[How] Can cartographies of ephemeral data critically investigate the materiality of networked media [interfaces]?
In contrast to Jonathan Kemp’s Crystal World Project / Thesis, my research is aimed at investigating the materiality of networked media in its recursion, i.e. when (consumer) behavior is, in a Rancierian manner, conditioned or at the very least influenced by the ‘distribution of the sensible’ (i.e. Facebook’s Newsfeed/Timeline, Twitter’s Feed and other networked media interfaces etc.) to return to the material conditions (of f.e. mineral sourcing for producing computer components and geopolitics of late capitalism) that perpetuate this system.
My research strives to be dialectic in its understanding of this materiality, neither to assign a ‘fault’ to the networks themselves nor to the consumers of them. Instead, I intend to investigate what I believe to be limiting communicational methods and misleading assumptions of the binary logic of relevance/irrelevance that operate in these networks.
“If people could forget according to the command of a king, there would be no more plots, misunderstandings or disasters, and everyone would live happily and unhistorically ever after.”
- Aleida Assmann
We don’t forget in third digital decade, we throw into oblivion. The fetishization of the possibility of future memories, a promise of nostalgia, leaves us bereft of actual nostalgic experience; while the panopticon of social media infuses our cognition with evaluative conditions. The ›malign velocities‹ (Noys 2014) of capitalism hand us the power to live unhistorically—and we choose it every day, presumed as voluntary. As the vague concept of ›big data‹ seems to grow more and more, in size as well as transcendence, the physicality of the cables beneath the worlds’ oceans, the databanks in corporate headquarters and the very material effects of ›emotional contagion‹ and ›identity conditioning‹ slips out of mind, further obscured by the aesthetization of the ›data sublime‹ (Stallabrass 2007).
Contemporary memory studies speak of the transversal forgetting (Marton 2010) affecting digital culture artefacts, observing that alongside any such artefacts its constituting needs to be able to be emulated,regenerated, displayed and contextualized in order to be preserved by present and future memory institutions. But beyond the binary data at every stage of this process, what could remain of the contemporary concepts of virtual subjectivity, heavily constrained as it is under the auspices of ›cognitive capitalism‹ (Boutang 2008)? How to reconstitute these processes, how to tear them out of the awe of big data that leads, however subversively, to complacency?
This research argues for another unit of analysis for digital culture artefacts, starting from the supposition that the constituting functions of virtual subjectivity, the algorithmic sediment, themselves will lose their function. Accordingly, if any emulation fails, the functions themselves might necessitate a rendering that would indicate what the constituted object was supposed to be. Thus, how can an artefactual aesthetic critically challenge contemporary concepts of virtual subjectivity?
The hidden tragedy in the most emancipatory potentials of social media—its possible detachment from any restrictive value-systems—is that as soon as an experience is committed within this structure, a Hyperdarwinian selection process has taken place: the submitted manifestation of the experience (post/tweet/status) is not just an optimal choice* of a memory informed by a given subjective perception, but a calibrated one in the precognition of the evaluative selection performed in the structure itself both by algorithms and other users.
*This first selection is generally not thought to take place in subjective memory recollection, where such a process might result in anything but an optimal choice.
‘Unhistorically ever after’
How can an aesthetic of forgetting provide a critical challenge to capitalist concepts of virtual subjectivity?
Given contemporary social media’s institutionalisation of memory following economic interest, can an aesthetic of forgetting provide a critical challenge to the resulting reactionary concepts of virtual subjectivity?