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  • The question concerning the sustaining support of digital objects

Pochmann, Hans-Jörg, 2016, Thesis, The question concerning the sustaining support of digital objects MPhil thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

This is a text printed on paper. I have written it using a computer.You might read this text in re-digitalized form, as a PDF file. In this case, you see it as the image of the document it became; it exists as a picture of itself. The pages in a PDF-file are not tangible (Gittelman, Paper Knowledge 114ff). However, if you are indeed reading this text in digital form, there will have to be some tangible thing making you see the image of this document. Some thing is functioning as an interface right now. Although I do not know exactly what this thing is, I know for certain that there is something here, slipping
your mind as you read this text. This knowledge and this slipping away is what this thesis is about. This thesis aims to question the sustaining support of digital objects.
I try to challenge the habitualization towards digital devices, the forgetting of the physical interface that leads to the supposition of digital immateriality, by making the com-
puter apparent as an absurd thing that escapes language. Leaning on Heidegger’s »Question Concerning Technology« and Mel Bochner’s mural stating that »No Thought Exists Without a Sustaining Support«, I seek to position myself among these strange and aloof digital things and their effects. I attempt to encircle the ungraspable realm of the computer’s black box by explicating its formal material (Kirschenbaum), which results from the fundamentally irresolvable tension between the metaphysical idea of the Turing machine and the worldly stuff that embodies and performs it.
First, I approach this stuff through language. I introduce three metaphors to compare the computer to other worldly things: ruins (considering the existence of the machine, its resting body, and the expectations and promises it entails), vessels (thinking about its function), and windows (reflecting the notion of digital transparency and contingency). Then, I verbally enter the computer, contemplating how its mechanism depends on an act of inscription, a physical in-formation of material, and how its effects can therefore also be understood as writing, as embodied information.
However as computing has become ubiquitous, seamless and powerful enough to super- sede the speed of thinking (Kittler S), it has become increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to phenomenologically grasp any friction resulting from this embodiment in the workings of the machines as they operate. In my practice, I physically grapple with this highly evasive body of digital media. Building on the metaphors and terminology I establish, and looking for comparisons between Bochner’s post-conceptual sensibility and post-digital ideas, I aim to evoke the things on which I rely but that lie outside of language: I attempt
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with a knowing futility to (re-)insert myself in the processes of digital translation. I slow the effects of the computer down, I empty out its already silent interfaces, aiming to re-present it. I constellate and associate pieces of work, suggesting a grammar rather than a narrative, in order to listen to the »language of things« (Benjamin).

Qualification Name: MPhil
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design studies > W280 Interactive and Electronic Design
School or Centre: School of Fine Art
Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2016 14:48
Last Modified: 29 Jun 2016 14:48
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/1810

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