“On the Persistence of Hardware” presented by Gottlieb, Tron, Verhoeven and Dieter


Session Title:

  • On the Persistence of Hardware

Presentation Title:

  • On the Persistence of Hardware




  • Chair Per­son: Baruch Got­tlieb
    The surface of electronic utopia is always material. Any appreciation of the emancipatory promise of electronic media must integrate a sober reckoning of the intractable difficulties on the material level of the technology which should generate this. This panel will take Kittler’s “There is no software” to its ethical extreme, delving the shadowlands behind the brilliance of electronic creativity, exploring a new creativity fueled in a Flusserian concept of electronic media rooted in it’s substance.

    Full Description:
    The sur­face of elec­tronic utopia is al­ways ma­te­r­ial.  Should a utopian no­tion ap­pear here for you to read, it would ap­pear on a hard sup­port which has had to be built, con­structed or oth­er­wise fab­ri­cated.  There­fore utopia is not just ‘con­tent’, imag­i­na­tion, ideas. Utopia al­ways has its ma­te­r­ial coun­ter­part which is today al­ways pred­i­cated on global in­dus­trial processes.  Any ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the eman­ci­pa­tory promise of elec­tronic media must in­te­grate a sober reck­on­ing of the in­tractable dif­fi­cul­ties on the ma­te­r­ial level of the tech­nol­ogy which should gen­er­ate this. This panel will take Kit­tler’s “There is no soft­ware” (Kit­tler 1995) to its eth­i­cal ex­treme, delv­ing the shad­ow­lands be­hind the bril­liance of elec­tronic cre­ativ­ity, to­wards an­other, par­al­lel and sym­bi­otic  cre­ativ­ity rooted in the sub­stances. The per­sis­tence of the ma­te­ri­al­ity of our world, and of the media we use to un­der­stand it, may be taken for granted, but mer­its more at­ten­tion.  De­spite the enor­mous power un­leashed by our imag­i­na­tions through tech­ni­cal, sci­en­tific in­stru­ments, we, as human be­ings still exist es­sen­tially on a local and so­cial level.  There is an every-grow­ing dis­crep­ancy of scale be­tween that of our em­pir­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence and that of the ori­gin of the tech­ni­cal in­stru­ments we use to un­der­stand and gain pur­chase over it. Our em­pir­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence of the world is in­creas­ingly being sub­sti­tuted or un­der­mined by tech­no­log­i­cally-in­formed ideas, sup­ported by tech­no­log­i­cally-gen­er­ated man­i­fes­ta­tions, which offer us mul­ti­ple si­mul­ta­ne­ous lev­els of fac­tu­al­ity.  When we forego the in­stan­ta­neous­ness and sub­tlety of using our own senses to ap­pre­hend the world,  we are re­warded with a more in­for­ma­tional and dis­crete ex­pe­ri­ence, which promises us ac­cess and agency in hereto­fore se­cret and un­know­able realms of so­cia­bil­ity.  The sat­is­fac­tion of this com­pro­mise is al­ways pred­i­cated on the promise that the tech­nol­ogy will im­prove.  In other words, though fun­da­men­tal ques­tions re­main un­re­solved even in today’s light-speed knowl­edge econ­omy, the dis­quiet these have his­tor­i­cally pro­duced is as­suaged by the trust that the sup­ple­men­tary tech­niques are being im­proved.

    Mean­while there emerge com­fort­ing al­le­gories of na­ture it­self being a kind of com­puter, with an (even­tu­ally) in­ter­pretable co­her­ent sys­tem based on codes (Roof 2007).  There is an ex­pected ex­po­nen­tial curve of the ‘im­prove­ment’ of the tech­nolo­gies we use to un­der­stand our world. How­ever, as we know, such curves never reach the as­ymp­tote, the truth. We will al­ways be ap­prox­i­mat­ing for noise and in­ac­cu­racy, we will al­ways need other knowl­edge sys­tems to com­pen­sate for the in­suf­fi­cien­cies of techno-truth.  Ad­di­tion­ally, the ma­te­ri­al­ity of the com­put­ing tech­nol­ogy on which all our fluc­tu­at­ing self-per­cep­tion is pred­i­cated is not, it­self, so im­per­cep­ti­ble and vague. The phys­i­cal tech­nol­ogy of the com­puter or the sen­sor or the  net­work orig­i­nates in the stuff of the earth, it must be mined or gath­ered or oth­er­wise ac­quired, not by ma­chines alone, but by or­ga­ni­za­tions of peo­ple.  There are peo­ple all the way down the chains of pro­duc­tion of the com­puter from the fin­ished prod­uct pro­vid­ing us with truth through the var­i­ous fac­to­ries and labs back to the earth.   All along this com­plex pro­duc­tion process we have a ‘paper trail’ of human facts, a new re­source of truth-data, that of the human con­di­tions of the pro­duc­tion of tech­no­log­i­cal truth.  In this panel we will dis­cuss  is­sues that arise on the hori­zon of an in­fi­nite pur­chase on uni­ver­sal ma­te­ri­al­ity promised by sci­en­tific in­no­va­tion.  We will in­ves­ti­gate the del­i­cate tax­onomies and con­ven­tions which at­tempt to ar­tic­u­late and evoke these is­sues (Gal­i­son & Das­ton 2007),  (Roof 2007) , Nan­otech­nol­ogy promises a made-to-or­der syn­thetic re­al­ity (Feyn­man 1959) Data-vi­su­al­iza­tion com­press human cul­ture into pat­terned maps (Manovich, 2010), the fine arts and the “hu­man­i­ties” strug­gle to mea­sure up to the mean­ing pro­duc­tion of the sci­en­tific arts, re­sult­ing in politi­ciza­tion (Ly­otard 1985, La­tour & Weibel 2005, Gillick 2009, etc.)  and sur­ren­der (Nigten 2011, etc.). Our love in­ter­est  in the ma­te­r­ial of the earth has been re­vealed by sci­ence to be rather child­ish. As a species, we seem to ad­vance at a snail’s pace com­pared to the ma­chines we have brought forth.  Our cur­rent epoch may fea­ture some of our species’ first hints of its ma­tu­rity, with its ex­i­gen­cies and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and the first fore­tastes of its de­cline.  Human art, cre­ativ­ity and imag­i­na­tion has tra­di­tion­ally been lo­cated in a no­tion of eter­nal child­hood.  Our hard­ware com­pels us to imag­ine a new, more ma­ture cre­ativ­ity.

Related Links:

  • Ref­er­ences:
    1.    Feyn­man, Richard, There’s Plenty of Room at the Bot­tom, Cal­tech En­gi­neer­ing and Sci­ence, Vol­ume 23:5, Feb­ru­ary 1960, pp 22-36.
    2.    Gal­i­son, Peter & Das­ton, Lor­raine, Ob­jec­tiv­ity, Zone Books, Brook­lyn, 2008
    3.    Gillick, Liam, Maybe it would be bet­ter if we worked in Groups of Three?, Eflux Jour­nal, Vol. 3, 2009, e-flux.com/journal/view/41
    4.    Kit­tler, Friedrich, There is No Soft­ware, Cthe­ory Ar­ti­cle: a032, Date Pub­lished: 10/18/1995 ctheory.net/articles.aspx?id=74 Arthur and Mar­ilouise Kro­ker, Ed­i­tors
    5.    La­tour, Bruno & Weibel, Peter, Mak­ing Things Pub­lic, MIT Press,  Cam­bridge, 2005
    6.    Ly­otard, François, Les Immatériaux, Cen­tre de Création In­dus­trielle Cen­tre Georges Pom­pi­dou, Paris, 1985
    7.    manovich.net/index.php/projects/trending-the-promises-and-the-challenges-of-big-social-data, 2011
    8.    Nigten, Anne, et al, Process Patch­ing, ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/5655/1/Thesis_Nigten.pdf
    9.    Roof, Ju­dith, the Po­et­ics of DNA, Uni­ver­sity of Min­nesota Press, Min­nesota, 2007