Glitches and the Aura of Information

story © Michael Betancourt, December 15, 2015 all rights reserved.


Compression glitches have become the most common type of glitch encountered, not only in art, but in our everyday uses of technology. These technical failures are usually transitory, a momentary breach in the continuous datastream; we notice that they happen as quickly as we forget they were there: once they have passed, they vanish not only from the screen but from memory.

Consider three apparently identical images:

(a) is an uncompressed raster file specifying each and every pixel displayed;
(b) is a compressed version of the same raster data;
(c) is a version of the same image, but produced and described using vector graphics.
The apparent content of the image is irrelevant—it could be a photograph, typography, or simply a collection of linear elements—because any type of image can be stored in one these three ways. The human-readable product of each of these three images are identical, so completely similar that there is no difference between the data on display in a human-readable form in any of these images; thus it is impossible for a human observer to distinguish between them based on their human-readable form.

However, inspite being apparently identical, each of these is an individual, separate, digital object. This remains the case with these images no matter how frequently they are rendered human-readable, copied or otherwise reproduced as digital files. The idea that they are actually the same is an illusion created by the aura of information. It is this aura—that all digital information remains constant—equivalent no matter what types of transformations are applied (in this case both compression and the distinctions between raster and vector storage of image data). Each digital file and the rendition of that code as a human readable object (the apparently identical images) comprise separate, individual digital objects whose human readable instantiation produces the illusion that they are the same. It is the belief in the equivalency between these distinct data files that contain unique, divergent code, that reflects the aura of information in action.

Copyright © Michael Betancourt  December 15, 2015  all rights reserved.

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