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Alejandro Knoepffler

MCM230: Assignment 3

Post-Digital Memory

Looking back, I think the topic that I was trying to take a stab at in this post was “how is digital media disseminated?” In this course, we have discussed means of communication and distribution of digital commodities and networked ideas, but something that I have felt distanced from is the disconnect between the creation and dissemination of digital media, and how it affects my relationship with the digital. I tried to link the creation and the ease of spreading digital media to stereotypes, but I now think it goes a lot deeper than that, and after reading Cramer’s “What is Post-Digital,” Nakamura’s “Digital Circuits” sprung back into my mind. I feel that the argument on what we choose to remember and what we choose to forget is so important in analyzing what is Post-Digital. In both the creation and the dissemination of Post-Digital material, what we choose to remember and forget plays an important part in our shaping of culture. I feel that Post-Digital means the digitalization of memory.

With the digitalization of memory, what we chose to remember is critical in shaping our world view and our actions. I feel that Cramer refers to “transportation” (Cramer, 700) as the defining factor and the grace of digital/ new platforms. This ease of transportation of ideas and media allows us to do so much, without even having the time to process it in our mind. For example, I could just send an e-mail without having to move the comfort of my bed, and the lack of physical contact and transportation of my body can be easily forgotten, and transformed into the much quicker transportation of my message to its recipient. We can remember the dangers of new media, but so easily forget them. Cramer explains that “after Edward Snowden’s disclosures of the NSA’s all-pervasive digital surveillance systems, this disenchantment has quickly grown from a niche ‘hipster’ phenomenon to a mainstream position” (Cramer, 701). When we choose to remember that we can be easily tracked and that all our data is being stored without our explicit consent, we choose to take action, change the way we act on the internet and change our business models. On the other hand, I feel that a lot of the return to analog in Cramer’s chapter stems from an understanding of old hardware that forgets the limitations and remembers the creation process. People are posting pictures of polaroid photos taken with an iPhone on Facebook. I find that there’s a disjoint here in the creation and the dissemination of this item that remembers the process of taking a polaroid, but doesn’t honor that sort of indexical and personal nature of a single existing photo. The memory that is digitalized when it is uploaded to Facebook, is one that chooses to harken back to the past but forgets dangers of transporting this image into the digital.

We can even more easily forget in the Post-Digital, and I feel that so much fear stems from invisibility. We have so many and such advanced means of communication in the United States that we can create “fictions of agency” (Cramer, 710) to create false power of knowledge over a body of data. We can assume things about the digitalized objects, such as data is post-racial, unbiased and sterile that can be detrimental to outcomes and conclusions. We need to be careful because in the digitalized world, we can be swayed by marketing and companies into thinking what they want us to. The “Intel Inside” campaign proved that a corporation could change our knowledge and memory of their product by gaining our trust trough commercials featuring clean, bunny people. However, Nakamura is very eye-opening and points out that if we actually look inside of Intel, “instead we see Asian women, Latinas, and Navajo women and other women of color. Looking inside digital culture means both looking back in time to the roots of the computing industry and the specific material production practices that positioned race and gender as commodities in electronics factories.” (Nakamura, 937). These roots can be so easily forgotten either for our comfort or our convenience, that our memory can become falsely conclusive. These “fictions of agency” can shape our memory and reframe our human history.

I believe that the Post-Digital expands from digitalization of data and media to the digitalization of human memory. This digitalization of memory is allows for so many instances of remembering or forgetting in the creation and dissemination of digital media. These dangers can include forgetting a loss of rights of distribution of your own personal data, or the invisibility of race and gender as labor commodities. Information and data thought history is incomplete, but we need to realize the ease that someone can control our perception of visible information in this day and age.

wallespace

The analog and Cramer’s “blue” digital in harmony, from Disney Pixar’s “Wall-E” (2008).

Appendix

Original Post:

“How do we get to know digital media? How do we explore a space and a technology that is new to us? The extension of stereotypes seems to be how we approach a new space.

When the cinema first premiered, Commedia Del’Arte was something that was depicted so that the audience could grasp onto something. Commedia Del’Arte consisted of archetypes/ stock characters such as Colombina (a flirtatious, singing maid), and Arlecchino (a bouncy, tickle clown) which can be set up in different ways. Think of it as a puppet show with recognizable characters. The story could be changed, but the characters stay the same, thus keeping the spectacle recognizable and fun for the audience.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-D3zwJbDn1M

Nakamura talks about how the Navajo women worked on the early computer chips and how the chips strike a resemblance to the traditional tapestries. The women were getting paid well, and had good working conditions, and were allowed to express their creativity, but I can’t help but feel that this notion that a group of people are “good at something” could be very wrong.

For example, in the video we watched in lecture on Monday, the only workers depicted were Asian. Is this so that people feel safe or are able to rely on Asian people because they think that Asians are good at being precise and technical?

Apple’s design video for their new macbook features a Jonathan Ive’s British accent. He is the VP of Design, but was this an aesthetic choice? Does the British accent carry some kind of power play? I think that perhaps people are more inclined to listen to a British accent because it could seem more trusting, knowledgeable, etc.”

Nakamura, Lisa, Indigenous Circuits. Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, p. 919-994, Digital Article.

Cramer, Florian, What is Post-Digital, Np: Np, p. 699-712, Digital File.

It was interesting to read the point about the post-digital age being partially exemplified in a move past the digital aesthetic of blue as a cool, medium defining (or maybe not defining, perhaps reflecting?) color, mostly because I think this is something that I’ve always recognized but never seen legitimized and proclaimed in such a straightforward manner. For example, in both the original and the remake of TRON, the majority of the environments are blue. (although I think The Matrix may have introduced/helped inseminate green as a color people myself included associate with digital-ness as well). Yes, digital spaces portrayed in pop culture will most likely be blue. And know I understand it is because blue literally is the coolest color in the color spectrum. But why does blue convey cleanness? Do we associate the cold with clean?

I think that the post-punk metaphor is a good one in terms of explaining the idea that we are very much still a culture that is digitally focused (or obsessed) but that we have moved onto a distinct new stage of said foes or obsession. I also enjoy Cascone’s understanding of post-digital as a reference to an era wherein the disruption brought upon by digital information technology is no longer perceived as disruptive.

Also interesting was the highlighting of the year 1990 as the split of how people being born would perceive the internet, those after it seeing the network as a largely corporate entity.

I felt that the argument that there is no such thing as digital aesthetics because we can only perceive information as analog, was a bit unnecessarily literal, and not really productive in terms of discussing aesthetics, only productive possibly in exploring the schism of analog vs. digital.

A lot of what Wark said was very reminiscent of Baudrillards theories of the simulacra and simulations, in that this gamespace we live in can at times be indistinguishable from games we play all the time. Also in the slow encroachment of this space over our reality. “THE GAME has not just colonized reality, it is also the sole remaining ideal.  this is strikingly reminiscent of the image of the tattered map becoming indistinguishable from the desert, the birth of the simulacra.

Also, a lot of what he discussed reminded me of a concept that I learned of in Alexandrina Agloro’s class last semester “Gaming of the Oppressed” called gamification, or the constant infiltration of game mechanics into every day life, as a tool of consumerism. Wark explains that our lives are made up of these gamespaces, “The computer games that the gamer finds there are the ruins not of a lost past but of an impossible future. – p15 Is gamification societies collective push towards this unattainable “game” future?

One thing that I disagree with, or at least do not fully understand, is exemplified here: “You trifle with the game to discover in what way gamespace falls short of its self-proclaimed perfection. I have not experienced this gamespace of ours to have been self-proclaiming itself as perfect. If anything, I have experienced the opposite, everyone who is inhabiting this space reinforcing that it is quite an imperfect and unfair space.

Right at the start I am intrigued to be reading a text on Anonymous that has been approved by a professor of mine, because to date, I have not seen a media report whether on television or an article online that does not completely miss the point or misunderstand the notion of 4chan and anonymous. I hope, as I read on, that the incredibly fascinating 21st century social and digital amalgam that is 4chan/anonymous is investigated with the same attention to detail as other critical texts. (Update: 1 paragraph in and I have a good feeling about the rest of the article.)

I find it interesting that Coleman sees 4chan’s labeling as cyber vigilantes a “misunderstanding”, as it seems, while much of their antics are done with a veil of trolling and mischief as their chief motivation, my perception of them is that in the end of the day this cyber vigilantism is at least some part of their culture. It must be right? Or else why would they do these things?

I think that this quote captures what I find so intriguing about anonymous. “But acting “on the wing” leverages Anonymous’s fluid structure, giving Anons an advantage, however temporary, over traditional institutions—corporations, states, political parties—that function according to unified plans.”  This idea that their nebulous-ness is their power, especially in this digital age in which perhaps this sort of power structure could be replicated. I also enjoyed learning a that a legitimate ethnographic phrase exists for the behavior that I very much associate with 4chan, which is their incredible frustration at the media’s inability to properly represent them: “superaltern”.

“at the periphery, an annular building; at the centre, a tower; this tower is pierced with wide windows that open onto the inner side of the ring; the peripheric building is divided into cells, each of which extends the whole width of the building.” This was somewhat alarming to read, because this description of Foucault’s panopticon could honestly be mistaken for a description of my dorm building, Barbour Hall. (Sans the tower). The building is ring shaped (annular) with a space in the middle (courtyard). Everyone is constantly watching each other from their building-wide cells (the rooms are the width of the interior courtyard). There is even a hierarchy of power, in that depending on which floor you live on, the angle can be such that you can see everyone else but no one can see you (top floor) and vice versa at the bottom. I live in, possibly the most exposed room in the building, it is the only one on the bottom floor. I can barely see into any of the other rooms, while everyone, this entire year, has been able to peer down and watch my roommates and I live our lives. “He is seen, but he does not see.” – Foucault, page 200. At first it was incredibly unnerving but we all adjusted, even becoming friends with some of the people that have direct views into our suite. It still disturbs me every time I go to one of the upper floor rooms and look down at my bed, thinking of all the people who could so easily watch me sleep. This year I have been constantly surveyed, with no way of knowing who is surveying. I have lived the panopticon experience. Thank you Brown University, for this year-long, hands on lesson in constructing modes of power.

This was my second viewing of I love Alaska as I watched it in the intro MCM class. Unfortunately, I almost wish I had not watched it again, as it was so much more powerful in my memory. Perhaps watching it with more experience in the department and knowledge of approaches to engaging with these texts removed a sense of wonder that I had towards it when watching as an un-indoctrinated freshman.

I loved the mysterious way in which Patchwork girl slowly unraveled, revealing it’s characters and universe to me as a non-linear story that I was in charge of unfolding, only I had a blindfold on myself, in that I had no conception of the framework behind the story. I enjoyed the nostalgic aspect as well, (having to enter in the text through the older mac interface) which I think majorly influenced my reading of the story, a McLuhan said “the medium is the message.” Just as soon as I thought I was getting a hang of the rhythm of this unfolding literary web, I would stumble upon some new network schema that organized things completely differently. My favorite aspect of the experience was reading the stories behind each of the body parts, which so effectively and simultaneously populated this world as well as others that we would not get to explore in this read through. (By introducing characters or referencing events and places that we would hear nothing more of).

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This is just a musing inspired by a recent facebook post floating in my stream.  A while ago, I read Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities, a really stimulating work on the paradoxical cultural logic that is the nation.  His premise, published in 1983-before the internet’s hayday, is that the concept of citizenship under one sovereign national body, is ultimately socially constructed, because we rarely encounter most of our fellow citizens, but still starkly uphold values such as patriotism and nationality.  Many of Anderson’s ideas stem from new spatialities, expansions from the village into the global village, and the consequent sudden push for solidarity.  How does networked culture break down this 30 year old schema?  When  I encountered this picture on facebook, I wanted to think through how contemporary patriotism, given the NSA fiasco, warfare within the last decade, and police brutality, has become not only a transparent fallacy, but a penalty to be monitored by the panopticism of the popular opinion of the internet.  How does Anonymous fit into this scheme?  How are virtual connections becoming more affective and effective than the socially constructed connections that used to be the lifeblood of our nations (simulacrum event)?  Can we imagine a world in which networked guilds, like world of warcraft raiding groups, or reddit subthreads, have more influence on the actual workings or routines of our daily lives?

The tension between the digital and the analog, as explored in Cramer’s “What is Post-Digital?”, is comparable to that between the power structures enacted by big data and autonomous computing and Rouvroy’s concept of virtuality. In the former, while it’s explained that popular proponents of the post-digital era often use a looser definition of “digital” and “analog”, the more stringent definition best exemplifies the sentiments of the post-digital: by digital is meant discrete and quantifiable and by analog is meant continuous and undivided. The appeal of analog media, then, is in its continuity, which lends it its air of tangibility and permanence; it is not easily abstracted and thus seems more tangible, it is not easily reconstructed and thus seems more permanent than digital media. Because the digital is so easily expressible, transformable, replicable, it appears to lack the mystery, the unfathomable glue that seems to underpin reality.
The same aspects underly Rouvroy’s concept of virtuality. Rouvroy argues that a regime of autonomous computation (whose mode of perception is big data capture) threatens what makes us fundamentally human: the notion of a human being as an entity existing through time, and that of the virtual—the essential, unquantifiable, spontaneous aspect of a human being that exists outside of herself and informs her identity and serves as a utopic destination for herself.
To the permanence of the human self: the decisions that big data have made so far and the decisions enacted by a regime informed by big data involve this very assumption; that past events can exemplify future events, and that a person’s past experiences inform her future actions. To virtuality: this construct seems in line with that of arguments for human freedom and against that of a deterministic world—humans can behave unpredictably, are therefore free agents, and retain their humanity. Of course, this seems like a game of limited information; is there was a machine or computer that could sample and correctly analyze enough data of the behavior of a human, why would a human’s actions be privileged to be unpredictable?
Predictive models are never infallible, however, and account for a level of unpredictability. It then seems that, although it’s possible to quantify human behavior, such tools only serve as an approximation, and admittedly. And so the question remains of whether anything is truly analog, or spontaneous, or unpredictable, or rather, that there has yet to be a tool capable of fully capturing, digitizing, the real, the physical, the human. Perhaps humanity’s opposition to regimes founded upon predictive models comes not from rejecting them or fearing them, but from the acceptance that complexity need not be fully irreducible to allow for (at least the semblance of) the virtual ideal self, that spontaneity informs and validates predictive systems, and that predictability does not imply determinism, but rather bolsters the rationale of a power structure that, for the sake of democracy, can be self-justifiably opposed.