Holograms (Pepper’s Ghost) in Politics

Pepper’s Ghost

I know it wasn’t really a hologram but the use of some old technology called Pepper’s Ghost, but that is a mere technicality I feel. This week, and not for the first time in his political career, French Presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon conducted 12 simultaneous political rallies using what the press describe as hologram technology.

Mélenchon employed an optical illusion known as “Pepper’s Ghost,” where a 2D image is projected onto a thin film or pane of glass to give the impression that the speaker is actually present, the same technology used when Tupac Shakur (who was already dead) joined Snoop Dogg on stage more than 10 years ago.

There have been lots of concerts since then, Roy Orbison, for the rock and rollers, Whitney Houston for pop lovers and Maria Calla touring with a full orchestra for the opera lover in you. But the use of this technology has also raised some questions. Although the owners of the estates of these dead stars might agree to allow such a concert, it remains impossible to ask the artist themselves if they agree with this form of exploitation.

Politics

Which brings me back into the political arena. A politician can conduct a rally in as many cities as they would like, projecting an image and sound and have an interactive event, but they could also host guest conversations if they liked. A conversation with Winston Churchill? A short scripted introduction from Gandhi? What other uses might come to mind? And what might the implications be for the democratic process?

The availability of new techniques easily makes (the illusion of) 3D possible, and readers might like to look up Cheoptics or Musion Eyeliner to get some ideas of what is commercially available today. Easily transportable systems designed for touring are available, so I am not suggesting something that would be logistically difficult to do.

It seems a small step to move from using your own candidate to introducing iconic historical political figures on stage, but not an unproblematic one.

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