Paul D. Miller on Wed, 8 Mar 2000 17:13:04 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> TEXTUAL COMMINGLING

>I try to get my machines to process natural languages.
>I talk to my machines and show them my body.  My mother tongue is English.
>My body is, well, my body.
>The things I write or the images and sounds I put together are
>less-natural than my voice and body by degrees.  The languages I construct
>at arms length are secondary and artificial and they form and reform the
>immediate environment I live and work in.  These secondary, artificial
>languages extend my physical presence and shift or tilt the quality or
>meaning of my voice and the way I appear--my appearance in language.
>Sometimes I launch my artificial languages to gain range, to cut across
>time, to establish territory, to integrate my thinking with the
>environment in the broadest sense.  As I speak through a microphone into
>my computer, my words appear on the screen.  I've spoken 'through text'
>with others presumably still making their text with a keyboard.  We could
>talk on the phone, but we prefer meet more concretely, somewhere else, at
>a distance, in writing.  It's the distance we find so attractive.  The
>intimate distance.  As readers we can zoom in for a breathtaking close-up,
>or we can stay back, removed.  We can scan, or we can embody.  In pools
>and rivers or in an ocean of text, we commingle at a distance, sometimes
>intimately.  Textual commingling...
>I always like to say that written language is the first digital language.
>I have trouble defending this argument, because alphanumeric text is more
>complex and unruly than binary code, but it is also unnaturally concrete
>and explicit, not unlike 1's and 0's, and as a code it can be reproduced
>with absolute accuracy, repeatedly without distortion or degradation.
>This is why people always ask for things in writing (contracts, slanderous
>rumours, resignations, love letters...), and this is why it is often so
>embarrassing to have a written statement reappear after many years--things
>people have written come back to haunt them in absolute alphanumeric
>fidelity.  The written text was the first digital language...
>[Someone asked me if I thought there was so much written text on the
>internet and web because it was a digital language.  That's probably one
>of the reasons, but it's more likely the case because of writing's amazing
>functionally across channels of limited bandwidth.  We are at the
>telegraph stage of network telecommunications.  When increased bandwidth
>permits bodies to press up against both sides of the screen in real time,
>wrapped in the surround-sound universe of breathing so intimate it must be
>miked inside the lungs, then video will be the digital language of
>I know this 'written language is digital' angle is vulnerable.  When the
>characters of this text are printed or etched or beamed into the domain of
>the visible, they become an analog image, a picture of the only nearly
>digital alphanumeric code.  In other words, if a written text printed on
>paper is photocopied multiple times it will eventually become distorted
>and unreadable, proving that the image of written text is an analog form.
>And I can hardly read this text on my screen as I speak it because my
>monitor is old and fuzzy and my reading glasses are filthy.  I'm simply
>not a digital animal.  My written language is closer to being digital than
>my body or voice will ever be.  It carries me into the digital world.
>I write and make images and sounds because it helps me bridge the gap
>between natural and artificial languages, between my body and everything
>else.  When I was younger I didn't have such a problem with dislocation
>and disintegration.  There wasn't such a clear separation between natural
>and artificial languages, the analog and digital, my body and voice and
>everything else.
>A little boy knocked me out the other day.  He was four years old and very
>bright and he wanted me to see how he could write his numbers.  He brought
>me a few pieces of paper and a crayon and he put one hand palm down,
>fingers spread out on the surface of the paper and preceded to trace his
>index finger with the red crayon, saying "one."  Then he took another
>piece of paper and traced the outline of two fingers and said "two."  He
>traced the pictures of the numbers "three" and "four"...  He didn't look
>up to see how impressed I was until he had traced the 'number' five, the
>full digital complement of his whole tiny little hand.  His way of saying
>written language is digital was better than mine.
>Tom Sherman
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Paul D. Miller a.k.a. Dj Spooky that Subliminal Kid

Editor At Large "Artbyte: The Magazine of Digital Arts"
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