The Digital

story © Michael Betancourt, July 19, 2010 all rights reserved.


The paradigm of digitality, is—especially at a technological level—a reification of the modernist grid. Fundamentally a process of segmentation of ordering, its contents are essentially identical, divorced from the physical variability inherent to other material constructs by the unrelenting oppositions of binary code (the aura of the digital). The meaning of these codes stand apart from the form of the work (the aura of information), once it has been rendered into an unstable, human-readable form. It is the transcendent part of the early abstraction that finds itself mirrored by the ways that the underlying physical encoding of reality in data samples, paradoxically both literal in its insistence on measurement of the discrete physical features of the world, and immaterial in how this meaning is held apart from the electro-magnetic switching of microtransistors within blocks of matter.

For silicon, the material of both quartz crystals and glass, to become digital is to literally become opaque, the process of sight no longer being a matter of seeing-through, but of seeing-within: insight, transcendent vision; this transition is the digital. The ideology it creates is one that takes Clark’s observation about advanced technology and magic and turns it from imaginary futures to the lived experience of the present, in the process filling the space of the digital with both imaginary, instrumental forms of “life,” (from computer viruses, to worms, spiders, bots and spyware), whose function is parasitic. At the same time, the lifeworld become machinic: “lifehacking,” and DNA as a variety of digital code, manipulated and modeled within the digital technology that enables its manipulation.

It is in this convergence of machinic, semiotic, and biologic that we find the paradigm of the digital intersecting with the political economy and the problema posed by the human agency in relation to the devices deployed and autonomous within this digital realm. The issue becomes not simply a matter of economic or class structure, but of machinic relations within realism of greater and lesser control produced, maintained and reified by how digital technology and the ideology of the digital reinforce each other.

Within this space the modernist grid lies as the enabling paradigm for structure and organization of elements that can and cannot be reconciled, controlled, valorized. It is in this breaking into samples that the potential for quantization and value extraction-exchange becomes possible. Those ways of being formerly not valorizable become the new domain of valorization: indexes of happiness, demographics tailored to unique individuals—the affective domains—whose action is to distract from the adjustment of life and lived to the demands of an ever more extensive, comprehensive grid of data whose goal is the complete accounting of the life world (the aspiration to the state of information).

Copyright © Michael Betancourt  July 19, 2010  all rights reserved.

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