I’ve been playing around with ideas for the edited collection I’m proposing on the topic of invisibility (see above CFP – still in development).
The name I’m working with is ‘Dancing with Shadows: Exploring Invisibility.”
I like the idea of shadows as related to invisibility for several reasons. Shadows are everywhere, they are rarely noticed until they need to be (e.g. to provide respite on a hot day or as an obscuring factor at some point); they are influenced by other factors but also influence their surroundings; they represent an evocative metaphor for operating in secret; and you can make neat things out of them if you know how to manipulate them well.
I don’t think shadows are the same as invisibility but they do have some metaphorical symmetry.
Aside from the obvious idea of ‘working in the shadows,’ the recent events surrounding the death of Osama Bin Laden demonstrate two key aspects of invisibility about which I’ve written recently.
The first is that the compound in which he was hiding was both considerable in size and ‘in plain sight.’ Taken as ‘outstanding’ in it’s context, this compound should likely have been visible and seen. The funny thing is that there is much speculation about the level to which Bin Laden and his compound must have benefited from the ‘blind eye’ of the Pakistani government – which could indeed be true. Alternatively, it could be that a compound that necessarily stands out for its enormity and obvious opulence may have invited a wilful blindness …
Come on, there are houses in your neighbourhood that you don’t question or mess with but around which you know to mind your behaviour. So too could this compound have been made invisible, in plain sight, in the way of the overt strategic invisibility that commanded a ‘look away’ invitation to those that passed by.
The second and very interesting way in which Bin Laden maintained his invisibility has to do with reports that he could not be found because he understood and observed the rule of eavesdropping – that if you don’t want to be heard, don’t say anything. Bin Laden, it is reported, didn’t use a phone of his own and had no traceable electronic signals enter his compound. In this day and age of sophisticated hearing technologies (anti-invisibility tools), he ‘dropped out’ of the grid while staying within its physical confines.
It’s funny how not having a facebook account reduces the number of hits you get on google … and Bin Laden fooled the most sophisticated skip tracers in the world for almost a decade by knowing this.