Monthly Archives: March 2009

Glitches, Mutations and the Recombinant Self

“Just as the exponential prolifreation of mechanical and electric inventions is predicated on the development of certain few fundemental technologies, the elaboration of a toolkit of parts which might then be recombined ad infinitum, so is the mass importing and uploading of data onto the intertubes the preliminary step towards future recombinative capacities we can only begin to imagine at this point.” 

Jonathan’s post on sampling and the new forms of expression it enables immediately brought to mind another music video – Chairlift’s ‘evident utensil’. In this case though, the act of sampling is more intrinsic and self-referential, denoted by a glitched and pixelated lag-time between established frames; instead of being constructed from external aggregations, the work, in a sense, generates elements of itself through sampling its past incarnations.


Internets, What will become of you?

Perhaps it was merely the coincidence of my receiving this link right as I was attempting to chug the rich phillosophical soup of Me++, but this music/video, aside from being the best thing I’ve ever seen on the internet (I’m really into sampling), I thought was a beautiful instantiation of the consequences of total networking and the pseudo-eternal retention of past virtual selves we’ve been discussing in seminar. Just as the exponential prolifreation of mechanical and electric inventions is predicated on the development of certain few fundemental technologies, the elaboration of a toolkit of parts which might then be recombined ad infinitum, so is the mass importing and uploading of data onto the intertubes the preliminary step towards future recombinative capacities we can only begin to imagine at this point. What the artist, Kutiman, is doing here is the logical extension of Grandmaster Flash’s hiphop methodology, but something about his sensitivity to video and the lives he is remixing makes this, in my eyes, something wholly new. 

I guess I can’t embed this so the link is here then:

critical response one

Sorry for the delay all. I promise I really was going to just post this onto the blog but then got frustrated by the limitations, both of the blog itself and my own knowledge of how to use it. Suffice it to say that I’m stuck in the middle ages and have a tough time with technology, which makes my decision to put my critical response on a website of my own design a questionable one, haha, but there you go, it happened, I did it, and I hope you don’t mind.

The human body. In common discourse the body has become many things, the self-centredness on our parts forgiveable on the account that most of our assumptions are true – if only because as creators of our social universe we have used the familiar as our muse, the most familiar being ourselves: the body as the city, or the body as machine.

Body as City The city, with its infinite streets and pathways, a veritable circulatory system of interdependent organs leading to and from an inevitable centre. Certain cities are cultural “hearts” while others are relegated to bureaucratic “brains”. Money is the new lifeblood of a city where all avenues are directed at earning, accruing, spending, and stealing such an indispensable commodity. Some parts become disenfranchised at the notice of some greater need: hunger, thirst, pain, a slight tingling in the tips of the fingers – all are signs of a systems alert according to a more immediate threat. Ghettos, slums, favelas, gecekondus are the appendages most likely to lose feeling in times of crisis – resources and warmth make the mad rush to the brain and core, the rich neighbourhoods representing valuable real estate in the city’s functioning.

Body as Machine The modernist era brought with it a vogue of referring to everything as “a machine”: government is “a machine”, music is “a machine”, the city is “a machine”, the body is… “a machine”. The implications of this statement go beyond this space but suffice it to say that yes, a human being is “an apparatus consisting of interrelated parts with separate functions, used in the performance of some kind of work.” The heart is a machine that enables us to feel love, the brain is a machine the enables us to learn, our nerve endings are machines that enable us to distinguish the difference between a flame and a caress. Cyborgs and clones are a future already arrived, with as yet no accompanying Voigt-Kampff machines to guide us. McLuhan would agree with the premise that we create as an extension of ourselves: car as wheel as leg, camera as sight as eye. We fragment ourselves, magnify the pieces and succumb to the artificial.

Common themes keep cropping up in  our texts as well as the literature: the body in relation to the artificial, fragmentation, control, public/private inside/outside juxtapositions, boundaries and liminality. How do we breach the walls that we carry around with us all the time? An appropriate comparison encompassing many of these themes is the body as a structure whose boundaries at once protect us and drive us to alienation from our counterparts: the body as built environment.

Manhunt, Shadowrun, and “They’re made out of meat”

The first game of manhunt in the newyear will be tomorrow (Wednesday) after class at 6:30. If you want to play, try and make it down to the front of Burrard Skytrain Station at 6:10.

Also, I wanted to bring up the classic 1993 Super-nintendo game “Shadowrun” as its gameplay is very similar to Neuromancer. In the game you play as Jake Armitage, a mecernary who uses a Cyberdeck to hack into the matrices of corporations. You can hire other shadowrunners or henchmen to back you up as explore a decrepit Seattle filled with armed cyberpunk gangs. Similar to the  “Necromancer” in Neuromancer, Shadowrun is filled with mystical/magical elements as the plot details a future where magic has returned to the world, and the opening scene in the game is your character being assasinated in the street then revieved from the dead by a shapeshifting lupine figure. Anyway, now that I think about it, I can’t believe I spent a portion of my childhood playing this wacked out game! Its seriously awesome…

Oh, and heres that youtube video “They’re made out of meat” (an adapatation of the Terry Bisson shortstory)  that was brought up when we were discussing the notion of post-humanism and the name “Case” in Neuromancer.

YouTube Preview Image

Blade Runner: The City as Replicant

The city in Blade Runner is, like most cities representing the future, synthetic.  However, it is unlike most other cities in futuristic works, in that the city grew organically: it developed through time and the evolution of human desire, as opposed to being designed for a specific purpose, as in, for example, Zamyatin’s We.  In We, the city is perfectly contained, and everything inside is transparent; the city in Blade Runner seems to never end, and everything inside is veiled.

The aesthetic of the city is a decaying synthesis of various human cultures and empires. Nothing is authentic, and nothing is truly new or unique to the time and place.  The Los Angeles of Blade Runner is a disorganised conglomeration of other cities.  Even the  government building is a replication of Aztec pyramids.   The inauthenticity is unlike that of Las Vegas however, in that Las Vegas is a contained spectacle, like giant mini golf: cultures are separated and assigned their own space, thus retaining some of their cultural significance.  In Las Vegas, a Roman structure is surrounded by other Roman items;  however, in the Los Angeles of Blade Runner, landmarks and symbols are clumped together,  losing cultural significance and place in collective cultural memory.

In Blade Runner, the city is a replicant. The basic idea of the replicant is that they are not originals; each model is infinitely duplicable.

In the end, humanity does not survive in human development, but in the replicants: the rebel replicants however, strive to break out of their bondage to attain freedom and individuality, a fundamentally human urge. It is thus clear that, through memory, desire for freedom, and interaction with the world, the rebel replicants are able to achieve individuality and human understanding.  Like children, they are pure and new and are able to take note of events that humans would ignore.  Further, as they were designed for dangerous and undesired work in which humans would not take part, they are able to witness the horrendous details of humanity that is hidden to everyday humans.  As Roy’s dying words suggest: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe…all those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain.”

The rebel replicants are able to achieve the basic ideal of humanity, whilst human development, as represented in the city, becomes a synthesis of kitsch aesthetic and surface satisfaction.  The recreations of historically significant landmarks also suggests a lack of creativity in humans, having thus forgotten how to derive meaning from their own experiences, a skill that is clearly developed by replicants, such as Roy and Rachael.