So, where do all those copies of us go? All those pixels that have been stored away on servers, hard drives, thumb drives; what happens to them? And what happens to us as we are copied from one institution to another, from one server to another, passing through fire-walls, through encryption software portals, virus scans, multi-platformed digital ecosystems and varying versions of operating systems? And more importantly, what do we become? Have we now been altered as we inhabit multiple dimensions, those of the virtual and the real. Have we now become slightly warped, diluted, a bit weary from all that digital parsing? All those machine translations, ‘lexical analysis’ and ‘left recursive production tools’; converted from a C++ complier to HTML, from Python to Bison or Lemon to Parboiled? From input data and source trees to output; from being interpreted and analyzed to being just a token along the way? What have we become? Are things really that complicated? All I was doing was walking into the supermarket.
According to Judith Donath, “we need public spaces, where we can encounter the new and unexpected,” she goes on to say that we also “need private space, free from the constraining norms of the greater world.” But who controls that world and at what cost? And who controls all the data that shapes our ‘norms’? Who controls all this knowledge? There is no doubt that we are living in the information age where knowledge is the commodity of our new economies. A knowledge economy which is embedded with data, statistics, bytes, pixels and layers of information. And the currency of these new economies resides with those who posses it, collect it and then re-sell it. If images are merely representations of reality disguised as code, data and pixels, then surely images are embedded with currency as well. And if we keep following this line of questioning then all those images of us, all those archived multiplicities are currency too, which means that we must also have a certain amount of currency too.
Every time we cross the street, go to the shop, walk the dog or even a day at the park our daily lives implicates us as ‘unsuspecting labourers’ to the information society, workers who don’t ‘work’. We have become children of the ‘digital revolution’ building financial empires for free. And this new form of labour that we are engaged with is not just confined to our urban environments. The information age has fully embraced the world of micro-miniaturization and has fully capitalized on its ability to bring universal knowledge to every device, TV, phone, watch, fridge, car, house that we consume.
Knowledge was once free. It was deeply rooted to instinct and wisdom. It possessed a mystical and practical value. It was essential to our existence, an exchange laden with insights and vital clues; how to read the clouds, to sense the rain, count the tides or knowing which berry to eat. It was a gift which was passed-on from generation to generation. But today knowledge is controlled and manipulated by power hungry suits; packaged, designed and rolled-out by start-up companies, international conglomerates; dressed up as entertainment and pop-stars who talk nonsense. It is a virtual social icon, a friend you have never met, an image that is not an image, a glimmering pixel waiting for us to activate it, to bring it to life.
But, according to some, what we can’t see will never harm us… or something like that.
[image] The internet map. "The Internet global network is a phenomenon of technological civilization, and its exceptional complexity surpasses anything mankind has ever created. In essence, what we are dealing with here is a huge quantity of utterly unstructured information. The Internet map is an attempt to look into the hidden structure of the network, fathom its colossal scale, and examine that which is impossible to understand from the bare figures of statistics." Retrieved from http://internet-map.net/