What classic voyeurism is is espial: watching people who don’t know you’re there as they go about the mundane but erotically charged little business of private life. It’s interesting that so much classic voyeurism involves media of framed glass — windows, telescopes, etc. Maybe the framed glass is why the analogy to television is so tempting. But TV-watching is a different animal from Peeping Tomism. Because the people we’re watching through the TV’s framed-glass screen are not really ignorant of the fact that somebody is watching them. In fact a whole lot of somebodies. In fact the people on television know that it is in virtue of this truly huge crowd of ogling somebodies that they are on the screen, engaging in broad non-mundane gestures, at all. Television does not afford true espial because television is performance, spectactle, which by definition requires watchers. We’re not voyeurs here at all. We’re just viewers. We are the Audience, megametrically many, though most often we watch alone. E Unibus Pluram.

E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction, David Foster Wallace

Advertisements