[-empyre-] Week One - Between Print and Pixels: Computationality, Post-Digital, Hybrid

Alessandro Ludovico a.ludovico at neural.it
Thu Feb 6 20:42:13 EST 2014

Thanks Michael for the nice introduction.

It seems that Post-Digital aspires to become a 'buzzword' lately, but its meaning seems to be not completely acknowledged.
Many refer to the definition of Kim Cascone in his famous article "The Aesthetics of Failure: "Post-digital" Tendencies in Contemporary Computer Music", and Wikipedia collects also a fair good amount of other (close) definitions. But many of them are dated a few years ago and still attached to the concept of the digital disappearing in everyday practice, being in a way 'metabolised'.

My personal definition (given within the Post-digital Research conference and PhD Workshop in Aarhus, in October 2013) is that "Post-digital is the space left by the (only apparent) absence of digital."
The "space" here is meant as a negotiable abstract space, previously filled by the digital in its evident forms and interfaces, and now perceptually disappeared, although still there, present, active and eventually engaging us in a new relationship also with non-digital reality.
In its application to the complex and ever mutating relationship between traditional and digital (or offline and online, if you want) publishing, the concept of the 'hybrid' publications seems to be crucial then.
I tried to define 'hybrid' as a a publication where it's almost impossible to separate or discern the physical from the digital processes behind, as it'd be the inextricable result of computed processes in a recognisable publishing form (eventually upgradeable or simply changing over time).
There are quite a few example of early steps towards the hybrid: Martin Fuchs and Peter Bichsel’s book “Written Images", "American Psycho" by Mimi Cabell & Jason Huff, Les Liens Invisibles' "Unhappening, not here not now", or the recent "The Death of the Authors, 1941 edition" by Constant (An Mertens, Femke Snelting).
Still it seems that we're not there yet, as we'd need more elaborated software instruments transcending the generative paradigm, or a simple inclusion/exclusion logic.

In this sense the Post-Digital Research newspaper publication represents another attempt, conjugating the reflection around various post-digital approaches with its final printed from, in quite a few textual and graphical interesting processes (used in experimental literature or just borrowed from online free tools) involving the writing form, the expression of the different concepts, and the final visual rendering of all of that.

But the hybrid would epitomises the metabolisation of digital in a way that it doesn't simply 'disappear' (or better, we are not noticing it anymore), finally becoming one of our daily natural nutrients, with an active role that breaks all the boundaries (being relegated in a device, or to a specific cultural environment that we associate with it).

This is the starting point of an hypothesis I formulated in the last Transmediale panel, which can maybe sound a bit blatant:
what if digital has been mistaken for a medium but actually is an agent that has transformed existing media? I've started to investigate other traditional media (audio and video, for example) and how their core form is formally still coherent with their analogue one, but substantially transformed by its current digital nature.

The hybrid in publishing, in this sense, is actually embodying this passage very well, as it points us back to traditional media and their possible active and engaging relationship with the digital. 

To add more resources to the list:

there has been a special issue of Neural called "Neural #44, Post-Digital Print (Postscript)" (a friend nicknamed it the "shameless issue") which was meant as an addendum to the book with more content related to the topic.

The Post-Digital Print blog is still in beta, but it'll host within this week also the pdf of all the three Mag.net Readers, free to download:
It's meant to be a complement to the terrific resource that Silvio Lorusso is making with its Post-Digital Publishing Archive:

I'm also curating (for another month and half, with a final special event in Paris on March 11th) "Erreur d'Impression, Publier à l’Ère du Numérique" a virtual exhibition at Jeu de Paume: http://espacevirtuel.jeudepaume.org/erreur-dimpression-1674/

Indeed, Post-Digital Print, the book, has also a physical form (although we successfully experimented with its digital form just before that):

Although all more or less connected to my personal work, I hope that they can help the discussion.

> I want to invite Alessandro to start off the discussion. Many of you are no doubt familiar with his work, but if not, I want to draw attention to his recent book, 'Post-Digital Print: The Mutation of Publishing Since 1894' (Onomatopee 2012): http://monoskop.org/images/a/a6/Ludovico,_Alessandro_-_Post-Digital_Print._The_Mutation_of_Publishing_Since_1894.pdf (The fact that text is legit available through the Monoskop Log is perhaps noteworthy itself). 
> I would describe his book as a history of experimental aesthetic practices articulated through new publishing technologies, and one that speaks in particular to the concept of the post-digital. More generally, it's a tremendous document of a vast array of projects, artworks, print objects, books, pamphlets and magazines that is characteristic of print culture in late modernity and beyond. 
> The post-digital, in particular, is a term that I'm inviting Alessandro to discuss, along with related ideas that have emerged through his research. And it's particularly relevant off the back of Transmediale Festival last week given the Post-Digital Research panel and newspaper publication. The latter is a series of short texts that have been collaboratively peer-reviewed through a workshop on the topic held at Aarhus University last year: https://tm-resource.projects.cavi.au.dk/?page_id=1291 Unfortunately, a PDF is not available yet, but Alessandro I'm sure will give an impression of the contents of this publication.    

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