Digital Project/ion

Digital Fourfold 0,1

With all this in mind, one may begin to move beyond, shall we call it, the consumer-electronics definition of the digital (and, with it, the analog)….Digitality and analogicity are general modes of mediation; they are not facts about consumer electronics, at least not only facts. Thus, the digital and the analog are not simply reducible to sociological, anthropological, or even empirical observation. Rather, digitality and analogicity are free floating representational modes evident in many different formats and times, perhaps in all of them. Instead of a list of qualities, the digital is better defined as an event or operation.[1]

By making this rudimentary sketch of DIGITAL-1 and DIGITAL-0, I hope to put two different digital dimensions of design into play, trifling with them to see how these shape us. As I have ordered these two states it may seem to imply that DIGITAL-0 precedes DIGITAL-1, inviting a further designation of the former as something more like ‘analog’ and the latter as a truer ‘digital’ topology. However, as Wark points out: “The terms analog and digital are invariably treated as if the relation between them was itself a digital one” such that the digital makes the analog itself appear as something separate, turning a slippery difference into a clear distinction.[2] This usefully folds into a wider discussion of the representation, relation and structure of the analog and the digital detailed by fellow theorist Alexander Galloway, who reminds us that: 

“…digital and analog have a meaning in media and consumer electronics, but understood as synonyms for discrete and continuous they also pertain to long-standing philosophical discussions around similarity, identity, difference, and representation…The digital is the capacity to divide things and make distinctions between them….The analog is the real with no abstraction, no reduction, no sampling or capture. ”[3]

To this end, by thinking of DIGITAL-0 and DIGITAL-1 together as an event or mode of operation rather than qualities like ‘offline’, ‘old-school’, ‘real’ or ‘authentic’, I would like to take a more of a scheming, ontological view of the digital as a design that works in and on the world in a related fashion. Instead of thinking about the forms generated by each digital system (clothing, devices, texts), let us consider what each of these different dimensions of the digital make or break. What forms of being occur in the slippage and play occurring between and betwixt -0 & -1? Can we think through the phenomena of the digital from beyond a point of view framed by the user of digital things, and begin to look at digitality from the point of view of a weird, thing-like quality of ‘the digital’? For all its possibility and power what is the endgame of subjects locked inside digital gamespace? What kinds of designs does ‘the digital’ have on ‘us’? 

In this sense I would like to launch into a kind of speculative game that explores the possibility of the binary mode doing something to human being and becoming. By folding together the space of DIGITAL-0 and DIGITAL-1, can an ontologically significant and weird view of the digital emerge, and expand on the idea that “the past was significantly more digital than we give it credit for and that today’s Digital Age, so-called, is better characterized through a series of analog concerns”[4]? Galloway provides a useful observation when he states that “similar to the syllable or phoneme in structural linguistics, the zero and the one represented for Lacan a series of elementary blocks that could be arranged and rearranged in a semi-autonomous fashion, interfacing with consciousness but also somehow below and above it.”[5] I would like to apply this idea to the possibility that both the over and under binary interlocking of weaving as a gestural interface and the constant digital interfacing with digital technologies might do something to consciousness on various levels. 

So, to get back to my questions about a design/digital/game that is somehow gaming us, I have found that in their expanded take on the digital either as critical method (Galloway) or topology (Wark) we can uncover some clues. Here, both recognise that within the digital there is something at play and at stake, making the digital a site of contemporary power, where capital exploits labor, and therefore the space of political confrontation and struggle. This points towards an absolute boundary where the domain of the digital is perfected, a space of purely relative and numerical value, and in turn, a locus for command and control of the analog remainder — which it treats as a mere residue. In this residue, Wark notes, “the digital might become again the threshold that turns a movement into a break, rather than imposing the break on movement”, and a gamer as theorist might establish a transformation by shifting away from agon, distinction, decision and the fatal either/or. [6]

I would like to further invert this idea of analog residue and see if there might be a kind of digital shadow when viewed within “paradigmatic analog modes” of the mirror, the echo, the ghost, the trace, the outline.[7] I take these as useful modes of reading ahead and considering what, and how, the digital projects — thinking here in both a kind of cinematic mode of making visible by casting an image and a planned out mode of design — and thereby asking what will arrive as digital futures and defuturings.[8] All too often when we think about ‘the future’ it is assumed that technology will keep accelerating, an uninterrupted project, ever ongoing in a steady linear progression that keeps on making life better, smarter, sexier, savvier — an emerging DIGITAL-1,1. As it continues to expand into ‘everywhere’, how might we deterritorialise this digital topology and locate a space where a residue remains? We might need to consider the idea of digital residue in terms of its ever building ghost.

What if all the lenses, platforms and devices that mediate our reality suddenly switched from ‘ON’ to a permanent ‘OFF’? What if there is to be some super event that fries circuits, zaps RAM, melts hard-drives? Already integrated into the many technologies of production, supply, demand and more, if the digital sea of data — from the personal and everyday flows that document, create, record, transform and manipulate our perception, memories, economies and communication and perhaps other digital infrastructures  — would from one day to the next go on a total and permanent blink, what then? 

Inside this imagined rupture and disintegration of the project that captures all that is continuous and real as the sliced, divided, derived and archived — might we experience what Eugene Thacker calls the dead, dark, haunted and weird of media?[9] Here, each of Thacker’s categories grapple with different forms of media that afford mediation with the inaccessible as that which is ambivalently mediated. This includes situations where media are not only “broken,” but are also working “too well,” such that “mediation functions at a level beyond that of traditional forms of human mediation”.[10] In a moment where all that was online goes offline, digital media and electronic devices could very well open up some strange forms of excommunication as dead media: objects no longer in use, but with some aspect of the object remaining active, perhaps almost haunted, or else remaining in use, but in a non- normative way.[11] In contrast to Thacker’s examples, from magic lanterns to spirit photography, let’s consider how the current utility and entanglement with our everyday lives could potentially induce similar situations of temporal disjunction — where objects either oscillate between being activated and inactivated (dead media), or objects become more than an object, endowed with almost divine (or divining) powers (haunted media) — but in reverse. Instead of objects becoming dead, haunted or weird, once freed from servicing these apparatus, could it be that the subject, or space, or even the real begin to operate as similar kinds of lacuna, opening up lost connections or rerouting attention to something cosmic, divine, supernatural or other phenomena that we once knew, but have since unknown?

[end of Digital 0,1]


[1] Galloway, Alexander R. 2022. “Golden Age of Analog”. Critical Inquiry, volume 48, number 2 (Winter), 228.

[2] Wark, 2007, 72.

[3] Galloway, 2022, 230.

[4] Galloway, 2022, 216.

[5] Ibid, 215.

[6] Wark, 2007, 72.

[7] Galloway notes that “the logic gate and the computer are merely the latest in a long stream of digital technologies that would begin with the integers, the alphabet, or even the atom, the synapse, the gene, and even the point itself”, as such “to think beyond consumer electronics liberates the analog …  duration, intensity, sensation, affect, as well as the wave, the gradient, and the curve… the analog is quite simply the interface of real difference… the real without any logic of presence or absence, the real without the principle of norm and deviation” (Galloway, 2022, 229). Thus, as analog method — a method that I am hacking together with gamer theory to arrive at an assembled questioning of digital technology — “favours aesthetics over other things (reason, decision… deterritorialization over territorialization, and thinks in terms of assemblage, multiplicity, difference, and heterogeneity, conditions where identity of qualitative difference takes precedence over the regular structure of letter, number, or symbol” (ibid 230), and this is deployed to invert analog residue and try to deterritorialise a digital that is covered by consumer electronic and vector class systems of capital, labour and control.

[8] Defuturing is a key concept found in the work of Tony Fry and can be introduced briefly as the capacity for a designed thing or ontology framed by a designed world to foreclose on future possibilities. Fry notes that we now exist post-ecologically, a collective planetary situation whereby a naturalised state of being-in-the world that acts against the future is the default mode and thus “defuturing has been made elemental to the essence of human being, and it cannot be separated from our failure to recognise out animality” (Fry, 2012, 117).

[9]  See ‘Dark Media’ in: Galoway, Alexander R. Thacker, Eugene. & Wark, McKenzie. 2014. Excommunication: Three inquiries in media and mediation. Chicago, London: , The University of Chicago Press.

[10] Ibid, 129.

[11] Ibid

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