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archives begin in 1996


Abstraction and Digital Production

story © Michael Betancourt | published December 8, 2013 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print

theory: working notes

The reductive abstraction common to the twentieth century, from the form is function of reductive formalismboth Adolph Loos and Clement Greenbergmirrors the demands of early capitalism for efficiency and speed of manufacture by unskilled labor. The elimination of features dependent on personal training and their replacement by the industrial assembly line (by Andy Warhol as much as Donald Judd) demonstrates how abstraction embraced the deskilling common to capitalism first noted by historian John Ruskin in the nineteenth century. With the development of digital technology, and the shift from production to replication, the formal protocols of earlier abstraction (especially the geometric formalist work of the 1920s and 1930s) were embedded within the digital itself. The digital automation foregrounded in the more contemporary work of Roxy Paines Painting Manufacture Unit makes the link between contemporary industrial production and abstract art into a subject of the work: instead of challenging capitalist processes and demands, abstract art instead acts to affirm them through the adoption of forms that are deskilled (i.e. not requiring human agency); at the same time, digital technology collapses the assumed distinctions between the abstract and the not-abstract, a factor that becomes apparent in Wade Guytons digitally produced works. This elision of distinctions is a feature of digital capitalismvia the serial generation of commodity formswhere permutation ignores all differences, enabling the valorization of what were historically contradictory domains under the rubric of novelty; the elision of distinctions reflects this protocols dominance. Abstraction is thus simultaneously symptomatic and descriptive when confronting digital technology, a duality that is reflective of how both forms have historically emerged within capitalism. The problem both pose is therefore identical: engaging the contradictory demands of this historical foundation.

Digital Inflections

story © Michael Betancourt | published June 15, 2010 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print

theory: working notes

CTheory Global Online Seminar on Critical Digital Studies
June 17, 1pm PDT (Pacific Daylight Time), 3pm EDT (Eastern Daylight Time)

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Innate Characteristics vs Ambiguity

story © Michael Betancourt | published March 18, 2010 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print

theory: working notes

Looking at the political and other divisions in the United States, more and more I am struck by a minor issue that came up while researching The State of Information: the idea of ambiguity. It didnt seem like a particularly significant issue at the time, but more and more its becoming obvious that how someone responds to ambiguity determines much of their outlook on the world around them.

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theory fragment

story © Michael Betancourt | published November 30, 2009 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print

theory: working notes

The accumulation and preservation of information has been a fundamental condition of human society throughout its entire history; to a lesser or greater extent, this history is coincident with the preservation, propagation and presentation of specific information sets and the paradigm-technologies they enableculture and society being simultaneously the vehicles and contaners for these specific information sets, described by the horizons they produce. Information differentials scale between the microlevel of the individual within a society in competition with other members for status, wealth, authority to groups within societies, to different paradigms jostling for dominance. The aggregate actions of each level of this construct depend on the indivdiual choices and actions of specific members whose cumulative impacts emerge at with variable coherence at different levels of organization. Because success depends specifically on both access to relevant information, and the more specific ability to apply and employ it, the organization as a whole has an in-built bias towards the accumulation and concentration of information maximally: the baseline condition for success within such structures historically has been one determined by an information differential: those lying at the greater end of the gradient tend towards success and dominance, with those falling at the lesser end tend to fail, excluding such mediating factors as already established positions and authorities that tend to replicate themselves.

Music and Speech

story © Michael Betancourt | published March 22, 2009 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print

theory: working notes

The Not Exactly Rocket Science blog covers a new paper on the links between musical intervals and speech. Interesting read, very suggestive for experimental sound work.