The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

June 22, 2008

avatars of a different kind

infrared closeups of the Philippi mummies

My enemy the digital, why not to live

It's on the verge of something, on the tip of the tongue, something about
the digital and its relation to truth and mass accountancy and the
ability to harness languaging on an unprecedented scale, something about
the evanescence or shadowing of truth, about dictatorial tendencies and
the ability to spread and modify code across whole continents, that this
isn't an academics but an unmitigated furor - and in this sentence the
digital or any specification/speciation becomes a disease of separation
and the wager of truth, that is to say a political economy of truth that
relies not on facticity but on a market or gaming in which truth is the
outcome, not the forerunner, of stakes. One doesn't stake on truth, but on
an apparatus that produces truth vis-a-vis accountancy, the digital; it is
this manipulation that permits staking in the first place. My digital my
love, my digital my enemy; these inscriptions produce skein, structure,
market: Every market is an inscription, every inscription a market. It
becomes increasingly useless to survive, to the extent that survival is a
condition of change or altruism; instead, the same old game repeats itself
indefinitely, a game of strategy within which slaughter, dis/ease, anomie,
become byproducts or residues of categorization. It was writing, the
writing of the concrete and concrete writing, that began a slide towards
miasma, no matter how much it was curtailed by that very same writing. And
what a slide, because also a harnessing of miasma, withdrawal from the
real; it's a miasma of the imaginary and it's within the imaginary that
the market is the most violent: without bounds and gaming, truth appears
both certain and purchasable, and is always, within the digital and
accountancy, infinitely alterable, without tethering. Without tethering
there are no bounds, the world is boundless and frontiers are infinitely
mobile; with infinite mobility comes exponential consumption of resources
until asymptotic limits are incoherently named and approached - while the
rich get richer, their class rapidly diminishes and dissipates. There's no
end to all of this pseudo-fecundity except defuge, exhaustion, extinction,
and each hour we are all the closer to the chaos of the retrievable. What
was canonic is nameless, just as genre dissipates into an absence of
meaning leaving organism without a _not_ to stand on; sure slow death
results - no one notices, no one has the capacity to notice, all that
accountancy grounded in backup is lost, the files topple, electricity cut
off for longer and longer periods, finally none at all.

I think of Hitler and all those records, arms marked by integers, bodies
cut out, decomposed elsewhere, increased complexity of coding, Auschwitz,



The Hapticmath program was written at WVU for a Phantom2 haptic stylus;
move the stylus, and the cursor can 'feel' the graph of a mathematical
expression as a groove, which is also visible on a screen. In the
following series of images, the program is demonstrated and applied to
equations with anomalous curves. The sin(x) - a sinewave - maps simply, as
does tan(x) - the tangent curve. But the latter goes asymptotically to +
and - infinity, and the stylus can't connect at the juncture. This is a
well-defined vertical line. Of greater interest is sin(tan(x)), which has
an anomalous region; most of the images are of that. The expression was
biased to fill the screen, i.e. 3*(sin(tan(1.5*(x+3)))). While dashes are
visible, nothing connects with the stylus, which tends to disappear,
become absorbed in the region. The visible haptic anomalous region, in
other words, becomes a paradoxically indeterminate haptic surface with an
invisible cursor. Metaphorically, touch has been compromised and absorbed
in a virtual space barely hinted at. As with my other work, this indicates
an informal limit where other phenomena appear, and the usual extensions
of the body, as well as body image, cannot be taken for granted.

(Thanks to Frances van Scoy and the West Virginia VEL for use of the

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