[-empyre-] II (

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Wed Oct 10 13:15:37 EST 2012

On Wed, 10 Oct 2012, Jonathan Marshall wrote:

> No, but neither does it mean that every ill defined binary is useful 
> everywhere...

I don't think these terms are as ill-defined as you think and obviously 
most people find them useful.

> What i would like is some bigger idea of what the 'virtual' means and 
> what it does when compared with the real, and what its interaction with 
> real does, in ways that opens, or could not be done without it.
Basically as Rosset would say, you can't compare it with the real because 
the real is inert. In fact 'doing' with the real in a sense is already 
towards the virtual, re: inscription.

> For example what you write in the next paragraph, is stuff that i have 
> absolutely no issue with at all in terms of its importance, in terms of 
> its general accuracy, or in terms of its relevance for discussion of 
> online life. But i don't see what the concept of the virtual necessarily 
> contributes to it
> Now this is getting more complex, but again i don't see that i would 
> want to diminish this or deny this, or in anyway downplay the issues.
> they are quite likely to be fundamental.
> However, i'm not really sure if you are implying that the virtual is the 
> digital? Or that digital coding is the only kind of coding? or the only 
> important coding?

Not important or not important, but coding implies the digital; this is 
why there are potential wells, protections, built into data, all the way 
back to the bullae and envelopes. Or another way to think about it - 
inscription is difference, analog is fissured, the same. I think that 
coding is always digital at its core or kernel; for example, bandwidth is 
defined, symbols are separated from each other, and so forth. All of this 
in real life wears down, sloughs, corrodes, decays - what Kristeva is on 
about in Powers of Horror when she talks about the abject.

> If the first then, to me, that would not seem to be a defintion which is 
> usual, however valid it is. If the second then i would be hesitant, - 
> thinking that pain might be discontinuously analogue

Being within severe pain is analog, yes, which is why it is so difficult 
to speak about (Scarry, other sources). And yes, it's a definition which 
is not usual but there's precedent I'm sure.

> But are you 'virtual' if you have a prosthetic heart monitor, or are on 
> a mobile?
Precisely - I can't answer this because the term is too vague to me.

> I prefer to be more specific about the situation that i am in or writing 
> about.

Then you don't need the word 'online' perhaps at all.
> Thus why should we assume that being online, is the same as using a 
> mobile, or having a heart monitor? They may have similarities, they may 
> have differences. I still want to be particular
Yes, it's a term you brought in, though.

> Well i can't define social media either, but i will suppose that humans 
> are always immersed in social fields and social histories - even when on 
> their own. social life, interaction with others, seems to be fundamental 
> to almost everything about us. Sure sometime in the future people may 
> reside alone from birth in environments entirely defined by intelligent 
> machines, or intelligent non-humans, but this is not yet very common. 
> Indeed, in the traditional sense, such suppositions are purely 
> 'virtual'.
Yes -

>>> Taken together they may be paradoxical. I suspect that all axioms imply
>>> paradox, although i cannot prove this. If so, then the real and the
>>> virtual are useful to the extent they unsettle each other or open the
>>> user to receive something.
>> Depends I think on how small and simple the system is.
> in a positive or negative sense?
Neither; what I mean is that if you have a system that, for example,
a = a as the only axiom, then you don't get vary far re: paradox.

> AI is a human social product at the moment
Actually, I might argue against that. I'd say it's a manufacture, but I'm 
not sure I'd apply AI as a human social product - unless you might apply 
the same to infants - which you might well do, but I wouldn't -

> My first expression is careless, but what i mean to claim is that human 
> life is not diminished online That is, I would oppose those who take 
> second of the two conventional approaches i listed earlier, that online 
> life, or computer use, is inherently a diminuation of proper life.

Of course I agree with you, but care's got to be taken here; I don't think 
Levinasian alterity occurs at least at this technological point - which is 
a fundamental issue - if you're turned down for a date online, it's not 
the same thing as the kind of annihilation that occurs when you're turned 
down face-to-face in highschool (I know!). Sartre's notion of seriality 
has some relevance here.

> and part of the action here, is to argue here that online life is not 
> without pain, not without suffering, not without consequence, not a mere 
> image or excresence on the real - which of course you also argue all the 
> time as well as me - and so do others. I am not claiming originality.
> jon
Where we disagree I think might be the degree of suffering, or accounting 
for the ease with which, for example, animal torture might be acceptable 
online, the ease that slaughter can become a meme, viral, as in the 
beheading videos of a few years back, etc. And not only the degree, but 
I'd argue the problem, I've said this here before, is how to make the 
suffering real, how to make the politics _count,_ beyond quickly signing 
petitions - how to make people aware of the emergency, as Ulmer might have 
it (might be misquoting Ulmer here).

- Alan

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