present, because they smell, because they're noisy, because they summon me..." For Virilio, we should of course aim to tolerate and actually accept our near neighbor, but in the case of the distant digital "neighbor" no similar pressure or tension exists. The idea that some distant avatar or human trans-appearance--which can at any moment be blocked, switched off, or "zapped"--raises the same challenges to the human capacity for tolerance as the nearby physical person is absurd. It is not hard to love one's distant "neighbor"; it is no challenge at all in fact. The issue here is that "if ... we start preferring our distant neighbor at the expense of our [near actual] neighbor then we would be destroying the city, city rights (VW: 42)." In other words, the distant "neighbor" is easy to love and just as easy to "zap" whereas negotiating with and accepting one's actual neighbor requires, by contrast, numerous social skills as well as a desire to integrate and cooperate together successfully. And these efforts represent the basis of successful urban civilization (and are not interchangeable with "love" for some-or-other spectral avatar on a device screen).