media death by alex

I’m thinking about why so many forms of media die.  Is it that their efficiency can no longer compete with a faster, more ‘user friendly’ (portable, easy to learn how to use), or ‘cooler’ device? This seems to be the case with the typewriter, the pager, the land line, atari, the vinyl record, a walkman, using real film.

What strikes me about this list is the number of artists (visual artists and musicians primarily) I know who enjoy using these discarded forms of media devices.  I wonder why this is so? It can’t only be that tape recorders are easy to find and inexpensive to buy used, for example.  There is a quality to these devices’ look or sound that is unique both in the experience of using and in the resulting product. This quality suggests a comparative difference between using what is the most up to date media form or not – therefore an appeal or draw toward keeping these forms of media alive.   Another factor to consider is nostalgia and familiarity.  I find many people, like myself, are simply attached to the devices that work for us..and perhaps are resistant to such fast change, but why?  Perhaps I, and other artists I know, are using these devices which, in Paz’s words, ” ..exhibit signs of decay, and therefore mirror our own lives and the passage of time.”

The loved the discussion of the quipu in the Sterling chapter.  Sterling mentions that “the Incas had no idea that the planet harbored any other civilization other than their own.  As far as they were concerned, these quipus were the absolute apex of human intellectual accomplishment.”  I can only relate this to a modern day world view of existence in the universe and our technologies.  It makes me laugh how history repeats itself.

I think the notion of “surviving whole generations of media” is a little bit scary and depressing, though very interesting and promising at the same time.  It suggests such amazing, futuristic potential, but also suggests a discarding of media/technology for which people are moving too swiftly to care for.  It demonstrates a velocity within which society is at a state of inertia. I just wonder what would happen in regard to the most current media forms if  ‘slamming on the breaks’ were to occur. By using discarded forms of media, I think artists are gently tapping the breaks to explore this notion.

After reading Tufte’s chapter, to better understand Sterling’s ideas in the scope of history, I want a diagram that illustrates the rise of technology and the human response to each item, starting from the beginning of time. Wouldn’t that be great? Wouldn’t it be huge? I think I’d need some serious technology for that.



2 responses to “media death by alex

  1. It WOULD be great! Let’s make a diagram! (when we have that thing called “free time”… and non-dead {undead?} technology…)

  2. Media seems to need to be around for a while before artists pick it up and really explore how they can be creative with it. The newest media seem to first be developed by inventors before its agreed upon by scientists and businesses that it’s valid then there’s a 2-3 versions of the media (Blue-ray vs. HD-DVD) that struggle for wide adoption and ultimately becomes the “winning” media. Then the media goes through phases of use; first used by the porn industry, then by cinema and publishers, and finally by the public/businesses. Artists join in at any point but as time passes, the artistic uses of the media seem to become more and more creative.

    Jess, I like your idea of zombie media!

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