inferentialkid

Notes on Stiegler’s *Technics & Time 2: Disorientation*…

In Notes on September 25, 2010 at 1:50 am

…are now embedded below (after the cut).

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  1. (I’ll likely be making a few modifications tomorrow afternoon, but I suppose this is something of a start)

    Being Through Time: Techne, Disorientation, and the Politics of Spectrality

    “The evolution of the ‘prosthesis,’ not itself living, by which the human is nonetheless defined as a living being, constitutes the reality of the human’s evolution, as if, with it, the history of life were to continue by means other than life: this is the paradox of a living being characterized in its forms of life by the nonliving—or by the traces that its life leaves in the nonliving. There is consequently an evolutionary determinism that is not only biological but also, for reasons we have seen earlier, quasi-zoological” (Technics and Time, 1 50)

    “The facticity of the already-there could be translated into the biological analysis of neoteny. The who is a who? as a result. But this is not biological: it is technological, as in any Technics of the body—walking, dancing, or swimming: a biology cannot be sufficient for us, neither a Bergsonian vitalo-spiritualism nor even its splendid extensions in Leroi-Gourhan and Simondon.”
    (Technics and Time, 2 27-28)

    Having read much of the first two books in the Technics and Time series, I can say with some certainty that Stiegler, reading Heidegger’s Being and Time against the backdrop of Leroi-Gourhan’s Gesture and Speech, is invested in a reading of human evolutionary history that accommodates techne. What this means, Stiegler notes, is that technology impinges on and implicates the body; the fundamental paradox of the living being is that he/she is always and immediately characterized by his/her use of increasingly complex tools. Or, perhaps more appropriately, the living being is characterized by how these tools, generally and without much conscious consideration (on our part), use our information; how the prosthesis of techno-memory, as a “nonliving” appendage akin to living tissue, distributes the central nervous system across multiply contingent systems (In Rotman’s terms, this seems to be the tension between “self” and “selves”). What is less (perhaps even un) certain, for me, is why Stiegler has chosen to make “disorientation” the central thematic of the second text. While the tendency towards epiphylogenetic history seems somewhat intuitive—it has become increasingly hard to ignore how technology simultaneously informs the body and confuses our sense of what that body is or how it performs—his interest in disorientation requires some unpacking.

    Drawing heavily on Roland Barthes Camera Lucida, especially the “Third Meaning” essay, Stiegler observes that technological prosthesis induces disorientation (27). In large part, disorientation is the experience of a technological coming-to-terms with death. Our history, in as much as it is contemporaneous with the history of techne, is the history of successive developments in the “mirror,” the self-reflective apparatus by means of which we approach an image, not the image, of ourselves. The camera, for instance, shows us an already always past self, meaning that the evolution of technology is not simply an issue of charting technological development across time, but rather, through time. Though this seems a relatively minor distinction, it has important implications for the history of narcissism that Stiegler charts. That is, reading technology through time doesn’t really mean charting technological development chronologically. Rather, this reading requires that we begin to understand how, in the example of the photograph, the image’s spectral nature is the direct affect of the time lapse that occurs before its appraisal; before we encounter the image of an already dead self or past moment.

    What this means, in keeping with much of what Stiegler argues in later chapters, is that there is no after the tool. As he notes late in chapter three, labor is “accomplished” through instruments, tools, and techniques. Quoting Hegel extensively, while also trying to accommodate the social (remembering, of course, that this is one of the three elements that he gets from Leroi-Gourhan), it seems that Stiegler cannot help but agree with Hegel’s sentiment that, “truth is not like a product in which there is no longer any trace of the tool” (171). It is not that the tool informs our memory of the event, but rather, that the tool enables and is the event’s very recollection. The image serves this prosthetic function, but in a way that can never be a-temporal. And, it seems, this is why the question of the memory, tied to the concept of a bio-technological program, must also be the question of “rhythm” (69). It is the idea of the bio-technological as being constituted by a series of shifts and suspensions of programs that brings him to argue against trying to stabilize any one program’s meaning, as he notes that we will likely find that program suspended shortly thereafter (71).

    Now, I’m not sure that my effort to connect these dots gets us that much further in the way of answering my initial question—why has Stiegler chosen to make disorientation the central thematic of this text?—but, perhaps it gives us a sense of what this disorientation actually is. And, for my purposes, I’ve been thinking about two related issues that seem pertinent: First, it seems that we experience memory as successive disorienting programs—technology through time. Second, time imbues the image with a particularly disturbing quality or residue. Our experience is one of delay and, thus, death. The image has, drawing from Barthes, an eerie spectral dimension that is, at times, unsettling. Ultimately, though I think getting to the bottom of how “real-time” impinges on the body, especially as this manifests in relation to advances in data collection technology (122-123), is an important next step, I need first to understand what it is about displacement that gets us there. Is it that there is a politics of displacement with which we might/must contend? Further, if part of Stiegler’s project is to co-implicate human and technological evolution, how does the element of spectrality that he begins discussing in the first chapter come to bear on the rest of his work? Simply put, where does displacement get us in thinking about his project as a whole?

  2. Of course, WordPress refuses to represent my use of italics throughout. Hopefully, this won’t create too much confusion.

  3. Amy Metcalf
    Pruchnic
    September 29, 2010

    Generative Grammar + Retentional Finitude = Yeah, I went there

    According to Stiegler, one way to regard technics is as a supplement for the body’s lack of capacity to store every thought/memory/etc – or, the consequence of “retentional finitude.” Throughout my reading of Technics and Time: The Sequel, my mind continuously wandered to another discipline that has grown on me in the short weeks of this Fall semester – that of Linguistics. As Stiegler carefully maps out his chapter on the Industrialization of Memory, I can’t help but make connections to several elements of discourse analysis – but of most interest is the parallel I see between Noam Chomsky’s “Generative Grammar” and Stiegler’s “retentional finitude.”

    In short, Chomsky’s theory posits that grammar is a “body of knowledge” innate within the language user. Essentially, the native language speaker comes fully-equipped with the tools and capability to speak the language – which is why, argues Chomsky, that native language speakers learn their language so quickly. How does this relate to Stiegler, you ask? To approach an answer, I begin by pointing toward Stiegler’s somewhat casual reminder of Plato’s insistence upon the notion that “we are inclined to forget that orthographic writing is already a technique of memory” (129). For those who are expertly familiar with the works of Plato, Aristotle and the like, this will seem familiar as much of the theories of language acquisition and generative grammar are informed by their early ideas. Interestingly enough, the linguists (to the best of my knowledge) do not attribute this innateness of language to any sort of memory – but, I’m not convinced that for Stiegler, the retentional capacity (vs. that of what is outsourced to technics) cannot be equated with an innate capacity a la Chomsky’s theories. I will also point to Stiegler’s position that “memory exists only when it is recalled,” if only to emphasize what I believe is a clear link between innate language abilities as well as a possibility (and I’m just barely confident enough to call it a mere possibility) that rententional finitude does *not* pose a hierarchy between “fact” and “memory of fact” after all. Instead, perhaps in practice, rententional finitude does not require a law but is, as Stiegler mentions, truly “in light-time” (116). Perhaps we perpetually experience the “event” and its “input” simultaneously and calling upon it (as Chomsky and others would suggest we do in early language acquisition) does not pose a hierarchical model, but yet strengthens the idea of their “original” positions.

    I believe this also has a large implication on the “fabrication of events” – most specifically in the way that Stiegler discusses our “literal synthesis” (129). For the purposes of this response, my reading of the “literal synthesis” is that we have a tendency to “see technology only where we see visible, material devices” which then leads to the fact that any “event” is only thus because we view it and circulate it (129). Stiegler goes on to assert that all of this hinges on the notion that we can process these messages (handed down by the technologies) because it also assumes that we can read and write and thus have the capacity to comprehend. What follows is the “icing on the cake” so-to-speak for what I will refer to as “Stiegler’s roadblock” (excuse my mixed metaphors). With seeming nonchalance, Stiegler refers to the reader as an “apparatus” which is in part defined by three terms: “instrumentalizing, automating, and mechanizing.” I don’t believe that the linguists would deny that we, in the end, mechanize and automate our language which then would effectively lend to our instrumentality – but, the idea that this “displaces” an initial instrumentation is the proverbial spikes in the road. What about the idea of an instrumentation that IS the initial finitude (as, I think, the linguists would want us to believe)?

  4. Joe Paszek
    Stiegler Response

    The Question of Sexual Identity and the Problematics of “Coming Out”
    in an Interim Space between Ethnics and Machinics

    In his chapter on Disorientation, Stiegler draws from Leroi-Gourhan’s explication of the geneology of memory (primarily in relation to techne, or technological developments) in order to further/complicate LG’s final epoch. “machinic memory,” which is itself birthed from the previous “ethnic” memory. Stiegler claims that we are in fact in the process of transition, moving ever more towards this new epoch of the machinic in which our memory has been objectified externally and “put to use” in a variety of different (economically productive) ways. There seems in this transformation an intrinsic movement away from the traditionally constituted forms of collective identity practices – read in S as practices that are indebted to the Ethnic memory form: “When collective memory becomes analogic or numeric, the relationship between messages, senders, and receivers is appreciably changed … analogic and numeric technologies suspend the participative aesthetic of ethnic communitarian forms and enter a process of decommunitization” (130, 131). My question here, whether appropriately addressed or not, is the return question of identity, specifically a problem of communities constructed around sexuality. The construction of sexual identity groups seems fairly easy to track out in S/LG’s understanding of “ethnic memory.” S writes: “Ethnic programs construct any human group’s unity even while supporting its possible differentiations, just as much as uniformitization through fusion with other groups … ethnic memory determine the automatic practices that regulate the individual’s ‘operatory behavior’” (72, 73). These programs maintain some sort of social equilibrium between members of an identity group, allowing for participation in a “collective memory” of what it means to be gay (for instance) at any recent “historical” moment. These programs, once established, offer up to those members a sense of progressive history – from the Oscar Wilde trial, through Stonewall, and into the Gay Marriage movement – that inculcate each practitioner into the appropriate bodily habitus of their grouping. And while S challenges this collective ethnic memory at the nodal point of industrialization (a moment where perhaps we can locate the redoubled origin of the homosexual, see: D’Emilio’s “Capitalism and Gay Identity”) saying that this industrialization exemplifies a moment when the individual was created, leaving behind a sense of loss with the community, the gay identity seems to have been always conditioned upon this direct loss of community in constitution with another – or better, the condition upon with the gay community is generated is the specific loss of another community (the heterosexual one).
    I fear I have drifted slightly off course, but this is only to come back around to think about the status of gay identities (or maybe even queerness) during this transition from ethnic to mechanical memory. Maybe then this is specifically the moment where I wish to theoretically be. A few pages later, S writes: “the possibilities of the who are rooted in those of the what, as prosthetcity frees up conditions of access to the already-there, and thus, of the who’s anticipation, this anticipation being itself determined by the technical tendency” (76). The possibility of “being gay” collectively and individually becomes itself only made available in the ethnic memory through an adoption of certain beliefs and practices, but now, during this moment of transition from ethnic to machinic, our memories are indexed and made accessible in machine rather than societal practice. More explicitly, in the last decade or so, a signification shift in lesbian and gay identification has been brought out of the bar and into the television. Our primary moments of recognition and memories of gayness come from watching tele-visual narratives of “coming out.” These memories are adopted by the viewer, accessed if you will, and prosthetically supplemented into ones own being. The origins of gay is once again reconfigured from the capitalist moment of industrialization (D’Emilio’s position that homosexuality was enabled in the collectivization of same-sex desiring peoples in sites of production, i.e. the factory) and into narcissistic moments of watching televisual representations of the “coming out” narrative. The homosexual, the gay, the “queer” (though I refuse equating the three!) are no longer social identity practices, but capitalistic ones made available through memories objectified in technology.
    Yet what happens to the individual when those prosthetic memories cannot, refuse to match up with their bodies? Where goes the memories of gayness that was plagued with HIV, or racially/ethnically configured? Are these memories not made technologically available because they are un-productive? Can they be rescued from oblivion? Or are we/them in a constant state of disorientation?

  5. Memory loss, gain

    In Technics and Time 2, Stiegler point out that humans have transferred their memory to machines (or “inorganic organized beings”). With the impact of information technology, this transferal becomes hyperactive—in terms of speed and shifting memory systems—and thus produces disorientation. Similarly, in Technics and Time 1, Stiegler writes: “Each day brings its technical novelty, as well as the demise of things obsolescent and out of date” (14). Here one gets an idea of the “light-time” speed of technical evolution. Stiegler continues, “Innovation is inevitably accompanied by the obsolescence of existing technologies that have been superseded and the out-of-dateness of social situations that these technologies made possible—men, domains of activity, professions, forms of knowledge, heritage of all kinds that must either adapt or disappear” (ibid). Notice how he repeatedly uses the notion of obsolescence. Things are moving so fast now that even a young person can easily look back with a sense of loss for so-called “earlier” technologies. It is the loss of “forms of knowledge” and “ethnic” memory I am concerned with here. F.W. Lancaster, in the late 1970s, predicted the coming of a “paperless” society. As a response and a challenge to this prediction, Gordon Neavill asks something to the effect of: If we go paperless, what will happen to our stock of knowledge? (“Electronic Publishing, Libraries, and the Survival of Information,” Library Resources and Technical Services 28 [January/March 1984]). And, again, since we have transferred so much of our cultural memory to machines, what will happen to it in the rapid obsolescence of these technologies?
    Already, as Neavill points out, we lose information on memory storage devices, such as floppy discs and CDs. The other day, a man came in to the library and was mad when we didn’t have a machine to read his floppy disc (it was one of those floppy discs that are actually floppy). Even if a technology is not obsolete, the files often become corrupted and unreadable over time. And, in the continually updated website, what happens to the history of its progression (or its “editions,” as one of the print world might say)? Does the history of the book disappear with its paper copies? In an oral society, cultural memory is passed from person to person. When one person dies, many other people in that society still carry on its cultural memory. Everyone remembers something different, so the cultural memory changes over time, much more quickly than in print culture; but in digital culture, if memory is moved to a website, when that site goes down, all the information is lost. It’s not that simple, but the disappearance of websites is an everyday thing on the Internet.
    Recently, I came across a book called 100 Things You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer’s and Age-Related Memory Loss (2010) by Jean Carper. How far will information technology take this shift of memory from mind to screen? Now we can remember faces and our past, but will new technologies, such as facial recognition software, assist us with these basic functions, and—by so doing—make them less sharp, and ultimately turn them into vestiges of an earlier age? Will this somehow help Alzheimer patients, but weaken humanity’s memory as a whole? The individual’s farming out of memory to technology weakens the digital society, but cannot touch the oral cultures of the world, which are a dwindling minority. This sounds somewhat romantic, like Emerson’s puny time-piece man vs. the comparatively invincible “savage.” Dystopias and utopias can only be found in the minds of individuals but never in society as a whole. An article by Lamont Wood talks about an oncoming “digital dark age” because of the storage issues/problems involving digital film (“Fending off the Digital Dark Ages: The Archival Storage Issue,” ComputerWorld, August 26, 2010). For instance, Wood notes, the yearly storage cost for a Hollywood movie on celluloid is $1,059 while storing a movie digitally costs $12,514. While costs will presumably come down, the fact that a digital file must be continually updated is a big shift from a print-based society. I do not foresee (que sera, sera) a so-called digital dark age, but there still are some serious issues relating to the preservation of information in this electronic age. With a file, one cannot tell the difference between the original and the supplement, and as Stiegler points out, both are primary. What if the file is changed? Who will tell how it is changed, let alone if it is changed? “Last updated” tells us nothing of what is new.
    On a related note, Pierre Nora sees memory as being, among other things, “susceptible to being long dormant” (qtd. in Kim Lacey and Jeff Pruchnic, “The Future of Forgetting: Rhetoric, Memory, Affect”). Yes, suddenly, I can remember a moment from a “long” time ago, an experience I haven’t thought about in years. Not so with digital memory, especially if the file is corrupt, obsolete, or “cannot be found.” Memory is further outsourced, as Lacey and Pruchnic point out, to software such as “PowerPoint, satellite feeds, and teleprompters.” What will be left for us to remember? And yet, if technology precedes society and culture, will our machines become “machinic” and produce memory themselves? Maybe then they will farm it out to us.

  6. Adrienne jankens
    Response to Stiegler: The Problem of Capturing
    Stiegler’s discussion of Barthes’ writing about the photographic connects back to my questions about the immediacy of text and the problem of capturing thoughts in writing during the process of composing tuning-in journals (which I should probably present a fuller explanation of, and will do in my conference proposal). It also connects to things I have been thinking about regarding narrative writing. “The past is present in the photograph,” Barthes writes, “The dead live” (14). The photograph captures the past in a way that is described as singular to the photograph and cinema. Presumably, this is something that writing cannot do. Stiegler comments, “…in the photographic, the past is presented (this is the meaning of “real,” here a predicate of time before that of the living being)–but it can only be presented as late. The vision is only a re-vision.” (16). I see Steigler’s discussion of photography, through Barthes, as a way of accessing the “ortho-thesis,” the “straightforward position, the upright honesty of the past, of the recording of what happens, of what happened, a right, true memory,” which “unavoidably gives rise to an imprecision” (20). The photograph is imprecise in that it captures the image in reverse. This is where we might see an opening to discussing these ideas in connection with other forms, where we might look at the elements of “disorientation” and “rightness” (through writing, orthos) that he discusses (20).
    For me, this connection to writing comes most clearly with the narrative. Stiegler writes, “To see myself in a photograph is to (re-)see myself in a de-severing (Entfernung) and extension (Ersteckung) that open a space between here and there, past and future, thus rendering possible both the passage of time and a way of approaching the self without which I could never see myself” (17). Later, he says, “All mirrors are deforming ones, just as much the tekhne of the gaze as of time. There are only clumsy, gauche memories, especially when they are accurate. Reflection is disorientation” (27). If we consider the composition of a personal narrative as a sort of looking into a mirror, we see how this disorientation happens–how what we expect to see is not what we see–how in looking to the past we expose a deformed version of that past, deformed now because of time, perspective, etc. Disorientation is then translated into sense, once again: “The transition to the orthographic coincides with an access to full rationality” (43). The experience becomes clear to the writer through this transition. But even so, even if translated into sense in one moment, the imprecision of the narrative, of the experience, remains: “…the orthographic textualization of what occurred in the past no longer determines this past in the one for whom it is the past: this past on the contrary, is seen to be more and more unspecified although just as with the end, with death, more certain” (58). The imprecision of writing remains a difficulty. Bottero’s discussion of pictographics is particularly interesting here. The problem of the pictogram is that it does not correlate precisely to an idea. Writing is supposed to be more precise. Bottero says, “Only language, with its words, is capable of totally rendering the way in which we see reality” (52). However I’d argue we are still left without certainty. While the pictogram is problematic because it is not precise or exact, orthographic language might also still be problematic without gesture.
    This sort of dual movement is also apparent in reading a text. He writes, “Active reading is not simply mechanical re-comprehension, as of a theorem: it is the re-activation, the resumption or recovering, of originary opening” (40) Here I see a direct connection to my project through the element of reading: reading one’s own text aloud, listening to it, allows the writer to sense what may be missing, what may be more clearly stated, etc. The writer is thus “re-activating” the process of composing (which, we might say, has never ended, if we allow thinking into the standard writing process, which is then not all physical writing). However, re-activation, or rethinking, still does not lead to precision.
    An event can be captured on film as it happens, but not after, Stiegler notes. This is something that cannot happen with writing, because the capturing will always have to happen after. This is part of the problem of both narrative writing and the tuning-in journal I propose: the moment of experience cannot be captured in the moment; the capture is only attempted after. While this can lead to reflection, perspective, shades of meaning in the narrative, however (because it can be both disorienting and reorienting), it seems more problematic in the sort of stream-of-consciousness composition required to do the tuning-in journal. First, facility in this kind of composition is required (both in the ability to type or write quickly and in the ability to allow thoughts to stream freely onto paper without reserve), and even then, it is occurring always a moment after; second, while it is occurring a moment (or several days) after, and the change in perspective can be helpful to the writing process in terms of revision, the imperative to capture thought may block students, because it is not as simple as capturing a scene with the click of a camera.
    Two questions (stemming from this portion of the reading in general): Stiegler discusses Barthes’ use of the idea of the punctum, that “irresistable–and unnameable” element of a photograph, as Barthes describes, that “accident which pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me)” (19) I am led to wonder what is the punctum of another type of imagery (the narrative for example) and if we cannot reveal it (but it must reveal itself) how does it come about? Is it serendipitous in whatever medium? If so, how would we teach it? Could merely teach recognition of it after the fact?
    A weird context moment occurs with this fragment in a discussion of Derrida: “Hearing oneself speaking while (re-)reading oneself, hearing oneself while (re-)watching oneself, ‘writing’ between Echo and Narcissus” (25). It may be that the awkward grammar makes this sentence confusing, but it nevertheless suggests something about my project with tuning-in journals (more broadly, focused auditory attention). Can we bring clarity to this moment in the text?

  7. Jason Kahler: Response Four Technics and Time, 2: Disorientation

    I am thinking through the relationship between disorientation and the act of recording. It’s ironic that while society becomes more and more subject to the realities of Stiegler’s disorientation, we are at the same time surrounded by the recording, i.e. the attempt to provide permanence or stability, of sounds, images, and processes. Steigler’s main concern, I believe, is of the process of recording over the actual recording itself, more of an activity approach versus an artifact approach. But what I find interesting is that these recordings exist and are potentially filed and catalogued for possible retrieval at all given Steigler’s discussion of disorientation.

    Can disorientation be so powerful when our stability is now so portable? What I am wondering here is that if it’s true that memory has been so industrialized, and the presence of media so pervasive, if we are never more than a click away from the event-ization of any day’s miniature dramas, why should we feel so disoriented? Can’t there be a certain stability in the certainty of change? Doesn’t the fact that we can at any moment hope to be part of a media-generated spectacle ground us somehow?

    Consider the sailor. The water is constantly changing, but that guaranteed shifting contains a stability and orientation that a sea-lover appreciates. If we extrapolate embracing constant change into society at large, we can extend our thinking into understanding the urge to not only wallow through this modern existence, but actually embrace a physically, technologically, and emotionally nomadic life. Living the life of a sailor isn’t so bad when you can rely on the umbilical effect of the urge to record. We also have the already-there to access through recorded writing and images.

    The process of recording, the technics, and the availability of even simple recording technology and the urge to make use of it, protect us from the disorientation Stiegler champions. It’s a bit too facile to argue that Stiegler is just an old coot pining for days past, and his book isn’t even that old, really, but to reach across time and compare the worldview of someone today to someone two hundred years ago feels inappropriate. At the very least, we need to think about just how impactful the development of simple transportation technologies has been.

    Today I travelled for more than an hour and a half at about 70 miles per hour. Two hundred years ago, to go 70 miles would have been quite an undertaking. Today I did it while eating a cheeseburger I didn’t have to prepare myself and paid for with a dollar. What I am arguing isn’t that disorientation doesn’t exist, but rather that disorientation is now a natural state, and that our stability is grounded in the impermanence of our surroundings and our easy-access to recorded memory. We don’t need a firm grasp on “the present” because we’ve been trained to understand the “the past” is now almost-forever accessible.

    What’s made this possible? Writing, it all its forms. Writing’s persistence as a storage medium. Steigel makes mention of libraries as vast storehouses of the past—ignoring for this discussion the politics and social power of the decider of what gets shelved—and we have now evolved into users and accessers of the stored past. We can’t be disoriented, because our compass points are always available.

  8. Memory loss, gain

    In Technics and Time 2, Stiegler point out that humans have transferred their memory to machines (or “inorganic organized beings”). With the impact of information technology, this transferal becomes hyperactive—in terms of speed and shifting memory systems—and thus produces disorientation. Similarly, in Technics and Time 1, Stiegler writes: “Each day brings its technical novelty, as well as the demise of things obsolescent and out of date” (14). Here one gets an idea of the “light-time” speed of technical evolution. Stiegler continues, “Innovation is inevitably accompanied by the obsolescence of existing technologies that have been superseded and the out-of-dateness of social situations that these technologies made possible—men, domains of activity, professions, forms of knowledge, heritage of all kinds that must either adapt or disappear” (ibid). Notice how he repeatedly uses the notion of obsolescence. Things are moving so fast now that even a young person can easily look back with a sense of loss for so-called “earlier” technologies. It is the loss of “forms of knowledge” and “ethnic” memory I am concerned with here. F.W. Lancaster, in the late 1970s, predicted the coming of a “paperless” society. As a response and a challenge to this prediction, Gordon Neavill asks something to the effect of: If we go paperless, what will happen to our stock of knowledge? (“Electronic Publishing, Libraries, and the Survival of Information,” Library Resources and Technical Services 28 [January/March 1984]). And, again, since we have transferred so much of our cultural memory to machines, what will happen to it in the rapid obsolescence of these technologies?
    Already, as Neavill points out, we lose information on memory storage devices, such as floppy discs and CDs. The other day, a man came in to the library and was mad when we didn’t have a machine to read his floppy disc (it was one of those floppy discs that are actually floppy). Even if a technology is not obsolete, the files often become corrupted and unreadable over time. And, in the continually updated website, what happens to the history of its progression (or its “editions,” as one of the print world might say)? Does the history of the book disappear with its paper copies? In an oral society, cultural memory is passed from person to person. When one person dies, many other people in that society still carry on its cultural memory. Everyone remembers something different, so the cultural memory changes over time, much more quickly than in print culture; but in digital culture, if memory is moved to a website, when that site goes down, all the information is lost. It’s not that simple, but the disappearance of websites is an everyday thing on the Internet.
    Recently, I came across a book called 100 Things You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer’s and Age-Related Memory Loss (2010) by Jean Carper. How far will information technology take this shift of memory from mind to screen? Now we can remember faces and our past, but will new technologies, such as facial recognition software, assist us with these basic functions, and—by so doing—make them less sharp, and ultimately turn them into vestiges of an earlier age? Will this somehow help Alzheimer patients, but weaken humanity’s memory as a whole? The individual’s farming out of memory to technology weakens the digital society, but cannot touch the oral cultures of the world, which are a dwindling minority. This sounds somewhat romantic, like Emerson’s puny time-piece man vs. the comparatively invincible “savage.” Dystopias and utopias can only be found in the minds of individuals but never in society as a whole. An article by Lamont Wood talks about an oncoming “digital dark age” because of the storage issues/problems involving digital film (“Fending off the Digital Dark Ages: The Archival Storage Issue,” ComputerWorld, August 26, 2010). For instance, Wood notes, the yearly storage cost for a Hollywood movie on celluloid is $1,059 while storing a movie digitally costs $12,514. While costs will presumably come down, the fact that a digital file must be continually updated is a big shift from a print-based society. I do not foresee (que sera, sera) a so-called digital dark age, but there still are some serious issues relating to the preservation of information in this electronic age. With a file, one cannot tell the difference between the original and the supplement, and as Stiegler points out, both are primary. What if the file is changed? Who will tell how it is changed, let alone if it is changed? “Last updated” tells us nothing of what is new.
    On a related note, Pierre Nora sees memory as being, among other things, “susceptible to being long dormant” (qtd. in Kim Lacey and Jeff Pruchnic, “The Future of Forgetting: Rhetoric, Memory, Affect”). Yes, suddenly, I can remember a moment from a “long” time ago, an experience I haven’t thought about in years. Not so with digital memory, especially if the file is corrupt, obsolete, or “cannot be found.” Memory is further outsourced, as Lacey and Pruchnic point out, to software such as “PowerPoint, satellite feeds, and teleprompters.” What will be left for us to remember? And yet, if technology precedes society and culture, will our machines become “machinic” and produce memory themselves? Maybe then they will farm it out to us.

  9. Stiegler argues that technology isn’t replacing memory –it is memory, and has been for quite some time. He calls “writing…the most archaic of tools” for “extracerebral memory” (170). In spite of this lengthy relationship between memory and technology, we continue to see them as distinct, a tendency Stiegler regards as harmful. Rather (like Haraway’s cyborgs?) than existing apart from one another, “the whole is the coupling of the organic and the inorganic,” and “To privilege one of these two, disconnecting it from the other, is to fall into a metaphysics of the who or of the what –which comes to the same thing” (165). A metaphysics of the who or the what can only mislead us, because for Stiegler “There is no longer any difference between the who and the what: to explain the who would be to understand it as a what” (162).

    The power and influence of our extracerebral memory depends on speed. Increasingly we have access to whats that record and transmit “memories” at speeds that disrupt our understanding of time and space. Stiegler says, “When memory is produced at a speed near that of light it is no longer possible, either in law or in fact, to distinguish an “event” from its “input” or its “input” from its “reception” or reading: these three moments coincide in a single spatiotemporal reality such that all delay, all distance, between them, is eliminated –but so is all locality, since locality is constructed from differentiation, like calendarity and spatiality, and differentiation is therefore, from the outset, what happens there.” (116). Even what happens “live” has the appearance of already being history, given the speed with which it can be recorded, framed, and presented to us. More, because all events happening anywhere can be received anywhere, all places have the appearance of being the same place. Understandings of place and time that reigned a hundred years ago are no longer possible.

    So, okay. I agree that recognition of the way humans have been wedded to technology since at least the invention of writing has been neglected. I even agree, to a point, about the effect that our advances in speed have on space and time (I read a lot of similar arguments in texts about globalization, and they make a certain amount of sense, although such arguments often seem to presuppose a world where all people are plugged in at top speed at all times, privileging a certain sort of lifestyle). Where I feel less sure of my reception of this text is in Stiegler’s discussion of media “eventization.” Stiegler complains (?) that “the media are not satisfied with “co-producing” events but, more and more frequently, actually intergrally produce them, in a veritable inversion by which the media recount daily life so forcefully that their “life story” seems not only to anticipate but ineluctably to precede –to determine- life itself” (116). The effect is a world in which “Nothing “takes place” or “happens” except what is “covered”” (115).

    This description rings true, but I find that I have difficulty deciding exactly what does and does not constitute “eventization.” Nothing happens but what is covered, but hasn’t this always been true? Haven’t we always relied on some sort of text (the internet, television, newspaper, magazines, letters, phone calls) to tell us what’s happening in the world? I agree that the process has intensified, and that a greater degree of sensationalism seems to be present. But the phrasing of the argument almost suggests that there’s some kind of “real events” that we can get to without having them eventized in some fashion. I say this less to engage in a sort of too-easy deconstruction work and more because I’m not sure I understand Stiegler’s motives in discussing this. If we take it as a given that this sort of mediation has always been happening, what’s new? The disorientation re time and space? Something more that I’m missing?

    A sort of secondary question regarding this comes from my quick read of the “Future of Forgetting” piece. The article identifies a tendency of political ads to aim for more and more specific markets: first identifying a niche, researching it, and then crafting a message designed especially for them. I wonder how these two thoughts intersect. News stations attempt to enforce what happens in the world as a series of “events” which all viewers receive, and then advertizing researches me as a member of increasingly small demographics in order to sell me on products and politicians. I’m not sure how to reconcile a greater push for a homogenization of information that eliminated localization with increasingly specialized marketing tactics. How do these two things work together –do they?- and what do they suggest about future trends? Will eventization make it even easier to understand demographics by forcing events on them, or will we see more news stations aimed at smaller and smaller demographics, or some combination of the two?

  10. If I understand Bernard Stiegler’s ideas correctly, then I agree with him more than I have agreed with any of the other thinkers who’ve approached the question of man’s relationship to technology. First and foremost, I am struck by the way he thinks in terms of limits: ‘retentional finitude’ and mortality recur throughout Technics and Time, 2, and seem to indicate his awareness that while there is progress in terms of how much memory we can store, and what we can do with that memory, this progress is always contained. I was also struck by the way he insists on a relationship between people and their tools. The following passage expresses something that I feel is critical to any discussion of technology:
    By misunderstanding the concrete numeric machine, the computer, as a particular case of a knowing memory—knowing because essentially epiphylogenetic and always already installed in the prostheticity of a what coupled to the living (i.e. dying) memory of a who—the cognitive sciences mistake the part for the whole: the whole is the coupling of the organic and the inorganic, which makes the memory complex epiphylogenetic. The result is either organic or inorganic. To privilege one of these two, disconnecting it from the other, is to fall into a metaphysics of the who or of the what—which comes to the same thing. And to mistake the part for the whole is to forget finitude: the machine’s memory must be infinite for the model to be universal.
    I think he is rejecting the possibility of artificial intelligence, by challenging the idea that cognition and consciousness are somehow the product of a critical mass of information and actions stored as memory- that one day a computer will be able to originate the cogito ergo sum. At the same time, he rejects idealizing human cognition and consciousness. Instead, in his treatment of exteriorized memory, I think he treats human cognition and consciousness as simply a much more complex version of what we see with ants. Whereas an ant’s memory (and therefore identity) are activated and deactivated by pheromones, our memories (and therefore identities) are activated and deactivated by ethnics and technics.
    It seems that Stiegler positions human consciousness within the experience of processing experience into memory and then reconstituting memory. Of the two, it seems that reconstituting memory is of the greater importance. Indeed, in his analysis of Husserl, it seems that he is stating that our awareness is based in the constant reconstitution of memory. In this analysis, he also addressed the essentially artificial nature of the phoneme and the tone, in contrast to the syllable (or perhaps word) and the melody. Again, this seems to indicate something about the difference between the ‘thinking’ machine and the ‘thinking’ human. I personally believe that consciousness and cognition is driven by the relevant. The phoneme and the tone are meaningless until the create the recognizable word of melody. We ignore all of the baby who utters ‘muh-muh-muh’ or ‘ah-ah-ah,’ but reward (with recognition) the baby that utters ‘mama.’ We reject as noise the tone without melody. And the only reason we can do this is because we have the memory of words and melodies, and expectations for them.
    Voice recognition software identifies phonemes and then predicts the appropriate word through the use of algorhythms. While the software has become more accurate as the algorhythms have become more complex, at no point does the software move from identifying phonemes to hearing words.

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