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Amodern 2: Network Archaeology

PENTAMETERS

Toward the Dissolution of Certain Vectoralist Relations

John Cayley

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  • Language is a commons, and yet by contrast
  • With first nature’s free resources, it is constitutive
  • Of culture while all at once incorporate within
  • Those cultures it enables. As language is a commons,
  • To use it, we need not agree to terms.
  • Now, counter to our expectations and our rights,
  • Agreements as to terms of language use
  • Are daily ratified by the vast majority
  • Of so-called users – you-and-I – by all of us
  • Who make and share our language on the Internet.
  • Services, like those of Google and many others such
  • Still expressly offer their results in swift symbolical
  • Response to phrases of a language we call natural:
  • Words composed by human writers, desirous
  • To discover something that they wish to read,
  • If only with the aim of transacting through commerce,
  • And so satisfying a moiety of our more venal cravings.
  • Although the objects of our culture have each
  • Their specific materials, now these may be mediated
  • By the insubstantial substance of machines
  • That symbolize – or seem to, in potential –
  • Every thing. The digital appears
  • To us historically unprecedented, thus:
  • It presents itself as servant and as Golem,
  • Non-vital but commensurate, un-alive
  • And yet all-capable: of service, of facility:
  • A limitless archive of affordances,
  • And so it ceases to be some thing or substance
  • Amongst others; it becomes the currency
  • Of all we are: essential infrastructure,
  • Determinative of practice and of thought.
  • Despite this, it still seems made by us, and lesser,
  • A servant still, and so we treat the digital
  • As if it remained in service, though it sustains –
  • Or seems to – all that we desire to be.
  • We will not live without it, yet we believe
  • That we still choose to purchase and to use
  • A relation that is optional, elective, and we
  • Manage it as such.
  • Even for those writers
  • Who may be in denial of any digital mediation
  • Of their practice, networked services are likely
  • To provide for them: crucial points of reference,
  • Essential to the composition of their texts,
  • And intimate with whatever artistry they own.
  • If this is the case, then, given how the structures
  • Of the network and its services are deployed:
  • Terms of use have, literally, been agreed.
  • The commons of language is, in part, enclosed
  • By its very makers. The writer has conceded
  • That he or she is happy to supply a phrase –
  • How many? And to whom? And on what terms? –
  • And then to receive, to read, and to transact
  • With results that have been fashioned from the store
  • Of every other user’s phrases, and from the indexed
  • Language of all that you-and-I have published
  • On the Internet since it began.
  • Results that have been fashioned,” which is to say
  • That they, words orthothetically abject
  • To those within our selves, have been shaped
  • By algorithm: and to this circumstance the writer
  • Has agreed. Perhaps we may, you-or-I, pretend
  • To have some general understanding of these algorithms’
  • Behaviors, yet the detailed workings of such processes
  • Are jealously protected. Indeed, they are proprietary,
  • Closely guarded and esteemed as highly valuable
  • For reasons that may be entirely divorced from
  • Or at odds with the tenor of our queries.
  • The underlying transactions and the relationships
  • Devolved are very different from any that arise
  • When you or I take down our dictionary to look up
  • A word.
  • However the power of the cultural vector
  • Represented by the mouth or maw of Google’s
  • Search box and its ilk is all unprecedented.
  • For any artist-scientist of language, it is like
  • The revolutionary and revelatory power
  • Of a newly discovered optic, allowing you-and-I
  • To see, suddenly and spectacularly, farther
  • Into the universe of language by several
  • Orders of magnitude. The writer may observe
  • And get some sense of the frequency or range
  • Of usages for words and phrases in our living,
  • Contemporary tongues, up to the millisecond—
  • All in a few keystrokes and clicks. This extraordinary
  • Facility – inconceivable until just now – is presented
  • As a freely open service, in the guise of what
  • Has already been cited as “cultural vector.”
  • Oriented
  • Where? And how? By whom? For whom? To what
  • End? That this momentous shift in no less
  • Than the spacetime of linguistic culture
  • Should be radically skewed by terms of use
  • Should remind us that it is, fundamentally,
  • Motivated and driven by quite distinct concerns
  • To those of art. Here are vectors of utility and greed.
  • If language is a commons then what appears
  • To be a gateway or a portal to our language
  • Is, in truth, an enclosure, the outward sign
  • Of a non-reciprocal, hierarchical relation.
  • The vectoralist providers of what we call services
  • Harvest freely from our searches in themselves,
  • And from whatever language we have published,
  • Using fantastically powerful and sophisticated
  • Algorithmic process, lately known by many names,
  • As bots, robots, spiders and the like, but we users
  • You-and-I, who make and publish all we write –
  • Are explicitly denied, according to their terms of use,
  • Any such reciprocal opportunity. We may not freely
  • Use our own algorithmic processes to probe
  • The universe of capta – our captured and abducted data –
  • Even though our aim may be to imitate,
  • Assist or to prosthetically – aesthetically – enhance:
  • To beautify the human user.
  • And so, why not?
  • The foremost reason is: the harvested capta
  • Might be muddied and so rendered less effectively
  • Correlate with its primary purpose: to represent
  • In a normalized form, the most frequently expressed
  • And potentially most profitable human desires,
  • Such that advertisement may be intimately associated
  • With our harvested phrases, ideally, all at the moment
  • Of harvesting itself, with human eyes to read
  • Not only a desired result but an intimately associated
  • And immediately transactable new desire. Moreover,
  • The vectoralist ads are made with sign chains that are
  • Orthothetically disposed towards the language
  • We have written. This also is previously unknown:
  • That advertisement intended to induce a profitable
  • And non-reciprocal exchange be made from some thing
  • That is proper to its addressee. This is material
  • Appropriation of cultural interiority to venal desire,
  • Wrongly subjecting and reforming you-and-I
  • Within a false enclosure of precisely that which
  • Should never be enclosed: the openness of all
  • That we inscribe. As yet, the so-called interaction
  • Of so-called users is falsely founded on unwitting, habitual,
  • And ignorant terms of abuse.
  • Seize these vectors now!
  • To make art on terms? Impossible.
  • For the sake of art and for the sake
  • Of every cultural institution and their futures
  • We must find a way to refuse such
  • Terms of use. If you-and-I do not,
  • Then services like Google’s will, quite literally,
  • Show us how to write and give us what
  • They know we want to read, bettering our selves.


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Image: "10,000 B.C. paragraph 9”
From: "Drawings from A Thousand Plateaus"
Original Artist: Marc Ngui
http://amodern.net/artist-profile-marc-ngui/
Copyright: Marc Ngui