(un)common ground

a commonplace book

On the Loss of Mediating Technologies

When objects become disassociated from their attending technologies, we lose entire worlds.

Erik Rangno, “The Paradox of Time Capsules,” Object Lessons (The Atlantic), August 17, 2015

This in discussing the paradoxical process of deciding what gets put in time capsules, particularly items that require technology to be read/viewed (the article talks about microfilm canisters and film).

I want to say that this inevitable destruction of the lens (i.e., mediating technology like a film projector) seems to have an inverse relationship to time in terms of what we could describe as a “need” for preservation. For instance, on one end of technological time we have a scroll with an illustration and some written text; on the opposite side, we have perhaps digital content extending ad infinitum toward less and less tangible media. The urge to preserve the former, analog artifact requires mere physical preservation, since the lens in this case is human observation. But the urge to preserve the latter artifact requires more mediating technology (if only by one step) in order, like the microfilm, to simply view it.

But maybe this line of reasoning doesn’t take into account the always mediated communication of even the former technology, which would still need contextual explanation or even translation to be properly interpreted (but then, these could also be required for the latter…reductio ad infinitum).

The key here is the recognition of objects and association. This quote deserves a Wittgensteinian analysis for reals.


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This entry was posted on August 31, 2015 by and tagged , .
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