Monthly Archives: April 2014

Selection of my tweets from 2010

Thu Jul 15

8:00pm T. Eagleton: “It is just when an artist is becoming debased to a petty commodity producer that he will lay claim to transcendent genius”

Thu Aug 5

8:00pm more authentic slowness. typewriting: “With mistakes and everything, it feels like it’s really you.” Hmm.

Tue Sep 7

8:00pm Recognition is matter of feeling needed. Social networks always need our content, can make it seem reciprocal, from a human, not a network

Mon Sep 20

8:00pm Can intensive and enthusiastic adoption of a medium ever prevent it from becoming a means of control rather than facilitate that outcome?

Fri Sep 24

8:00pm F Jameson: “the very function of the news media is to relegate recent historical experiences as rapidly as possible into the past”

Wed Sep 29

8:00pm Adorno on effects of mass culture: “Pleasure hardens into boredom because, if it is to remain pleasure, it must not demand any effort”

Sun Oct 17

8:00pm neoliberalism’s demand for flexibility and precarity translates into permanent adolescence and committment to “emerging adulthood”

8:00pm emerging adulthood = adulthood + permanent insecurity. Boon to consumerism, which sells snake oil for that sense of identity slipping away

Wed Oct 20

8:00pm internet makes power-law distribs: does same to identity? so that we need to say million things about ourselves so the top few are believed?

Tue Nov 9

3:19pm Well put “Algorithms are normativity made into code—albeit a code that we barely understand, even as it shapes our lives”

Thu Nov 18

4:34pm worst possible band name? fudge spigot

Mon Nov 22

12:40am I stand by this old column of mine: “Facebook threatens to ruin voyeurism altogether by institutionalizing it”

Fri Nov 26

7:49pm “Gambling is as good a place as any to turn when you’ve lost faith in the idea that your society rewards merit”

Fri Dec 10

4:30pm RT @interfluidity: false positivism has done far more damage to the world than post-modernism.

Selection of my tweets from 2009

Tue Jan 6

7:00pm “His copious note taking disguised his deeper intellectual laziness. The notes were his alibi for failing to make a systematic synthesis.”

Tue Jan 13

7:00pm “He expected the utmost effort would be made to decode his cryptic remarks yet dismissed others’ claims if he didn’t instantly grasp them.”

Wed Feb 18

7:00pm Style is reified envy.

Selection of my tweets from 2008

Sat Sep 6

8:00pm Polishing book review of Stephen Baker’s The Numerati. Think I am in bad faith with this Twitter thing. Not interested in being frank.

Sun Sep 7

8:00pm If one has less stuff, does one’s identity feel more stable? The more we own, the more we struggle to curate our collections into coherence.

8:00pm How to resist novelty? Why thrift-store shopping fails: the stores are magic boxes that replenish depleted novelty, not evade it.

Wed Sep 10

8:00pm Middle class, straight, married, children: social benefits flow to you, as it’s assumed you’ve consented to reproduce society as it is.

Wed Oct 1

8:00pm Privacy can be achieved by multiplying public selves. Leaving breadcrumbs here to throw people on to the wrong trail.

Wed Oct 15

8:00pm Kenneth Arrow on the crisis: “the genuine social value” of new risk-spreading techniques is negated by our inability to understand them.

Forgetting to remember

From Franco Berardi, Precarious Rhapsody

The modalities of memorization depend on the mind’s capacity to store information that has left a deep impression, was active over a long period of time or in repetitive fashion. Memorization modifies the conscious organism and shapes its identity, given that identity can be defined as a dynamic accumulation of the memory of places and relations forming the continuity of an experience.

But what happens to memory when the flow of information explodes, expands enormously, besieges perception, occupies the whole of available mental time, accelerates and reduces the mind’s time of exposure to the single informational impression? What happens here is that the memory of the past thins out and the mass of present information tends to occupy the whole space of attention. The greater the density of the info-sphere, the scarcer is the time available for memorization. The briefer the mind’s lapse of exposure to a single piece of information, the more tenuous will be the trace left by this information. In this way, mental activity tends to be compressed into the present, the depth of memory is reduced and thus the perception of the historical past and even of existential diachrony tends to disappear.

And if it’s true that identity is in large part connected to what has dynamically settled in personal memory (places, faces, expectations, illusions), it is possible to hypothesize that we are moving toward a progressive disidentification, where organisms are increasingly recording a flow that unfolds in the present and leaves no deep imprint because of the rapidity with which it appears to the eye and settles in memory. The thickening of the info-spheric crust and the increase in quantity and intensity of the incoming informational material thus produces the effect of a reduction of the sphere of singular memory. The things that an individual remembers (images, etc.) work towards the construction of an impersonal memory, homogenized, uniformly assimilated and thinly elaborated because the time of exposure is so fast it doesn’t allow for a deep personalization.

This theory about how memory and identity work seems entirely speculative, but the questions it raises are interesting to me. I would frame this phenomenon less in terms of “information overload” narrowing one’s perceptual capacity and more as what happens when an archive of personal experience can be assumed and conscious “remembering” can become a more selective, intention-signifying process. We can choose to remember something and experience that more as a kind of shopping choice from among the buffet of phenomena our senses offer us.

Another way to look at this perceptual narrowing is as a manifestation of “getting into the zone” or “flow,” where action is unburdened by self-consciousness or hesitation, and thought and action seem perfectly integrated because they are not disrupted by documentation, for the need to remember to remember. Here, I would liken it to machine gambling and Pavlovian social-media checking and those sorts of things, where “information overload” actually leads to a desired depersonalization, and escape from responsibility for identity and all the risk management that comes with having a palpable, foregrounded “personal brand.” Frustrating the development of “deep personalization” is exactly the experience we are seeking. Personal depth just compounds the risks of having a self exponentially — there’s so many more things one would have to be strategic about presenting and managing. 

Complicating this interpretation — that we want to use the offloading of memory as a way of shedding the self — is the possibility of being in “flow” precisely by foregrounding acts of documenting, of, say, using a camera phone to frame perceptual experience. In this case, documenting is less about “remembering” experience than engaging in it, of being able to “do something” with reality by capturing it. Taking pictures is arguably not about documentation or memorialization at all but a means to engage with the real as experience is occurring. That is how I understand what Berardi is talking about above when he describes “mental activity compressed into the present.”

The automatic archive, paradoxically, enables YOLO rather than inhibiting it. Yes, everything we do will be archived, and this raises the stakes of our behavior; it can always be used against us or taken out of context to construe our identity in some way we would be displeased with. But to an extent, that happens with or without “evidence” that the archive supplies.

The more direct effect of a having an automatic backup of our lives as they progress is that we can be in theory more fully present in the moment, not as “ourselves” worried about the continuity of our identity, but as a consciousness skating on the surface of sensual experience. As Berardi suggests, “the perception of the historical past and even of existential diachrony tends to disappear.” You get to experience time as limitless space.