The Memory and the Code: The Phantasm of Digital Culture


Session Title:

  • Art, Code and Computation

Presentation Title:

  • The Memory and the Code: The Phantasm of Digital Culture




  • The aim of this paper is to analyze the physical concatenation of technological devices, specifically between memory capacities and qualities (a database, an archive) and the code that regulates its performance. The code is here pursued as an “element” as concrete as an object, and with a specific cultural history (a code as a program, and in a wider realm, an ethos as a code). But opposed to the fetishism of objects, a code would be conceived of as the aristothelic energeia, a process with an end in itself, an instruction that “produces” a qualitative operation upon the database, the archive, on which it is inscribed. The consequences of this analysis would yield some illuminations on the way certain digital phenomena behave in our time, relating information databases to the ways the information itself is shaped, generated, disseminated and understood. It would thus contribute to understand from a cultural parameter diverse entities, from wikis to viruses, from the assessment of financial algorithms to software art, from social media to the outbreak of political events such as the one raised recently by the Wikileaks.?org site. In the end, a set of specific issues would be addressed, for if the manipulation of code can sensibly affect strategic data on a functional level, we could raise questions on a historiographical, a technical, an esthetical, but most importantly, an ethico-political level. The conceptual articulation between memory and code is thus an open topic which will introduce a different dimension to our common experience of the political in the midst of a seemingly reshaping theory of knowledge.

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