The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

July 26, 2017

London Routing, Stairs

Our London Trip and What We Found this Summer
Our Summer Vacation
Summer Art and Fun
The Grass is Always Greener in the World of Intelligent Beings

An obviously superficial essay written by an outsider, apologies
for any inadvertencies.

1. From a Facebook message to Ruth Catlow -

The time traveling has been really interesting; we have a
detailed London map from 1827 that's very different and I think
if we do get back to London it would be great to do a partial
psycho-geography of the city (through these books and
talking/talking of course) in relation to the early networks of
travel (wherries, hansom cabs, horses, steam, walking/John Gay
etc.), which then developed through gas/electric/underground
steam locomotives etc. to the Internet - how skeins develop and
extend faculties, etc.; London seems good for that because of so
many layers going back to 420,000 b.c. etc. - anyway nothing
will probably come of this but cross-correlating the books and
our own minor experiences has been fascinating.

2. Since then we've found an 1819 Pictures of London that's
somewhere between statistics and a guidebook; an 1828 "City
Scenes" of London; and we also have an 1895 Baedeker's and have
found another 1823 Baedeker's, plus yet another 1923 guide.

3. There's a clear distinction between analog and digital
networking, particularly in relation to dynamics; the former
abjures the jump-cut; the latter is based on it. Between one
pixel and another there is nothing; increase the raster of a
lossless image, and artifacts show up; increase the magni-
fication of a landscape and more details emerge. Searching for
the Thames stairs on Google maps tends towards jumps of detail,
resolution, mapping strategies, and so forth; nothing is gained
but a difficulty telling the image from the image-machine and
its protocols.

4. The networks in London moved bodies and goods; telegraphy on
the other hand already began the transition to artifacture; it's
also based on protocol layers (the idea that simple Morse was
used raw for information transmission and reception simply isn't
true). There was also mail, which involved the particulate
release of sheets of information from one site to another; the
delay involved was palpable, with no pretense towards instantan-
eity. The movement of goods on the other hand, like bodies, was
analog and continuous, and required constant tending.

5. Thinking through Angela Nagle, it's the apparent intantaneity
of the digital that creates, on one hand, the simultaneous
horizons of imminence and immanence, and, on the other, the
clear distancing that results in projections and introjections
of false objectivities. Fake and "real" news are equally slotted
within the protocol stacks; there's no distinction, no
difference. There's also no alterity that points to "other-than"
- as if there were a rule which could be used as a standard or
guide (search the Guildhall and Greenwich Observatory for such)
- as if, in other words, there were algorithms for truth-tables
such as Beth developed, Wittgenstein, I believe, referenced.
Within the digital, and without-within the digital, one is
literally lost among texts and images that lack any sort of
verification procedures; change one pixel of a reputed "true"
representation, and an entire world is lost, another is born.

6. With wherries and hansom cabs, underground locomotives and
porters, there is still another layer, that of bills of lading,
contracts, payments duly noted, insurance, licensing, taxation,
legal rights-of-way, etc. - the whole apparatus of commerce and
communication as written, promulgated within and without legal
codes (thank of the cants of vagrants in 19th-century London) -
all the materialities and communications that Braudel and the
Annales analyzed. Relate this to Benjamin's Arcade project and
you see what a fine and literal mess we're in, trying to contain
the uncontainable. On the other hand, every tcp-ip transmission
and blockchain elements tends towards a packet exactitude based
on infinite and indefinite reproducibility. One written check
for example is fundamentally different from another, but one
x.jpg duplicated is equivalent in any conceivable test to its
copy - as if there were an original in the first place. The
originality of the signature on the check is taken as a
fundamental guarantee of authenticity (of course there is also
counterfeiting and so forth); there is no originality in the
duplicate image, steganography notwithstanding.

7. Who, in actually, sends the telegraph, and who receives it?
Who views the jpg, who saves it to her file? These, I think, are
not equivalent questions; telegraphy is still of an area which
is replete with bodies, operating keys, translating from written
text to code, for example - while the jpg may be manufactured,
literally, away and apart from any body whatsoever - its return
is that of data (interpretable or not), not the projected
presence of a sender or even receiver at either - or multiple -
ends of telegraphic communication.

8. London is overlaid and underlaid by all of these systems and
their analog and digital interrelationships, codes, histories,
mensurations, and communities; one can find Roman road markers
for example, and going back even farther, say to 430,000 years
ago, there are traderoutes involving knapping technologies,
flint tools, and the like. Written communication, whether analog
or digital, as we know it, is just the surface of an obdurate
landscape; deep ecology makes us aware of these things, which
today are more likely than not to be trashed. But these things,
as paths and diffuse vectors, present a history from diffuse
beginnings to the diffusions of the present; what might be
worthwhile to explore is the phenomenology, not only of
dissemination, but of diffusion itself. Communities form, roil,
collapse, flee, reassemble, disappear, along with technologies
and traderoutes, and so -

9. What of the London stairs? They granted and some still grant,
access to the Thames and all that the river might or might not
bring; they're also embarkation and debarkation points for
moving bodies, goods, mail, machinery, technologies before
technologies were online (with their own sustaining physical
apparatus of course). One could do worse than walk the stairs,
from one to another, whatever remnants that exist, a form of
Situationist derive interstitial between analog and analog,
analog and digital. This is surely a project involving another
system of laminations, already heavily explored (to the point of
exhaustion of course), that of combing the shore at low tide.
What sort of derive would this be, involving, caressing, bodies
and networks, networked bodies and bodies of networks? The
surface, and the depths of the surface, are inconceivably
thinned testimonies; that will not, cannot, change. Too often
history and process are seen in terms of events, dates, genres
and canon (much as literatures); here we have the opportunity to
examine striations and dynamics, worlds in flux as Braudel might
have it. Wandering, we were amazed at the density of London and
its diffuse chronometries; behind every wayfare was another, an
other, ready to give way. The world is always already entangled
and the stairs tend to that, lend themselves to flow.

< networking, particularly in relation to dynamics; the former
> networking, particularly in relation to dyanmics; the former
< but a difficulty telling the image from the image-machine and
> but a difficulting telling the image from the image-machine and
< contracts, payments duly noted, insurance, licensing, taxation,
> contracts, payments duly noted, insurance, licensings, taxation,
< fundamental guarantee of authenticity (of course there is also
> fundamental guarantee of authenticity (of course thre is also
< beginnings to the diffusions of the present; what might be
> beginnings to the diffusions of the prsent; what might be

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