Skip navigation

Category Archives: Mikhail’s section

Florian Cramer discusses the idiosyncrasies of the term post-digital. Defined as a moment in which digital media is no longer considered new media, post-digital refers to an obsession with nostalgia and old media as well as disenchantment with the status quo. It means that the digital has become fully pervasive throughout and the user must actively try to avoid it. Ironically, to resist the digital presupposes its totality. Cramer also discusses the misconceptions of the terms analog and digital, arguing that even the typewriter fits the definition of digital, although perhaps not in the colloquial sense of the word. He furthers his argument by pointing out that anything we see must be in analog format, as our eyes require the processing of light waves. Post-digital is thus an embrace and a critique of the digital, a complication of its existence which relies upon it to make sense. It reminds me of the Kirshenbaum article which points out the similarities between paper and the hard drive. All new media is based on old media and the two are perhaps inseparable.

I would like to take this weeks blog post to express my appreciation for this class. As a graduating senior studying ECON & BEO, I was done with my my major and wanted to take a class that I could learn about something that would truly help me out in the future. I sat in on lecture during shopping period, and loved Professor Chun’s lecture style. Throughout the semester, every lesson was a new lesson from me. I was not familiar with the material before we learned in during class or in readings before, so this class was very informaitve and one of my favorite classes I have taken since I have been here at Brown. Thank you professor Chun for an exciting and extremely informative semester! Hopefully in a few years, my name will be one that is mentioned during the last lecture of a semester of the students that you have taught.

During Wendy’s lecture on Monday, I remember feel very uneasy. I tend to get this way when I hear compelling information about not so pretty visions of the future. Big Data, as it were, is hoped to be the solution to all problems. With such a vastness in statistical analysis, it does not suffer from not enough research. Wendy spoke of the potential in justice to go sour as a result. Based on studies of Big Data, a case can be made that it is compelling enough with information that it knows you better than yourself. And if it knows every you who interacts with the internet, it has a body of information so great that it can easily assess decisions based on the information. I worry about the individual voice getting lost as the voice of the absolute mass, Big Data, begins to make decisions.

In ‘What is Post-Digital’, Florian Cramer points out how many media considered ‘analog’ have “recently been resurrected as post-digital devices”: analog film, typewriters, vinyl records etc. However, he argues that even the categories of ‘analog’, ‘digital’ and ‘post-digital’ are not rigidly constructed: 1) many of these technologies feature a blend of digital and analog features 2) their assignment to a particular category often depends on context of use and cultural perception. Todd Haynes’ Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story is an interesting example to consider in this context. The movie is made using analog film, but its affective, cult value can be associated with the post-digital fetishization of physical film, and the deterioration that results from its illicit reproduction. At the same time, its cult value has persisted — and has even intensified in certain ways — even when its circulation has shifted from VHS tapes to digital channels like YouTube. These classifications, then, seem to depend on our affective relationship with the technologies rather than their technical nature.

looking back over my blog posts this semester, I am reminded of our discussion regarding the importance of the right to be forgotten. the thought of turning these blog posts into a final paper, and the possibility of their permanence, horrifies me deeply. these will haunt me forever. this is like a lab experience for the right to be forgotten section–nothing could make it more immediate and personal.

The concept of big data is the topic I have most been intrigued by in this class. The magnitude of both potential benefits and pending dangers that big data and its applications bring makes this computing paradigm one of the most incendiary technological advancements in modern times. As explained by Rouvroy, “What all this suggests is that an intensive replacement of human observation, evaluation and prediction by autonomic processes might well deprive us, in part at least, of our abilities to make normative judgements, and, more fundamentally even, to set new norms” As the power and effectiveness of big data continues to expand, so does blind reliance and black-boxing of calculative processes that perpetuate previously human led processes.  How far then we allow data to curb our human determinism? As I see finance turning to automotive and and programmed trading, and hospitals relying on data analysis programs like IBM healthcare to treat human patients, I truly wonder if a future bereft of human intuition and and cultural modification is actually possible. As our big data becomes bigger, will it be possible for us to alter these systems to reflect our changing morality and ethics? Or will certain big data become so ubiquitous and robust where it itself will become a determinant of how we define our worldly outlook.

Nobody, it seems, likes to be called a hipster. As the typewriter hipster in Cramer’s piece “What is ‘Post-Digitalization’?” said, his photo-turned-meme elicited internet ridicule and hatred and confirmed the negative connotation surrounding the term. Why does that connotation exist, however? From what I gather, hipsters are generally defined as those who do not conform to mainstream culture and media. They are pioneers in thought, fashion, culture, politics, etc, but in a way that appears effortless and steeped in a return of the old technologies, which implies a dissatisfaction with the current state of technology and thought. As critique Jurgenson mentions concerning “low-fi” quality, it is “a manifestation of a desire “to endow the powerful feelings associated with nostalgia to our lives in the present” (“Faux-Vintage Photo”).  But why the need for nostalgia? Why the dissatisfaction with the present? A large part of seems to be influenced by the change in society in regards to production and selling of goods. This creation and progression of the World Market led to the supposed degradation of quality and value in the switch from analog to digital. To me, this highlights the paradox that Jurgenson calls the “romantic transfiguration: short-circuiting an imaginary radical past (vintage aesthetics as the signifier of a special, laboriously produced image) with an actual radical present (instantaneous creation and dissemination through social networks).” There is little room for originality and dissemination to coincide.

Cramer’s point concerning our simultaneous usage of both old and new medias, depending on context, proved to be an intriguing point. The so-thought common viewpoint of new technologies as progressive is underlined to be false; rather, old and new medias inevitably co-exist via our habits of consuming them both. It is not a linear evolution that references the same timeline; rather, our definitions of old and new media co-refer to each other, evolving and existing as contemporaries. One can see this from the use of bikes and cars, to the continued presence of analog devices despite the every increasing production of digital ones. I think this concept of embracing the simultaneous presence of old and new medias are exemplified through widespread movements such as urban vintage or steampunk, where a sort of futuristic vibe is combined with the traditional sense of old. We naturally feel comfortable to some extent in embracing both the novel and the known.

So in line with Cramer’s arguments about post-digital aesthetics, I think it’s interesting to note Google’s new “material design” aesthetic

http://www.google.com/design/spec/material-design/introduction.html

that attempts to incorporate a physical aesthetic into digital technologies. There is a rhetoric similar to what Cramer says about finding the right tool for the job — by structuring their technology around seeming as if it has physical weight and structure there seems to be an attempt to categorize it as more suited for all sorts of jobs. It’s an aesthetic of versatility as well as familiarity.

Seated beside a dark, dark, dark roast of spectacular warmth I find myself awash in a reflective calm. And in such a position of resplendent warmth and contemplation comes the temptation to share something meaningful with this blog. A blog that will flash in a brief and brilliant period of existence and flicker away at the semester’s end—after accomplishing its brief stint as “replacement for email cc’d to TA’s”. A stinging witticism that may shed light on the precarious and pernicious state of seniority which I find myself in—yet exactly what I want to talk about.

Why does this “seniority” rear up in protest against the sad ephemeral nature of this blog? It is because, like Roy Batty in “Blade Runner”, I want my time here to have a life beyond itself. My simile is not completely inappropriate: Replicants are only given 4 years and so was I. And like them, when work and life become labour instead of worship the product is grief. In many classes the fruits of my labour were quickly dropped like a disinterested child leaving its toy (I stole that one from Rilke). And in these moments feeling of waste and disappointment on my part is palpable.

Perhaps in order be good citizens and informed actors the best I can do at this current moment is inherit the language of those more deeply steeped in the discourse and politics of their theory worlds. Their mouthpiece is a seeming relief from ideology—that all encompassing Hydra multiplies every time you think it has been defeated. But inhabit their mania for a little while and the reign of symbolic misery may overcome you. Learn a simple parlour trick I discovered. The most crushing invalidation of any post-modern argument is outing is as another perspectivist frame. It is a common trick that must be a part of every student’s toolkit: exposing a critique of ideology as ideology.

When we identify the perfidious ideological underbelly of an argument, the writer may be circumscribed, shelved, and mastered as yet another agenda operative among many. This allows the reader to remain sovereign over any contrarian or sympathetic biases that may contaminate their retort, while simultaneously granting the appearance that they have “won” over the text.

The history of this method dates back to the 19th century, when it was popularised by Nietzsche—a writer who created a superlatively catastrophic philosophic mess, to which his only answer was the paltry fiction of “Ubermensche”. The laudable success of Nietzsche’s diagnosis of Western thought, when matched with the laughable failure of his cure, has thus cemented a faith in deconstruction and a phobia of structuralism that rules to this day.

Yet all these backflips and frontflips are quite strange, and at no point in this contested space does epistemological uncertainly leave us. Greek and Hindu mythology both describe four ages, but we have miraculously stumbled upon a fifth, the “Age of Anxiety”, which denies us redemption or apocalypse. But what is good about anxiety is that it is a sixth sense. Let this anxiety pilot you through every quandary. The wish to be well is a sort of knowledge too, but one that gestures towards quietism—no more ages.