[-empyre-] Post-Digital Listings

David Berry dmberry at gmail.com
Wed Feb 19 12:26:19 EST 2014

Hi Michael (and others),

I think the key with thinking through the cognitive map I presented is not to look for a final reconciliation or overall unity, as I don’t necessarily think that that is even possible within a moment of variable modulations in our current social formations as computational societies – i.e. they are not necessary meant to be “models” as such. Rather the table I offered is meant to provide constellations of moments within a “digital” as opposed to a “post-digital” ecology, as it were, and, of course, a provocation to thought. But they can be thought of as ideal types, if you like, that can provide some conceptual stability for thinking, in an environment of accelerating technical change and dramatic and unpredictable social tensions in response to this. The question then becomes to what extent can the post-digital counter-act the tendencies towards domination of specific modes of thought in relation to instrumentality, particularly manifested in computational devices and systems? For example, the contrast between the moments represented by Web 2.0 / Stacks provides an opportunity for thinking about how new platforms have been built on the older Web 2.0 systems, in some cases replacing them, and in others opening up new possibilities which Tiziana Terranova has pointed to in her intriguing notion of “Red Stacks”, for example (and in contrast to Bruce Sterlings notion of “The Stacks”, e.g. Google, Facebook, etc.). Here I have been thinking of the notion of the digital as representing a form of “weak computation/computationality”, versus the post-digital as “strong computation/computationality”, and what would the consequences be for a society that increasingly finds that the weak computational forms (CDs, DVDs, laptops, desktops, Blogs, RSS, Android Open Source Platform [AOSP], open platforms and systems, etc.) are replaced by stronger, encrypted and/or locked-in versions (FairPlay DRM, Advanced Access Content System [AACS], iPads, Twitter, Push-notification, Google Mobile Services [GMS], Trackers, Sensors, ANTICRISIS GIRL, etc.)?  

These are not just meant to be thought of in a technical register, rather the notion of “weak computation” points towards a “weak computational sociality” and “strong computation” points towards a “strong computation sociality”, highlighting the deeper penetration of computational forms into everyday life within social media and push-notification, for example. Even as the post-digital opens up new possibilities for contestation, e.g. megaleaks, data journalism, hacks, cryptography, dark nets, torrents, the Alexandria Project, etc. and new opportunities for creating, sharing and reading knowledges, the “strong computation” of the post-digital always already suggests the shadow of computation reflected in heightened tracking, surveillance and monitoring of a control society. The post-digital points towards a reconfiguration of publishing away from the (barely) digital techniques of the older book publishing industry, and towards the post-digital singularity of Amazonized publishing with its accelerated instrumentalised forms of softwarized logistics whilst also simultaneously supporting new forms of post-digital craft production of books and journals, and providing globalised distribution. How then can we think about these contradictions in the unfolding of the post-digital and its tendencies towards what I am calling here “strong computation”, and in what way, even counter-intuitively, does the digital (weak computation) offer alternatives, even as marginal critical practice, and the post-digital (strong computation) create new critical practices (e.g. critical engineering), against the increasing interconnection, intermediation and seamless functioning and operation of the post-digital as pure instrumentality, horizon, and/or imaginary.   

See for example:





On Sat, Feb 15, 2014 at 11:34 AM, Michael Dieter <M.J.Dieter at uva.nl> wrote:

> Thanks David and Rita for these,
> I guess diagrammatics or concept maps are always something of a last
> resort during any period of disorientation, so thanks for putting
> together this thought-provoking set of distinctions to provide some
> coordinates.
> For whatever it's worth, I find Rita's map a bit more recognizable, if
> only because I'm ultimately not sure how some of these binaries are
> supposed to operate in David's model. I can't tell if something like
> "games | world", for instance, should be considered more along the
> lines of, say, Kostas Axelos or Jane McGonigal (maybe both?).
> Similarly, "art | aesthetics" also seems problematic: art discourses
> have always been deeply intertwined with aesthetic frameworks since
> Kant's engagements with Baumgarten; and the concept of media,
> moreover, itself arises alongside these genealogies of aesthetic
> thought. I wonder what kind of distinction is being made here, unless
> this is just a veiled reference to Bridle's New Aesthetic project? On
> the more technical side of things, why place a distinction between
> "Web 2.0 | The Stack"? Besides the fact that your list already recalls
> Tim O'Reilly's own set of marketing distinctions, surely this is
> actually a more or less consistent trajectory of intensification
> towards the consolidation and enclosure of internet infrastructures
> through corporate services. A key moment here would be the
> introduction of Amazon Web Services geared toward selling server-space
> to corporate clients in 2006, more or less contemporaneous with the
> user-generated content hype.
> On the other hand, maybe I'm just being a bit nit-picky. Perhaps it's
> best to just take the list as a provocation or speculative map for
> discussion. In this case, one thing I want to ask about is what kind
> of references are you drawing from to sketch out the post-digital. As
> opposed to the art-orientated definition from Alessandro and Florian -
> which they tend to trace back to Kim Cascone's 'Aesthetic of Failure'
> essay - there is a competing corporate literature that you're alluding
> to here. Can unpack that discourse in a bit more detail, especially
> when it comes to these points about it being a zero-sum game?
> For Rita's set of terms, meanwhile, I also wondered how I should read
> these - should I take it as a straight transition from left to right?
> Or something more like a dialectical situation, or Greimasian binary
> oppositions? The latter approaches actually might not be too
> far-fetched with some of these terms, since artist books and
> booksellers, for instance, are being recontextualized and revived in
> specific ways as a result of whatever's going on to the right. Just
> think about the fetishization of the print book as technical object by
> Visual Editions, or the maker-like slow theory artisanal processes of
> Univocal Publishing, or the revival of post-digital Xeroxed zines with
> Motto.
> I wonder if I could ask Rita whether it might be useful to also
> provide some explicit case studies, artworks, books or projects that
> might populate or transform the set up you've provided? There's
> material I know you've taught and written criticism on, but it might
> be useful to explicitly propose some cases to help us to grasp the
> stakes of the formation you're proposing.
> Cheers,
> --
> Michael Dieter
> Lecturer
> Media Studies
> The University of Amsterdam
> Turfdraagsterpad 9
> 1012 XT Amsterdam
> http://home.medewerker.uva.nl/m.j.dieter/


Dr. David M. Berry

Silverstone 316

School of Media, Film and Music
University of Sussex,
East Sussex. BN1 8PP


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