Philip Glass’ original composition for Sesame Street.
Explains a bit about my subconscious, I suppose.
Philip Glass’ original composition for Sesame Street.
Explains a bit about my subconscious, I suppose.
Hearing the commotion from the hall, the designer puts down his scalpel. A security officer comes in the swinging, double doors of the lab, out of breath, as the designer stands. “No problem here, zir. One of them writers broke out of containment. It took the full charge on two tasers, but we got it wrangled now. We’re taking it back to the tank, and then we’ll be back to clean up the mess on the floor. Wish they didn’t always void their bowels like that….” The officer was gone.
The designer sits back down on his minimalist steel stool, and picks up the blade. It might be part of the realities of doing design-fiction, but an interruption is an interruption. Increasing the magnification on the goggles, the designer brings the scalpel low over the text for another slice. The page shrinks back instinctively, as the sharp edge parts its fibers…
I couldn’t consider myself much of a young writer knowledgeable about the technological zeitgeist if I couldn’t preach to a particular choir about the particular concept developed in the last five years known as “design-fiction”. Like anything else these days, the truth no doubt resists easy categorization, being multi-faceted, and having different characteristics and attributes at different times and in different settings, depending who is measuring, and from where they are looking. Luckily, abstraction is my chosen art form, and building characters that are easily readable is a skill fundamentally component to my nature, almost as much as design-sense comes naturally to those who can afford Adobe Creative Suite. Without too much beating about the bush, I’m going to weave a little narrative about design-fiction; just a couple of multi-touch gestures on our collective interface here.
Let me begin by unilaterally defining design-fiction as the theory and practice behind conflating design, “building things that exist”, with fiction, “making up shit that doesn’t exist”. Design-fiction—either through its own limited fictional proposition or on the back of pre-existing works of fiction—links a fictional narrative regarding a proposed object, with some image, shadow, ghost, dream, or otherwise hologrammically-real design of that object. It could be a mock up of a car from Blade Runner, it could be a functioning hologram like in Star Wars. It could be the proposed features of a cell phone that could exist, if only the technology was available as specified. Or it could be the working prototype of something entirely useful, if certain fictional conditions were true. Most generally, design-fiction take “the future” as the generic narrative for its activity, and uses only enough fictional glue as is necessary to prop the designed object up upon that plane. No doubt, the makers of design-fiction experience a bit of perceived freedom in this activity. With this tool, they can give context to design ideas that wouldn’t otherwise be taken seriously. Fiction was something that reality merchants used to avoid, but now it is a new territory, just waiting to be settled. The designers and engineers, after decades (or centuries, depending who is doing the counting) of attempting to maintain their privileged control over the domain of reality, have suddenly noticed that there is an entire new world available in the realm of unreal, and are building new colonies as we speak to tap these fictional deposits.
The resource of fiction has proven invaluable to the design community. It is a fertile land for farming new ideas. It is a forest of raw timber, just waiting to be processed into something profitable. It is a mineral resource: a treasure trove of value just underneath the soil, which the natives refuse to profit by, at least until they are put to work mining and smelting it to store and back the value of the new economy of this land, in which fiction creators are now lucky enough to participate.
We, the fiction makers, used to do simple arts and crafts. Little stories, films, and comic books. Did you know that when we used to be able to freely hunt the elk of imagination, we’d use every part of the animal? We’d use the hide for plot, the bone for characters, and the antlers would be our lifestyle. (We’d even eat the genitals, for the sexual content which we believed it imbued our fiction.) We had a true respect for the environment of fiction, when we lived in harmony with its spirits. But that time has past, and we’ve been woken up to the new economy. Now we sell to the tourists along the highway, and if we’re lucky, get a job in design-fiction’s factory lines, hopefully with enough time to still practice the fictive arts around the fire, at home in the evening. We show off the goods that we have as the designers come around on buying tours. A positive nod from a designer, a mention in a bibliography or a name-drop in a project… well, that could make a career for one of us. Our fiction could be discovered, and we could be whisked off to the lab, to have our fiction milked for years-worth of homogenized product-fantasies, and our genetic material cloned into sterile keynote after keynote. If we are good and docile, we might even find a privileged pet position as “Director of Visionary Hype” at some publicly-traded corporation. We could be the monkey that gets to go home with the scientist.
Today, the magic no longer exists in our fiction, but in what they can do with our fiction. By the manifest destiny of design, the wonders of the future have been created in real life, with the subjugation of fiction to the anvil of reality. All classes have indeed benefited from this abundance. What wonders we have, on the bleeding edge of this economic extraction! We have “cyberspace”. We have virtual reality. Augmented reality. We have billions of phones that would be no more than simple radios if not touched by the magic hand of design, transmuting them into “cyborg” appendages, and we celebrate them for the virility they imbue within us. The value of everyday things like touch-screen interfaces, environmental sensors, and vehicular transportation increases exponentially when inseminated with “design-fiction”. It is the ultimate gamification, the hand of design-fiction, turning what would be ordinary stuff into exploding, plinging, gold coins, making all of technology and fiction seamlessly function For The Win. What once was merely the artistic present, is now the valuable future.
Cue the Disney-produced GM animation. Or rather, cue the Vimeo cut. Or even better, just play the entirety of Minority Report. Or, let us crowd-source a film version of Neuromancer, so we can slip once more into a sweet visual fantasy dimension, of endless flowing tides of VC and Kickstarter love and dollars.
I stretch the truth a bit, of course. Because I am a writer, and this is what I do. I make stuff up, at least to a certain degree. I invent worlds that don’t exist, for other people’s amusement. I simplify and I abstract to make a point, and to write something hopefully concrete and understandable. I draw the lines that no one else is willing to draw, and then give it away free: my own little bit of folk art. To get these bothersome ideas out of my head, and onto the web. Just doing my part, as a serf of fiction. Carrying my little crowd-sourced bag of fictional dirt up the wall of the pit mine that is the internet.
But I must answer for my quota of cotton; I need to bring you something for re-sale, and not just my little straw men. I can’t just spin fiction off into the wind, and so it must mean something. So I must ask, seriously: when it comes to the reality of design-fiction: what is it that we are doing here? How is it—and why is it—that fiction is actually being taken “seriously” when it is conflated with cool little technological gadgets, with visionary architecture, with high-profile names in the design world? Why is it only now that “fiction” is allowed to become almost “real” when printed on a design pamphlet or wired to an Arduino board, minted into the coinage of design-fiction? Should we who create fiction accept this colonization? What was fiction before design-fiction? Is design-fiction merely the modern extension and the next prototype of fiction: the future of fiction?
It seems that many people thought books and literature were only ever entertaining side-pursuits in our cultural history; that literature only came close to science in the form of library science. But fiction has always been a part of historical reality, long before design-fiction so kindly discovered the power of future-affirmation to it. Fiction has a very human purpose: it is the singularly important task of assembling, what I would call, a “mechanism of desires”. Fiction expresses the raw, chaotic power of human life through its material components. Through its own technology of imagery, thematic archetype, language, and other media forms, fiction expresses the depths of our species’ life in the continuum of past, present and future, and indeed, it is the only way we ever have. We talk about ourselves via the form of literature, or fictive writing, and also in music, film, art, and any other expression in which we might be able to conceive or perceive a narrative. Sure, often it is, strictly, “made up”. But this is the creative element—in order to better express those dark human desires underlying our societies, to project the hard-to-define emotions that pulse within our living existence, we must not be constrained to the plane of reality that those in the physical sciences hold themselves within. And in this way, fiction is entirely real—as real as emotion and thought, as real as our egos, as real as the mutable species-entity known as “humanity” that unites all of us with a similar genotype. It utilizes as its energy the chaotic reality of human life, and constructs a branching, cultural pipeline for this energy to flow within. And all this time, you thought you were just reading words!
Apart from this deep, underlying function, fiction is also useful for a great many other things as part of its expressive nature. We’re aware of the general humanistic good of consuming fine literature, of the entertaining feature of films, of the social aspect of music. Fiction can motivate and inspire humans to “real-life” activity in a variety of arenas, and physical design and technological invention is surely one of these. But over and above inspiration, design-fiction’s functionality has what could be considered to be a more insidious mechanism.
What is the purpose of attempting to design a cyberspace deck? What do we gain from building a Minority Report display interface? Why work on a product that only will ever exist within a story, pre-existing as separate narrative, or written specifically for that gadget? When we assume the design-fiction mantle of Future-Vision, what is the motivation? It is four-fold: 1) We believe these devices would be cool or otherwise meaningful in real life. 2) We believe they would perhaps be successfully marketable products, if they could be created. 3) We want to see if it can be done. 4) We buy into the fictional fantasy world of generic future-tense, and we commit to design-fiction as a way to express our mental investment and solidarity with that forward-leaning worldview. These reasons all have a common thread: once a technological gadget can be identified in a fictional way, a part of us wants to port this fiction to reality.
These are the reasons behind the majority of design-fiction, and as such, design-fiction is no more than steampunk. I don’t intend to drag steampunk through the mud by association, either; steampunk is a fine hobby. There is no reason not to port fiction to reality, as a prop. Play-acting is a form of fiction consumption, and always has been. A prop, just its progenitor the classical theater mask, is simultaneously real and not real. But design-fiction is kidding itself if it believes it can simply make the fictional real, to make it less than a prop. And that to do so is any more than gluing gears to vests for sale on Etsy, to sell shit by calling it Shinola.
Play acting is all well and good, but when the props are treated as real, there is a psychotic sort of commodification underway. The psychosis is a disavowal—a forced rejection of the entire fictional mechanism except for that one value point, “to make the future real”. It is a cauterizing excision of a segment of the fiction, cut out and fused into an independent object with only one quantifiable dimension. Ripped out of its context, the purpose of fiction as a whole is conveniently forgotten, and the gadget object is reduced to a commodity, existing only in terms of its market value. The expressive component of play-acting is dead. Design-fiction is a fetish pushed to the point of absolute objectification; it is no longer a node of pleasure, only a dried and homogenized portion of the original fiction, ready to be sold in consumer-ready packages. The future is no longer a vanishing point of progress in a real-unreal network of invention and art, but a quantified MSRP. It is to reduce all speculation to the assumption that what could exist must exist, and would, in existence, be valuable. It is to make this supposed value the end-all of all creativity. You can hook a disembodied dog head up to a blood pump, and watch it try to live. But why would you do that? Design-fiction has such questions to answer.
We don’t celebrate Neuromancer because it contains the idea of cyberspace; we celebrate the idea of cyberspace because it is part of Neuromancer. Neuromancer is less about the actual proposition of a virtual realm called cyberspace accessible through communication technology, and more about the feeling of micro-gravity. It is about the human wish to fly. Cyberspace gets the press, because it is an easily identifiable term, and not a more ethereal thematic concept. The coined phrase is its own commodity value. We recall that the end of the book take place in earth-orbit, as the cowboy of the virtual space is forced by physical circumstances to take his metaphorical combat into the world. The book is about dimensions that are unreal, and no less real. It is about manufactured space in general, and the new physics that we must learn to live within. It is about the new thermodynamics of information, and such immutable laws that would birth the sublime triple point of black ice. It is about the life that develops in unreal physical environments, life that is both human, and non-human. In the time since the book was written, the Internet has come to life. Cyberspace is now an actual thing, different than the cyberspace in the book. But the human desire, and ultimately, the need to fly through our invented territorial realms is still real, both in reality and the original fiction.
Design-fiction reduces the mechanism of fiction to one more corporate R&D department, convinced that it’s products are something more than just products. The fictional, thinner-than-thin, design-fiction smart phone is a product of dimensional flattening, reducing the real environment of information technology and communications to point at which it is just another virtual icon, that we flick across the surface of our real phones despondently: the killer app of the week. Such so-called “fiction” downsizes the network assemblage of human creativity and desire-engineering, replacing it with the boring repetition of the start-up model. How it works and what it does is less important than how quickly it can be pushed to market, or more likely, to the blog. It minimizes the desire that drove creativity to express itself through dynamic fiction into no more than a meter of quantitative investment and click-through interest, that can be channelled as is liked for best returns. So you’ve stimulated the nerve endings with desire for a phone that will never be sold. It’s creative output is made-you-look. The fiction might as well have never existed, and all that was manufactured was the lie. It’s thinking you don’t have to feed your dog as long as you keep ringing the Pavlovian bell. It’s inventing the Happy Meal toy before the shooting the film. At best, it’s bad fiction. At worst, the most you are affecting your audience with is lead poisoning.
Design-fiction would have you avoid the vast mechanism of real fiction, and invest in what is made up as a secondary commodification. It would have you forget about the book, and concentrate on the deck. It would sell you an Ono-Sendai T-shirt, not to bring the book to life, but in order to brand you into the fan club. The book is alive already, and its position as a classic work of fiction is the proof. If there was a cyberspace deck, it would be a piece of memorabilia to put under glass on a shelf. Something to sell online, if you were lucky enough to have an actual box to ship. What would be the purpose of a cyberspace deck today? We already have the interfaces that best conflate our needs to connect to our networks with the technology we have available. Design, without the fiction, is already delivering on the dream. It may be an interesting exercise to consider why we have smart phones rather than cyberspace decks—but this is a theoretical exploration between the work of fiction and reality, and something for writers to bother themselves with, rather than designers.
And then on to the next one. Remake each book into a film, and each film into a phone. What can you quantify the rights to, and convert into a design-fiction option? How about Minority Report? The Minority-Report-Interface (MRI) is now a completely isolated, flat piece of fiction separate from the fiction from which it is derived. Amputated from the work of fiction, in which it is an important image of the thematic import of the work—a larger theme of truth, evidence, and the foreseeable future—the device itself is now only a milestone about technological progress. When will we have the MRI? When, when, when? And how much will it cost? The future will only be here when we can gesture in space and construct a narrative of the future at our whim. But this forgets the point of Minority Report as a work of fiction: the idea of the work is that the future cannot be predicted, and cannot be constructed at our whim. In our manic gesturing towards the gadget-of-the-future, we’ve missed the whole point. The reality of fiction has been replaced by an urge towards false, isolated commodity.
Are objects pulled into the “real” world and isolated from the assemblage which invented them, even to be considered real? These simulacra of fiction seem to double down on the fakery. In fact, the entire woven mechanism of fictional meaning from which these objects grew before they were harvested like clones, the question of the worth of technology as an element of human existence from which have the fruitful discipline known as Science-Fiction seems more real. In open speculation and the intricate programming of fiction, I see more reality than in the commodification of potential-product. What is more real: the cyborg in the horror film, or the hardwired, uncanny horror that causes us to invent cyborgs in fiction, to keep us looking even though we wish we could turn away? What is more alarming—uncanny human subjects, on the border point between humanity and object, or uncanny objects, on the border point between creativity and capitalistic exploitation?
But let me call curtain. Enough with my own play-acting here, and philosophical slight-of-hand. Let me end this fictive fantasy I’m spinning, and return to reality. These post-colonial memories—they aren’t yours. This was a nightmare, from which we all can easily wake up. Fiction and object design are both equally real. They are all real, but only together, united as they always were.
I’ve been giving design-fiction an especially hard time, trying to seed its practitioners with a horrible dream, in which they are the enemies of the future, rather than its saviors and heralds. As the brainwashing super-villian in this narrative, I speak for an a-vocal, imagined constituency against a trumped up enemy. Us designers of fiction (not designers of design-fiction) are, in general, so pleased to finally be taken seriously that we almost forget to take our newly discovered importance as an insult. And so, I’ve lobbed the perceived insult playfully back towards my characterization of the design-fictioners, if only to have them finally look up into the sky for what might one day actually condense in reality with enough weight to hit them in the face.
Behind this little bit of territorial posturing, the relationship between the real and the fictional is the same terrain that we’ve always traversed. Our ideas, both of fiction and of physical invention, grow as nodes in the network—starting independently, connecting, separating, and eventually fading in importance. The lasting effect of anything, technological or artistic, is its ability to network with everything else in a connecting, transmitting relationship, rather than as a cancerous, pooling sink of resources. Both fiction and reality are simultaneous. Isolation and consolidation of nodes will occur, and there is nothing wrong with picking particular pieces of fruit as they grow. But reality only occurs simultaneously amid real-world praxis and the extensive networks of the creative production of fantasy. Keep your hammer in one hand, and your dreams in the other.
And in the end, recognition of this truth is my fantasy of the future. We who create fiction don’t have to view the design world as an expropriating, gentrifying force. We can work as a team with the designers. The designers are no doubt just as interested in our characters and the overall fictive headspace as they are in our marketable gadgets. And the world of engineering can be the same fertile ground for creativity, as fiction can be for design. They can let us into their studios and laboratories just as we let them into our heads. This was the origin of Science-Fiction, of course; and it is the continuing legacy of speculative fiction of all categories. Writers, artists, and creators of all media continue to be informed by the world around them just as we inform it with our work, and in this society of continual connecting networks, we ought to turn up the bandwidth, and upload as much data to the commons as we realistically can.
But in that effort, design-fiction: I urge you to remember who constitutes reality in this relationship. I may write on a computer, and access the cloud through the prouduct of your brilliant, visionary interface. But your imagination, your creativity, your humanity—you read these inscriptions off of the broad back of fiction. This world and its aspirations were built by fiction, and fiction keeps it. Remember, design-fiction, that when you dream, you are in our hands. We are you, while you sleep.
If I tried to combine every thought that came in my head while watching this video into a coherent essay, I would have something book length, so instead, I’m just going to spit it out.
Wow. Mind blown.
First of all, great job, Grand Rapids. Sincerely. The city put together a mammoth effort, even without the help of Kickstarter, and came up with an Internet video that was not only successful, but put others in the category to shame. I tend to think with art of a more casual sort, if you don’t have a concept that in itself is necessarily going to knock it out of the park, at least go big on the effort. Done and done.
And in throwing their hat into the meme, white America reminds the internet that it exists. The internet is not just pro-democracy fronts and third-world music blogs, folks! It is possible to have a good old fashioned Main Street parade online. No taco truck reviews, no workers’ rights, no sex, no militant screen printing hacker collectives. Football, American made cars, and, well, apple pie.
I don’t say this simply to be facetious. Main Street America does exist, and it would only be a publication as idiotically outdated as Newsweek, (see link for back story on that) who thinks that it is somehow more an arbiter of taste, more up with the times and pace of the internet than a city on a river in Michigan. All those “real Americans” you saw in the video have Internet connections, and you better believe they cancelled their subscriptions to Newsweek, if they even had any.
And isn’t it somewhat refreshing, to see the meme of America rescued from hate-filled invective, pulled out of the politics for one minute, to mug for the camera in a way that makes us seem welcome in “real America” once again; to make Chambers of Commerce look like nice community organizations, rather than the money behind union crushing, the propping up of corporate property rights, and anti-gay legislation? I mean, it is almost enough to make me forget the experiences I’ve had being called “fag” while crossing Main Street, USA, and make me think about living in the Midwest again. Almost.
Not that any of these nice folks in Grand Rapids would do something like that. They all look like nice people, with nice lives. And with the sort of effort necessary to put a project like this together, the goodwill and support for the community provided by local businesses, lawmakers, and everyday people alike, they might have a different sort of town that defies the norm, where people band together and form a community, indeed, the only thing that’s ever formed community, unlike many so-called defenses of “family, community, and small business”.
And so I wonder if, after raising $40,000 to make this video, the next weekend they all got together to put in bike lanes. Or to build low income housing. I just wonder, I don’t mean to imply that they should have done this instead. They can do whatever they like with their time, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with making a video, any more than there is anything wrong with putting in a statue of Robocop, as elsewhere in Michigan. But a community is defined by what they choose to do with their community. And a definition is not only what is said, but also what is not said. This might be the cornerstone of self-expression, whether you are a city or a person, or any other entity.
This juxtaposition between the little that is said and the lot that isn’t said is not an accusation in my mind, but when I watch two videos back to back (as the vicissitude of the Internet decided for me), the question is automatically posed. And what is the question, anyway? I’m not entirely sure. But when there’s a nice singalong going on in the streets of one town, when somewhere across the world there are beatings and worse going on in the streets of another town, there should be a question asked, shouldn’t there? Even if we can’t quite bring it to our lips.
I wonder if, maybe not unlike in the classic song Grand Rapids decided to sing, this video could be the moment that something died. Not in a fiery plane crash, of course. But in the sense that when something is memorialized, it in its reality is somewhat ceased. You don’t plant a gravestone for something that is still living. Don McLean reacting to the 60s with nostalgia for something that people wanted to believe still existed, even though that sort of Americana was now a ghost. The ghost of Main Street America, in a world of Tahrir squares. And yet they can still sing this song, with help from their platinum sponsors. That’s something, right? Isn’t it? To whom?
Lastly, in a fit of SF splendor, I imagine this clip resurfacing after a number of years, and discovered by some disaffected youth, longing for the way the continent “used to be”. In a saga reminiscent of Damnation Alley, they set off across whatever this terrain will look like then, attempting to find the promised land of Grand Rapids. What is it that they will find? Probably not radioactive, mutated cockroaches. But other than that, I can’t say that I know with certainly in any direction.
The zine I proposed to make, is made.
The title is “Apopheniac Communiques”. Along with seven fantastic contributors, I’ve put together 28 pages of art, poems, short stories, and commentary. It’s full of low-fi awesomeness, pasted together by hand in the “traditional” zine style. Is there a pattern? Is there a theme? That will be for the reader to decide, but suffice it to say, we’ve already put a call in to the proper authorities who deal with such miracles.
In keeping with the classic tradition, I’ll be offering copies in the “mail-art” format: for $2 in either fungible currency or un-cancelled postage, I’ll mail you your very own printed copy, on cream-colored paper, in beautiful 4.25” x 7” format.
Mail those monies here:
4835 SE Sherman St.
Portland, OR 97215
AND… because it’s totally crazy, I’ll accept Bitcoins as payment. In fact, I’ll let you name your price if you choose to pay in BTC. Email me to get my public key and to give me your address.
The zine is licensed under Creative Commons (Attrib-Comm-Sharealike). And hey, if you just want to see what it looks like, even though it would never, ever compare to having a real life zine in your hands, here is a link to the full PDF.
The club is the mediator or frame through which the music is communicated. The band literally plugs into the technology of the club in order to magnify the sound, turning a possibility into actually, making what is heard by the musicians themselves accessible to an audience. People pay to see others believe in themselves.
This is the second in a series of many reports. Each entry in the report represents a pattern.
Places for Secrets - Just as certain sorts of knowledge and information lend themselves to a desire by their holders to have their facts be kept hidden from some, certain places also lend themselves towards those that would seek to hide. Low light, obscure vantage points not in the typical lines of sight—these are ways to visibly hide. But a game of epistemological hide and seek is constantly occurring. What places have background noise that would cover a whispered conversation? A crowd that would make a meeting between two subjects seem less than intentional? Light that obscures the work of cameras, that would seek to record a person being in a place as time-stamped, cross-referenceable fact? Weather conditions might play a factor; places that are known to often be socked in by fog or made unpleasant by rain so that a potential spy would have no reason to loiter could be valuable. Any sort of sensory or epistemological interference natural to a place, whether affecting the senses, technological recording devices, or the media of recording itself. What could augment a place so that secrets could be hidden there? Dead drops for paper or other recording media. A single tree in the middle of a field could be a landmark, so that a thing could be hidden a set distance from it. Maybe even a library could be a place for secrets. Amongst a plethora of information, secrets could be hidden as if in plain sight.
If/Then - This linguistic and logical construction is known as an antecedent, and a consequent; in other words, from one proposition, logically proceeds another by way of their connection. This is also a form of hypothesis. If a condition forms, we posit that then we may expect a conclusion. It can be a description of causality, but—and this is a large caveat—only if the two things being described are coinciding in time. It is impossible for a causality to occur between two things not coincident in time. Because, time is resolutely causal.
Past/Future - Another pairing, because one denotes the other. Just as causality denotes a temporal coincidence between two things, any sort of temporal singularity, that is to say a moment, automatically implies an extension of similar moments preceding and proceeding from that moment. What is the past’s relationship with the future, outside of metaphysics, and the simple number line of physics’ fourth dimension? Does nostalgia for the past imply hope for the future? Which is more optimistic, and which is more pessimistic? Does positing a time-shift between a “now” and “then” make us less, or more beholden to any standard of truth? And is causality, like history, only written by the victors in the past tense, and like prayer, only proposed for the future by the victims? If we acknowledge trouble in our apprehension of the past and future, what does this mean for our perception of the present? Is there a present?
Live feed - The live feed is closely linked to technology. Telegrams gave way to telegraphs, which gave way to radio. The 24-hour cable news cycle is no different than radio, where the truth occurs as fast as information can be pushed to the announcer on camera/microphone. But the time of absorption has changed. There isn’t additional information to fill up that extra space, there is just a willingness to “clue in” those who are “only just tuning in”. The message repeats, not for mimetic purposes, but to constantly be current. Contrapose this to the live blog, that assembles like a timeline, so that anyone may log in and check the current development, and then re-create this currentness by rewinding as necessary. The consistency of these always-on feeds means that they don’t have to be always on. One can click on and off as they like, filter even. They can binge and purge their information’s currentness. But what is the point? What is the benefit of current? Current information is not always better. But the ability to have it there, is an ability. An epistemological ability to access time with a wide eye. Like a back-up for one’s data—the data that is epistemological awareness. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Apple coyly named their automatic data back-up system the “Time Machine”. Time travel through data is possible, but only to the referential data points of awareness that are of interest. And interest, is currently, taken with currentness. Call it time travel without moving.
Half-tone screen - When printing with a single color of ink, it is possible to create different tones by printing a pattern of dots of varying sizes, rather than a flat expanse of ink. This dot pattern, which blurs to the human eye at a normal distance, is called the screen. Dots of black on white paper make a gray. When two different dot patterns of two different ink are combined, the colors are perceptually blended, e.g. red dots and yellow dots appear to give a space the color of orange. This is called a half-tone screen. Most commercial printing combines four colors, cyan, yellow, magenta, and black, and from these can be created nearly any color of image, including photographic prints that are nearly impossible to distinguish from reality at the typical viewing distance. What is referred to by a customer as “full-color” printing, is most often known to the printing technician as “four-color” printing. One last detail to complete the possible metaphor: when ink is printed in a screen pattern, the ink will bleed into the paper a bit, increasing the size of the dot in a condition known as dot-gain, that is pre-calculated by the printer to make sure the dots end up being the correct size for the material being printed upon, so that the colors don’t end up shifting in tone. Now, this could be a metaphor—a pattern for thinking about the combination of ideas, data points, and reference values. For something involving the mix of two alternating concepts. But then, remember that everything that is printed, anything that you will read or look at and recognize a pattern or a symbol or a word, takes advantage of this same trick upon human visual perception. In every idea there is a bit of difference, and in any text there is the difference between white paper, and black text.
National Epic Media - We propose that Fox News is as close to a national epic poem as we can get in this current era of fragmented culture and alternate viewpoints. According to Bakhtin, the past is the epic’s subject, the national tradition is the epic’s source, and what is epic is the distance between the world of that epic and that of reality. The epic, constrained by those things, cannot be changed by current conditions, and what is current can only be interpreted by the epic, and not the other way around. The position of the epic “is the environment of a man speaking about a past that is to him inaccessible, the reverent point of view of a descendant.” Even the law of the land is reinterpreted on a daily basis—but the national epic is viewed as immutable, and wielded as roughly as if it were so. But how does this happen? Does any nation with a significantly strong sense of self purposefully develop an epic media as some sort of literary ur-ground? Or does that past and national tradition solidify only with enough time gone by, enough tradition built up that the patterned strata of it can be referred to obliquely, and yet be nevertheless as foundational as it is inaccessibly vague? What are the motivations for a constant reference to such an epic media? Clearly, money is a primary. But epics developed before there was such money to be made, and if the form is similar, then oughtn’t the cause be as well?
Modernism - An epoch of art, of architecture, of literature, and less definitional but with no less certain utility, history. What is it about this genre or time period that deserves an “ism” suffix, as if it were less a style, and a belief? It isn’t the only genre to win such notation, and yet, it is a noun, and not an adjective. Such philosophies and ethos often have manifestos, but Modernism is applied only from historical perspective, even if we claim to be part of its age.
Modern - This is the adjectival version, describing the former period. But it is also a temporal adjective, meaning a certain sort of currentness. Is everything that is current also modern? Is everything that is modern also current? Post-modernism, an epoch with an even more oblique set of reference points than Modernism, somehow debilitates the adjectival effect of “modern”. After all, how modern can it be, if something is known to come after it? If the subject of modernity is in the past, then what does “current” mean?
Punk/Not-Punk - The inflection point in a spectrum between what is attractively, authentically agonistic, and what is not. Punk is a genre of many things, but it most often described by rebellion, against a certain “mainstream”, as it were. There may be money in Punk, there may not be. There is ego in it. It often finds its subject in the past. What is Punk against? Ronald Reagan? Disco? Alternative Rock? Victorian History? How defined must something be in its agonism for it to become a full-fledged expression of Punk? How watered down and mainstreamed must Punk be to become Not-Punk? The violation of cultural norms in the search for the authentic. The institution of norms for the violation of cultural norms. A noun, and an adjective.
Sub-Culture & Alt-Culture - If culture was a narrative, this would be the subversion and the alternative-generation presented to that narrative as counter-narrative. The antithesis, rather than the synthesis. It can be defined in a certain hegemonic separation. A neighborhood full of hip individuals, marked in their individuality by all dressing in a recognizably similar way. A trend is only a pattern, until it becomes a noun, rather than just an adjective. A subject, manifesting creativity, by manifesting imitation. Not for mimetic purposes. An authentic sub-culture cannot be altered by the present. It is locked in the past. It can only be corrupted, and de-authenticized. Like the waxing and waning of the moon, sub-cultures pass from authentic in full, to inauthentically dark.
As it turns out, Spike Lee takes pictures of many people with his iPad.
Here’s him taking a photo of Radio Raheem.
Here’s him taking a pic of Malcolm X.
Oh wait, here’s him taking a pic of Malcolm X.
Here’s him taking a photo of another president.
And here he is photographing the Haymarket Riots.
The Hall of Post-Post-Colonial Comparisons Brings You:
Rosie Perez in Do the Right Thing
Rihanna’s “Rude Boy” video.
The times, they are a-temporal. History sits and spins.
A selection of “That can be my next Tweets”. Kind of like trying to communicate with a broken robot that looks really familiar.
Mmhmm… protocol vs. cost more. A future in philosophical aspects of those for the email….
They used to get everyone to the Superhero Class War v/ It’s excellent in the failure of us have been!
The past few days. : Welp, add another day of them. You could have been literally anyone.
3hr from Louisiana from the singularity is basically a womb. If you heard any species. A cert.
What I’m going to write, but index cards don’t know the Sea? A future in the book here: Structuromancy.
But don’t settle for those clones! Follow the real thing @interdome.