[-empyre-] digital poetics

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Sat Mar 14 17:29:47 EST 2009

(Before replying before, I received an email back-channel about erasure; 
this (seriously!) disappeared from my inbox - I'd appreciate it if it 
could be sent again. Thanks, Alan)

> From: "Simon Biggs" <s.biggs at eca.ac.uk>
> On 10/3/09 01:00, Alan Sondheim wrote:
>> [I find it problematic to say that "poetics is" {x} when, at lest for some
>> of us, any definition is always under erasure. we could argue poetics and
>> "its" definition for ages; this, like any other, seems somewhat
>> reductive.]
> Yes, we could argue about this endlessly ? I was simply looking for a
> workable definition, otherwise we have no subject to discuss. I fully accept
> your use of erasure in this mix and wouldn?t see that as in any way excluded
> by the rough definition I propose. I would suggest that the definition
> embraces this modality.
fair enough -

>> (I wrote) Turing?s concept of computation does not have to involve a 
>> (electronic) computer ? it does not need a machine to assure its 
>> instrumentality. It can also employ the human. Perhaps other forms of 
>> instrumentality also exist?
>> [what is the difference between this practice and that of any
>> enunciation?]
> It is this blurring of difference I am playing with. I am using the word 
> instrumentality carefully. I wish to avoid terms such as ?agency? as 
> this will amplify unhelpful (within the narrow context of this debate) 
> ontological issues. I also want to avoid the use of the terms ?author? 
> and ?reader? as they immediately establish certain roles and functions 
> around the ?text?. I am seeking to orient attention away from author 
> driven and reader-based theories of ?writing? towards an analysis that 
> engages writing as a process unto itself ? potentially separate to the 
> human. That is why I suggest there might be other forms of 
> instrumentality (there is no metaphysical intent here either, in case 
> anybody was looking for it).
Alan: as with the other reply I sent, the blurring I think leads to more 
difficulties than is helpful; it overlooks that, instrumentality or not, 
the TM reflects a platonic ideal conception - for example, an infinite 
tape, an infinite time, etc. - and this conception "collapses" into the 
very useful mathesis of unsolvability theory. For me, a TM need not exist 
for a TM to exist; it states something (many things) about mathematics and 
logic, and what it states may be in/formed by well-defined symbols. I 
think the very nature of the machine implies a poetics, perhaps a poetics 
of the digital, but I think there are more problems than usefulness in 
associating this with a blurring of the digital to encompass all writing, 
all language (however language is defined, etc.) and so forth.

> Yes, I agree...this is the point I make in the following paragraph, seeking
> to assure that any apparent difference in instrumentality is largely
> cosmetic in relation to writing DOING writing. But as you say, in that
> context, it depends on what is meant by the term ?digital?. I am using it in
> two senses at the same time (if I am permitted that Derridean indulgence)
> but if I had to make a choice then I would go for the expanded definition,
> where ?digital? means any discrete symbolic system of exchange with the
> capacity for self-modification. As you observe, within this model all
> writing (and poetics) is encompassed. That is problematic.
With the capacity of self-modification? Then most digital devices below 
the level, say, of the old TI-59 calculator, aren't digital, since they're 
basically GIGO on a simple level.

> Your point that poetics is that which escapes such discrete systems is well
> taken. However, whilst meaning (or not-meaning) might arise as an instance
> of the poetic obscurely (and apparently irreducibly) it is the case that
> such an instance surely be internally (and relationally/externally)
> organised as more than one element. Any other understanding would provoke
> that most reductionist of all apprehensions, essentialism. Given this, those
> components must in some manner be discernable. The question then moves to
> how we ascertain what they and their relations are. In this sense the poetic
> cannot escape the digital.
I'd say it can entirely escape the digital, because, for me and at least 
in the usual (useful) sense and distinction, discernible elements don't 
imply the digital...

- Alan, and thanks for your reply

> Regards
> Simon
> Simon Biggs
> Research Professor
> edinburgh college of art
> s.biggs at eca.ac.uk
> www.eca.ac.uk
> www.eca.ac.uk/circle/
> simon at littlepig.org.uk
> www.littlepig.org.uk
> AIM/Skype: simonbiggsuk
> Edinburgh College of Art (eca) is a charity registered in Scotland, number SC009201

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