the Massive Archive (“I have forgotten my umbrella” & tweeted about it)

I have argued elsewhere against the futility of the Infinite Archive – as expressed through various projects, many of them by google (like the desire to scan and digitize every book ever). But the futility of the Infinite Archive is built into the dream: its being is its perpetually unfinished becoming. The problem is thus not with the Infinite Archive (that at least can be thought and conceived. The problem, rather is with the Massive Archive.

Human beings can think infinity. We can grasp the concept. Sure there are vagaries that escape some and nuances that escape others. We are not all mathemagicians. But the infinitesimal and the massively massive are much more difficult entering into impossible. There are not infinite grains of sand on a beach. Planck length can be grasped mathematically but conceptually? As numbers approach the massively huge and minusculely small, we humans lose the ability to fully grasp their meaning.

Why does this matter? How does this relate to the archival project? Consider, if you will, the process of collecting the libraries, works, letters, files, papers, and documents of the notable. Various libraries and universities pride themselves on the collections that they possess and the research potential of those archives can, indeed, be tremendous. But what will happen to the collected papers of a contemporary figure? For some, it may be little different. But what about those who maintain a significant digital and social media presence? Who conduct research, writing, & public speech, etc. through those various platforms and the platforms to come? Will their archives necessarily include their Twitter feeds? What about deleted tweets? Saved but unpublished blog post drafts? The value of these archives is that they often include personal documents but how will we decide which private messages and private feeds are to be archived? How many of the endless stream of digital photos saved in ever cheaper digital storage? What part of our search histories (even the ones on incognito?)? Ironic and/or informative hashtags? Location data? What portion of the cloud? Will the NSA contribute what they have gathered?

The personal archive of a contemporary individual is not infinite. But the process of archiving a digital life in order that it might be useful and meaningful for later generations is going to involve a whole new form of culling and curation. Because surely keeping everything would make the archive unwieldy, spoiled for riches and thus starving because of its own excess. How can Nietzsche’s laundry lists compare to Istagramming our meals? But who decides what is archived and what is left to the digital landfill? Who decides which fragments and feeds might be relevant in a century or two? And what would that deciding look like?

There remains hope that the metadata of the future might resolve this issue down the line (for those down the line) but since the process of attaching appropriate metadata to current archiving and digitization projects is so complex and time-consuming at present, one wonders if that will provide much help to the present. One can conceive of a search capable of “finding what we are looking for” but is there a practical way of implementing such a vision? Keywords and tags are useful but certainly flawed.

Perhaps the solution lies in curation, perhaps in improved metadata, maybe in some really cool thing that I don’t even know about, but the issue of the Massive Archive remains and remains to be solved. And now, this.

The greatest American liberty

The greatest American liberty is to be left alone to do and say as one pleases (ending at (just the) tip of the other’s nose).

You can call this religious liberty or freedom of speech or any other sociopolitical semantic construction you desire. What many of the conservatives in the room seem to be forgetting of late is that this live and let die policy demands that you don’t get upset by what you see if you insist on being a voyeur and spying on your neighbors.

Exponentially worse than the linguistic decision to allow literally (because of such rampant misuse) to also be defined as figuratively, is the application of law to enforce ‘religious’ liberty. Liberty is based on what one can be forced to do or kept from doing (or, rather, the absence of that force). It is not (in any way) based on what one can be asked to tolerate, to accept, to understand, to learn about, or to accept as fully human. Religious liberty (or liberty of any legally enforceable kind) is unrelated to what one may or may not agree with (despite deeply held beliefs). Otherwise my religious liberty invalidates your capitalism and willingness to destroy the planet.

Given that so many of those ‘deeply held beliefs’ are based on modern interpretations of ancient, translated writing  (mythologic, figurative, and often marked by extreme poetic license) the claim becomes even more tenuous. Social reality is based on consensual construction and shared meaning. Liberty is not, and cannot, be based on the attempt to force shared meaning, especially such culturally specific (in this case evangelical) meaning. The inability to accept that meaning is constructed or the inability to believe that history did not happen the way one wants to believe it did is not a basis upon which to insist that others blindly follow the path of ignorance. One is entitled, in America, to be ignorant and useless. One is not empowered to insist that the government protect that ignorance or force it upon others.

Concerning the drift: the separation of evangelicalism

At what point does American evangelicalism become recognized as a wholly separate religion, as different from early Christianity (even post-Nicean Roman Christianity) as early Christianity was from Second Temple Judaism?

Perhaps this is not a new idea, but here are some brief elaborations of the point as they have become prominent in current news trends:

  • “Traditional” identity politics
  • Young Earth creationism
  • Prosperity Theology
  • Biblical ‘literalism’
  • Millenarianism
  • Theocratic ambitions
  • Martial inclinations

 

It is not that there is not a certain basis for these teachings and practices within the Bible or the history of Christianity but rather their confluence that sets evangelicalism apart. The Bible maintains a number of “traditional” marriages that are not between one man and one woman (Abraham relationship with Hagar comes to mind, or, more pointedly, Jacob marrying sisters Leah and Rachel, or Solomon’s 700 wives plus the 300 concubines). Opposition to marriage equality is thus not based on Biblical tradition as such, but an interpretation thereof. Prosperity theology seems to directly contradict Biblical references to camels and needles or upsetting the moneylenders. Millenarianism and Young Earth creationism both stem from a certain literal interpretation of what historically been understood as figurative passages (in the books of Revelation and Genesis respectively). The martial inclinations and theocratic ambitions are not unique to modern evangelicals – the Holy Roman Empire, the Crusades, the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and the Conquistadors provide some historical analogs. Of course those historical incidents have their own significant deviation from the red letters.

What seems relevant, then, is the efficacy or validity of such historical/theological appeals. If what qualifies as an abomination is selectively applied, if who qualifies as a neighbor is not universally extended, appeals to “God is Love” seem misplaced and may explain their ineffectiveness. Christianity broke from Judaism in, among other things, a selective application of scripture and law. Is this not a manifestation of the same?

This is idea is already given weight in the way that modern polls and surveys are conducted. Routinely, evangelicals are separated from Roman Catholics and “mainline/mainstream” Protestants. This is likely not even a devision that evangelicals would themselves protest (as it is a common enough belief that they are not of the same faith as Catholics). What would seem contentious about this claim, really, seems to boil down to a single issue – who retains the name “Christian”?

borrowed words (power of the commons)

reagan's 3rd sotu

reagan's 3rd sotu2

reagan's 3rd sotu3

reagan's 3rd sotu4

reagan's 3rd sotu5

reagan's 3rd sotu6

reagan's 3rd sotu7

reagan's 3rd sotu8

reagan's 3rd sotu9

reagan's 3rd sotu10

reagan's 3rd sotu11

 

 

 

&&&

The source text used here is Ronald Reagan’s Third State of the Union Speech (delivered on January 25, 1984). Nothing has been added. This is not an effort to create a strawman Reagan but rather an experiment to show the creative, poetic, and theoretical potential within contextomy. Reagan was used because he remains a polarizing figure but also because State of the Union addresses are in the public domain. The power of the commons.

 

plague, superbugs, & the sixth extinction

The other day I saw a headline about a septicemic plague fatality and that started this process. Yesterday, this phrase “(To discredit, promote distrust, disuade, deter, delay or disrupt)” jumped out at me from an article on The Intercept and I began reading Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction. This morning I was reminded that a bit of garlic, some onion or leek, copper, wine and oxgall can kill MRSA and gator blood is even more potent. I started watching The Last Ship. From these disparate points, I began a thought trail that led to this:

[This will be an exercise in hyperstition, heuretics, and thoryvological associative analysis. The following is not meant to be true but æffective, not inherently factual nor necessarily faithful to the original context/intent. The quotes are kept intact and in, for the most part, complete sentences but they are robbed of their originary order and context and juxtaposed in disparate dissonance and harmony with intent bound by the above impulses and ideas, marked by the passing of this the 23rd day of the month. It is not a question of what it means but what it can do.] 

 

 

 

***

This is a textual machine designed to produce other machines. What mattered here wasn’t the author(s) or the means of textual production at all, but rather the circulation and the effects of the text in the world. This is, of course, a demand for complicity. I insist on your freedom. Your tormentors will be purified.

There were things in the text I hadn’t been expecting. Uncomfortable, complicating passages. The distortion of a text is not unlike a murder. The difficulty lies not in the execution of the deed but in the doing away with the traces. The thing is easily false. But the meaning, to this day, still escapes us. This is the lesson you forgot.

Of course, words fail.

***

I love you because there’s nothing else to do. A rage to live, an urge to goodness. Love.

The utterance threw them into confusion or rather angered them further, which often comes to the same thing. Who were these people who could live so placidly while the world fell into an acute global environmental crisis? In our era of natural disasters, climate change, global pandemics, and the ongoing specter of bioterror, we are continually invited to think about humanity in relation to its real, hypothetical, or speculative extinction. Yet to go back is to go forward into uncertainty and invention.

I think there’s still a small block of original quiet that exists in the world. Theory in itself did not free people to reach into a deeper area of sound. Noise also functions in the cybernetic sense, as a result of its viral functioning in the world.

On the universal face of the world, the grand old Pan, the son of all the dead, is dead. The previous habitation of space is a trace that may then go on to constitute it in the future, in its absence. No longer is there a here or appropriation; we live as transients or tenants, deprived of a fixed abode. There is no more space, no more history, no more time. In the end the black river would burst its banks to become a black sea whose centre was everywhere and circumference nowhere.

***

There is no stillness, only change. A movement unlocked my attention. It was a derelict. A relic of something nine-tenths collapsed. Nothing decays either, moreover; nothing truly perishes. In this case, chance as nonsense is visible in the very insignificance of its result. In neither case would one be left with anything except a radically dysfunctional wreck, terminally shut-down hardware.

***

There is nothing, and it cannot be known. Either I do not know the world, or I do not know myself. Nothing alive is ever quite in balance.

I know there is no boatman. It was incomprehensible to her: they didn’t want to know. By necessity there are other characteristics that are not accounted for, that are not measured, and that remain hidden and occulted. The shipwreck will preclude the apocalypse.

***

Without noise, all we do is repeat. The repetition of noise intoxicates as much as violence. Deep thick silence thundered from behind the closed door. And what he finds there is a terrifying abyss, where there is neither certitude nor knowledge, nor even a single thought – just a tenebrous, impassive silence. There was complete silence, intermittently broken by the faintest electronic sounds – something between a distant computer game and muffled speech software. It was like there was this hole in the quiet. Every living creature, animal and human both, was terrified by this cacophony.

***

Following the shaman into the cave. We’ve never lost any of that. We are swept on by a whirlwind which dates back to the dawn of time; and if this whirlwind has assumed the aspect of an order, it is only the better to do away with us. The world was spun out of a blade of grass: the world was spun out of a mind. Except never to see or feel that black river that cannot be crossed, but flows like a nothingness through the hole of you. Chaos? Chaos is rejecting all you have learned, chaos is being yourself. The seduction of the arbitrary alarms us. Thought that stumbles over itself, at the edge of an abyss. It is a kind of mysticism that can only be expressed in the dust of this planet. After having sought to be a sage such as never was, I am only a madman among the mad.

***

While looking for the light, you may suddenly be devoured by the darkness and find the true light. Our luminescent, naked bodies dissolve into a swarm of obscure creeping things, and we are a mass of glutinous coiling worms, endless. How we would conduct ourselves if dragged to its depths, where eternal darkness is punctured only by its bioluminescence, remains to be seen. We do not dislike everything that shines, but we do prefer a pensive luster to a shallow brilliance, a murky light that, whether in a stone or an artifact, bespeaks a sheen of antiquity. Something strange slowly washed over and enveloped me like the black ink of an octopus, as I stood there in the stand, and I felt above all like screaming out the story of my experience, such as they were. The man who has never imagined his own annihilation, who has not anticipated recourse to the rope, the bullet, poison, or the sea, is a degraded galley slave or a worm crawling upon cosmic carrion. For now, at least, it is only with its help that we can hope to orient ourselves in the darkness of the abyss.

 

***

Once again he felt that he had crossed over into a space where the real world had taken on all the qualities of a dream, becoming as glossy and surreal, as unlikely and beautiful, as stuffed to a dark sheen with ungraspable meaning. What spell had been cast around me to make my hold on reality feel so tenuous? I didn’t know if the noise had been part of some dream I’d been having or a real, external thing. A world whose margins would become capricious, but this caprice would not refer to any hidden intention. Rather, it involves the generation of memory outside of and apart from any possible experiential event. Dark traces of the past lay in his soul, ready to break through into the regions of consciousness. That interference covers the sense with non-sense by scrambling it and making his words into waste, or by covering it up with other words. It was as if I was in a madness and a frenzy and a depression that older and wiser peoples may once have denominated the descent of a god, which seized me and for which, though I had no control, I am nevertheless to blame.This truth law has no more reality than the world. Roaring dreams take place in a perfectly silent mind. Now that we know this, throw the raft away.

***

Flux is.

***

Do you think the emptiness of the sky will ever crumble away?

***

***

Sources (in the order by which I claimed them):

Kim Stanley Robinson, Forty Signs of Rain

Justin Clemens & Helen Johnson, The Black River

Michel Serres, Malfeasance

Critical Art Ensemble, Marching Plague

Vilém Flusser, Vampyroteuthis Infernalis

Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows

Naomi Oreskes & Erik M. Conway, The Collapse of Western Civilization

E.M. Cioran, A Short History of Decay

Jack Kerouac, The Scripture of the Golden Eternity

Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism

Eugene Thacker, An Ideal for Living

Quentin Meillassoux, Science Fiction and Extro-Science Fiction

Ed Keller, Nicola Masciandaro, Eugene Thacker (eds.), Leper Creativity

Quentin Meillassoux, The Number and the Siren

Joe Morris, Perpetual Frontier

Nick Land, Fanged Noumena

Steven Hall, The Raw Shark Texts

Eugene Thacker, In The Dust of This Planet

Eugene Thacker, Starry Speculative Corpse

Eugene Thacker, Tentacles Longer Than Night

Post:Noise

Post:Noise is the umbrella term (it is not exactly a genre in the way that no ()holistic non-totalizing work can ever truly be classified in a codified ‘genre’) that I use to define my sonic and video/spectacle work. It is an application of thoryvology into the arts.

Briefly, it is a category that describes work undertaken with the received methods and practices of Noise but with goals beyond those most commonly associated with Noise. It does not seek to be loudest, most abrasive, or any other appellation of furthest from the norm (cf. Attali). Noise is sufficient in that respect and the work of noise artists and noisicians continues to pursue those ends. Thoryvology, and thus post:noise, recognizes the arbitrary nature of boundaries and lines of demarcation and does not apply its lines of flight in those directions. Post:Noise does not seek the fringe but embodies it, does not seek to alienate but is alienated.

The OED (the prime record of this bastard tongue) has 22 separate definitions for ‘post.’ This post will be an effort in intentional cutup contextomy (a thoryvological research method), mining from those 22 definitions of ‘post’ and the two for ‘noise’ an approximation of the concept of post:noise (postnoise, post/noise, post-noise, &c).

Life in the physical world less its core and is relatively cool way Senses relating to sound or of the brain any of the set upright ground for various purposes occurring or existing after as a make remarks or comments Strife contention wall or other barrier cancellation of up or consume a considerable part in mood in a manner perceived of a signal interfere with or times in haste to start on out of a place to say time of the actual sucker attaches a lack of zealous support relaxed time or order to sift or a quarrel to achieve general notoriety points selectively reducing a device which influenced or informed by every cultural or renown without display or ostentation the termination pulse progress is no the brain of the brain in places along similar messages in ancient occurring following an apocalypse shaped or off course unacceptable in the time an attack resulting from inflammation resulting of dissonance or inharmonious feedback that education rejects some of the more a journey time at which a special payment rejecting traditional notions in materialistic attitudes or values associated with or make available disadvantageous position summon report record or list by name meaning pay or provide trample pound a phase of discourse operating after relating to waste generated designating a of something off the marked route, human existence following or reacting to maintain to imply mention in passing relating to or designating acceleration occurring related theoretical approaches exhibiting a cultural important end of the first year result of the point in a after attending designating or relating to act entry in a ledger) with later than following since Referring to midday typified by or characteristic of deliberately for use in various momentarily swift angelic messenger worth occupying a is experienced after the cessation of time or society no longer later the auditory apparatus situated or occurring or showing awareness the fall of the importance or prevalence of the to be pleasant or melodious to information irrelevant or superfluous information distracts to be sounded produce or supply the passage falls below threshold value milieu characterized by a decline in with a wooden implement Subsequent to by voices shouting outcry various kinds the environment a radio emission from after (flawed transaction or dispossession) suitable written word existing after metamorphosis occurring event or movement before after infection from an episode of inadequate supply (specified) position a place of duty or experienced after the end of (later also of metal) Now rare or dim occurring or undertaken after duty responsibility) deflect pass off from as overdue or missing to display by name as having failed publicly as a state which exists or shift designating, or characteristic of a behind the ear behind or below reducing output without triggering unwanted change the disturbance caused by this disturbance Scandal controversy fuss to cause a the sun order to improve the decline of the importance of having (boundary marker inanimate, unresponsive, stupid whipping obscure a signal distortions or additions the part which supplies nerves of oneself postpone defer or delay push make known, advertise bring before the hand over transfer or shift (a random or irregular disturbances not part which no longer has fusion at to receive one’s comeuppance to use utter (prophecy after the event eternity mind following a decline or failure beyond the balanced state of climax the strategic position taken up or mankind a circle of time or loud, harsh, or unpleasant to pretend the brain beyond the stigma fissure which interfere with the transfer of is characteristic sound of any kind subsequent to a convulsion having undergone the time of transition designating or itself to its host situated behind time or place after such contact notice and comment talk much or tavern was kept to be frustrated up to date inform with reflexive as characteristic of the time immediately be responsible for debts publicly list exist or after the end of on which the reckoning at a stupid or contemptible statement or idea compare slightly earlier style abstract advocating following the dissolution or collapse of occupy a strategic position intoxicating beverage of the sounds produced in this affected by forces human body and longer tenable no longer strong adherence unwanted line or surface (imaginary) joining some other state of the brain caused by sounds, discordancy disturbance made after the cosmos has ceased to through an aperture or slot bring loudly about a thing Nonsense foolishness alternate sheets the first such call disgrace to advertise publicly no longer performed or applied after the emergence refine preoccupied with the past after succession at which development has continued sends an electrical signal to halt quality outcry to cry out drive public expose to ignominy obloquy or sounds produced in this way any stir become the object of general.

 That explains it, right?

neither an oppressor nor a victim be …

In my previous post, I made some effort to address what I see as a root failing in American educational outlook, in what we, as a society, consider education to be for or what, which is perhaps more pertinent, we use it for in the majority of cases (funneling bodies into jobs). That was the most salient point of the article as I first read it: that students don’t want to be challenged but coddled in the most cursory (and illusory) for of ‘acceptance.’

 

That was not, and is not, what seems to be generating the most controversy around essay. A brief glance would say that the reaction to the post was proof of its contents (there are many that are too quick to be victimized or too quick to be oppressors or both). That is not sufficiently nuanced.

 

The essay itself had a number of troubling points for me. This is why I, initially, focused on what I did leaving the misinformed and inaccurate (but aren’t they always) barbs of ‘nihilism’ alone, leaving the disparaging view of cultural studies alone, not bothering to critique the signature of anonymity, not fully questioning the foolish approach of critiquing Twitter posts for being insufficiently nuanced, etc.

 

Perhaps that is necessary.

 

I am a nihilist. There are many nihilisms, but this one is mine: the universe is indifferent. Welcome to the Infinite Perspective Vortex. When the Abyss gazes back, it gazes not stares because staring is rude and the Abyss isn’t looking at you, you aren’t important as far as the Abyss is concerned (which is isn’t because it isn’t anthropomorphic).

 

There is a reason this note comes first. It removes all appeals to authority.

 

The views on nihilism that the references but does not define (treating it as a universally abhorred bogeyman) are superficial at best. They just upset me.

 

Cultural Studies did not create a world of victims or oppressors. It is necessary, given that culture is all we have a humans, to look at what we use to define ourselves, to critique it and, often, to attempt to change it. Culture is not opposed to Nature. Cultural Studies is not opposed to Science (or science). There is no nature, there is no divide between nature and culture. There is the world and we are embedded. Science is wholly part of culture and they are all manifestations of anthropogenic noise marking our territory in an unimpressed cosmos. Is science biased towards the Patriarchy? Yes. It is part of the culture and paradigm of science as it has developed in the Western World and remains as part of the legacy of science in the world today. Does that invalidate science as a whole? No. And it certainly does not invalidate the scientific method. What it does instead is demand a challenging (look we are back to this) of the assumptions and paradigms of science, its factishes and practices. That would be the point of Science Studies and the philosophy of science. They do good work, I like Stengers and Latour. That a Twitter post was unable to convey the nuance of monographs and journal articles of academic science studies research is so patently obvious that the point should be irrelevant.

 

Then there is the signature of anonymity (pseudonymity). What does it mean to sign with a false signature? What does it mean to sign with a false signature but then quote with a Twitter handle (which are occasionally their own brand of pseudonymous signatures but I do not believe that was the case here). There were accusations of hiding, of cowardice. Is it cowardice to sign falsely? To sign falsely while not allowing others to do the same? If the pseudonymity was out of fear of reprisal did not the author consider the reprisal that the Twitter author would (and did) receive? I will not address questions of the right to quote (with attribution) from Twitter. Quotation without permission is a staple of the free use of copyright necessary for academic freedom (this is the proper MLA format for citing a tweet).

 

Dealing with those issues then brings me to my brief conclusions. There are a recent changes in media and discourse (social media, text messages and their brevity, tv punditry, etc, etc) that have given society over to an increase of seeing life in the binaries of oppressor/victim, us/them, offensive/accepting. There are no binaries save the ones that voltage gates allow in computers, et al, and that is only through an express limiting of analog continuity. Are more people seeing themselves as victims and/or oppressors? It seems like it. But the internet makes everything louder and seemingly more prominent. Is that binary (and the others) a bad thing? Yes. Will pseudonymously complaining about it change much? Doubtful. Especially when that complaining refuses to embrace the comforts of nihilism that demand that we solve our own problems because we are otherwise alone.

 

We are embedded in this world (despite all claims to dominance and separation) and only through embracing that embeddedness, the non-binaristic greyscale, the nihilism, can we cut through the useless blather and banter and come to understand the underlying chaos and un/hyper/differentiated realities of which we are only a small (but significant to ourselves – highly recommended by owner) part.