Thursday, June 5, 2008
While listening to Ihab Hassan
Against the hypothesis of inner life, which is the epiphenomenon of signal processing: my inner life is no more relevant to my life as a medium than is the inner life of a TV set. We are more complex than TV sets only to the extent that what we process becomes part of our circuitry. This is also why we delay processing inputs, with outputs sometimes only emerging after decades of processing. In an increasingly ephemeral mediascape, however, where reflection (processing) is instantaneous and affective rather than pondered and intellectual, we are less translators who mutate our inputs, and more like the telegraphic signal repeaters with which young Tom Edison started his inventor's career: booster stations who merely amplify signals, as when we forward an e-mail we have scarcely glanced at. Under such conditions we are more transmitters than translators. The difference between these positions concerns the greater or lesser possibility for misunderstanding, the misunderstanding on which evolution is based, the misunderstanding in which a phrase, an image, an idea mutate into something other than what they were when they arrived.