Amphibian Digitism

Salamander
Amphibian Digitism (Click pic to enlarge)

the object has a similar interiority and a different physicality, and this I call animism….

the object is devoid of interiority but possesses a similar kind of physicality, and this I call naturalism.

Phillipe Descola – Beyond Nature and Culture

If I describe my first shamanic journey on my own behalf, not Coleen’s journeying for me, mediating an entourage of power animals and beings, not her extractions of misplaced energies, not her soul retrieval journeys, but my own journey, not with the powerful bear, or the gregarious wolf or the insightful owl, but with beings I won’t name and with salamander then there’s only this:

Salamander vibrates between animism and naturalism and so even before the Manhattan Project, before digital computers, salamander was and is digital.

Salamander collapses subject and object, figure and ground, living not just in the ground and the water but of ground and water like pouring water into water.

The object has a similar interiority and a similar physicality and this I call digitism.

Digitism Part 4 (Awareness: Contingent and Ideal)

The next dimension of my map of Digitism I want to consider is Awareness.

When I was in college I went  with my roommate to his home in Queens, NYC.  Growing up in the wilds of Upstate NY, I had not knowingly known any Jewish people.  I had never eaten a bagel.  Certainly I knew Jews existed, and their history of diaspora and persecution.

My roommate was Jewish, as were several of my college friends.  I was puzzled at first that foods they considered Jewish, I considered Polish.

My roommate’s parents were survivors of Auschwitz.  Upon release from there, my roommate’s father vowed to enjoy the rest of his life as much as he could.  Part of this was that he ate steak either with or for dinner every day.

So when I sat down with them for dinner, we might have gwumpki with various side dishes.  My roommate’s father ate stuffed cabbage, but had his steak as well.

One afternoon my roommate and I were in the living room listening to The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour.  After a minute or so of Strawberry Fields, my roommate’s mother burst into the living room from the kitchen.

Let me take you down, cos I’m going to Strawberry Fields
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about
Strawberry Fields forever

“What are they saying about Israel?!” She asked, clearly upset.

“No no no” my roommate said, “They’re not saying anything about Israel.  They’re saying “Nothing is real.”

“Well OK then – that’s fine.”

Digitism Part 3 (Composition: Analog and Digital)

Mapping an object with precision, requires eventually, an infinite modeling of the object that is indistinguishable from the basis of designation “object” or an abstraction traveling at the speed of light stopping time. The Borges short story, (although it represents itself as non-fiction) On Exactitude in Science, seems to me the analog pole of this.  I have written before.about Haraway’s phrase “copies without originals” which points to the digital pole.

So why distinguish the analog from the digital?  They both are composed of energy and matter. They can both be thought of as encoding and decoding information.  In a Borgesian universe, anything possible digitally is possible in analog form.

While any one digital thing, and even several, or many digital things are possible in analog form, the digital world we have today is not.  More precisely, and as Haraway points out, it is micro-electronics that make the digital world possible.  Compared to the analog, the micro-electronics/digital enables orders of magnitude more information malleable.

Focus on personal digital communication devices as a mark of the digital is common, but these devices and their functons are only the most visible pixel of the digitized world.  What this focus represents though is an aggregation of de-analogized information into an individual’s experience of interiority.  But this aggregation creates for many an experience of discomfort, of the uncanny.

I think this is why many experience digitized experience as less real than analog experience.  “Less real” is an attempt at naming the feeling of uncanniness the digital can evoke.