(con)juncture was lawson fletcher's thought pile. Now blogging at soundofruins.net
"stay critical or die!" | email | (con)temporary


digital materiality

This whole notion of things being disembodied, de-textured, immaterial, etc. in the digital realm is obviously bullshit. Of course, others have already said this far more smartly than myself, but I'm just throwing this down here as a way of reminding myself of the fact when I start to hate mp3s. I'm not backing down from that position, because there's still a specific materiality to them against 'physically realised' music media, and they offer different kinds of potential, but it's worth just noting a few points:
  • The electronic versions of physical artefacts, digital originaries and information all have material characteristics intimately related to the hardware and the software of their creation, circulation and archival/preservation.
  • In the case of digital 'versions' of the physical, there is an additional quasi-materiality that emerges from the recall of the physical 'original' - take the album cover image as it appears on later generation iPods, for instance.
  • In the case of digital originaries (that is, those digital elements that have no physical correlate/model), they still retain their own materiality related to how they are interfaced and constituted.
Just to finish this off in a thoroughly aliterate way - let's think about the Zerg, one of three races the player can choose to play with in the madly awesome and wildly popular (esp. in South Korea) computer game Starcraft. These dudes are slimy, hive-minded insectoids that are kind of conceptual cousins to the invertebrate human-technologies of our man Cronenberg (think eXistenZ). Playing as this race consists of its own unique bodily, affective matter - the player click interface is actually this disgusting kind of flesh-plate thing that wraps around the controls and map:

I'm not going to nerd out much further, but if you've ever played this game just think about its material experience. With the Zerg too it is intimately tied to the sounds the little hatchlings make when they spawn into different species, the wordless growls and gutteral snarls that make up the call-responses of the characters when you click on them - sound itself is something that carries its own materiality and that, whilst of course shifting/mutating, ranges across the digital and the analogue.

Stay tuned for a run-down on the psychic hauntology of the Protoss and the flesh-made-metal Futurist dream of the Terrans! (jk.)

No comments: