Aphoristic Essay on Analog and Digital Orders

Any element of the analogic real is interconnected and inseparable. The transformation of any element alters any other element. Truth values are inherent. The application of truth values is digital. The analogic is a membrane. The analogic is dirty, inseparable, unbreakable.

{ The analogic is the dirty little secret of the digital. The analog is abject, tawdry, sleazy, as-if and nothing more. The fissured body is a wound sutured in silence or resulting in death. The digital is an application upon the body of the analogic. The digital functions as a gate against the analogic. The digital is the enclave of the rich; the finer the raster, the richer the enclave. }

The dirty analogic problematizes its symbolic. The clean digital is already symbolic.

{ A symbol within the analogic is trouble already. Some piece of something stands for some piece of something. The digital is a standing-for, a standing-in; this is one of the difficulties of the digital - for standing implies a kind of truth, and standing is a function, open to manipulation. Change something in the analogic symbolic, and you change the real. Change something in the digital, and who knows? }

The digital object is analogic.

{ At its foundation, the digital object is an object like any other; a cd is a manufactured disk. This ontology is independent of raster, protocol, and so forth as ideality. Think of it as base and superstructure: the base is there, an increasingly wounded planet; the superstructure is whatever the airwaves/fiberoptic supports. Thus the emic of the digital is ontologically distinct from the emic of the analogic, but the etic of the digital is within the emic of the analogic. }

The analogic representation is digital.

{ At its foundation, the analogic representation is like any other; a symbol is a symbol and all representations might as well be analogic. This epistemology is dependent upon structure, perhaps raster as well. Think of it as base and superstructure: the base is there, an increasingly wounded planet; the superstructure is whatever the airwaves/fiber-optic supports. }

Ghosts are embedded within the analogic. Ghosts are excluded from the digital. Ghosts haunt the digital from without.

{ A ghost problematizes the real. A ghost never disappears, never appears - it is something else, somewhere else, a disturbance, uncanny, mesmeric. Of course the dead are ghosts. The digital sifts them out - rather, the digital excludes them from the sifting-process altogether. But the ghosts are there, on the periphery, as if embedded in the parasitic noise of the wires, spherics of very low frequency radio. And they're sensed, waiting for Bell's theorem to materialize. }

Absence or exclusion from the digital is equivalent to non-existence from the viewpoint of the digital. Ghosts are existence and existents within the analogic.

{ Political enumeration creates new 'realities' out of death camps, death squads, killing fields, concentration camps, refugee camps. What is excluded from the digital is excluded from the symbolic: it never existed. What ever existed can never take the form of ghosts. There are no ghost-traps for chimera. }

The digital envelops the act of differentiation; the analog envelops integration. The analog smoothes what the digital disrupts.

{ Ah, perhaps the heart of things. The digital is the process and result of taking-apart; the analog is inert. In relation: The jump-cut or distinction of the digital is transformed into the continuity of bodies and consciousness in the analog; difference is subsumed. Perhaps difference is repressed; perhaps the dead of the camp are buried, the graves are smoothed over, they were never there, no one ever died. Whatever distinctions are made within the digital, whatever rasters, protocols, divisions, clean and proper bodies, conjurations - these disappear in time; the things of the digital wear out. What remains is a memory of ideality and the ideality of memory; the mercury delay lines, ten-inch floppies, long-playing records, vhs cassettes, no longer play - no longer play anywhere. Analog and digital succumb within the silence of the analog. I can hardly remember who died; did someone die? }

The digital requires a place to stand. The digital requires an origin. The analog of Cartesian coordinates is countermanded by the discrete and arbitrary location of the origin.

{ The Origin of Cartesian coordinates is the last refuge of the ego (I think it was Weyl who pointed this out). This place to standing, this standing-place, is the origin of the digital as well; it is the place from which raster and parameter are counted. The digital image is tabulated, line and row. But the digital is also manufactured, produced; even the collapse of the wave function is a production. And such production requires an origin as well; the digital does not come from nowhere; it is in the hands, the grasp, of political economy, of capital. }

The digital draws a distinction; the analog erases it.

{ To draw a distinction is to divide, to construct the symbolic. The wearing-down of the distinction 'makes it dirty,.' The pun is analog, dirty; the pun leaps from meaning to meaning, conflating, confusing inscriptions. Nothing is safe from the pun. }

To draw a distinction is the construct a potential well, within which the distinction functions, in spite of the corrosion of the world.

{ The world leaps at the digital, attacks it from all sides. The potential well is a construct, protecting the encoding, decoding, data-banks and their maintenance. The potential well is well above the physical tolerance of the embedding of the code; it's an enclave, shored by capital; for all intents and purposes - for all purposes - it's designed to exist forever, just as the ideality of the digital is eternal. }

To erase a distinction is to corrode it, to sublimate it to the analogic real, the plasmatic world.

{ A distinction is timeless; the analog brings it time as a gift, the body suffers, is lost, sintered, disappears. The plasmatic world is shit, neither one thing nor another, neither within nor without, neither body nor environment, neither emic nor etic. Nothing can survive this; there is nothing to survive. }

The plasmatic world is the heated world in which distinctions last less time than the processes required to convey information. The plasmatic world, a theoretical construct, is necessarily inoperable. The world of the landscape - without a preferred viewpoint - is such a world.

{ The plasmatic world: the world of plasma. Think of this as inconceivable, thoughtless. If the digital is forever, the analogic is of the moment. The infinitely fine raster transforms the digital into time and its passage. If the map is the territory, both corrode, and, to be noted, both are useless. }

The cold-world is the world of the permanence and transformations of distinctions. The cold-world is a world of potential wells, in which signs convey, remain - in which structures remain intact, in which semantic content flows through structures.

{ The cold-world: The eternal physical world, the no-process world, no-dream world, no-thought world. When everything remains intact, observers disappear; there's nothing to see, no one or thing to see. }

The digital quantifies the analog.

{ Well, yes, the digital quantifies any thing, anything, any ontology, transforming and embedded within epistemologies. Drawing a distinction, making a difference: natural numbers, ordinals, integers, we can count on them. }

The digital carries a price-tag.

{ The digital is carried by fiscal/political economy. The digital is a wager; the digital means business. }

Coding, by its very nature, is digital, that is to say, discrete.

{ I'd think that fuzzy coding may be discretely mapped. Discrete in both senses of the word: independence of units, codons, but also discrete in the sense of well-behaved; etiquette and coding are inseparable. Coding is always well-bred. }

Never, 'above,' as 'below,' but 'as above,' apparent 'as below.' Metaphor and metonymy are always already tropes, within the digital.

{ Parts for wholes, parts sliding against parts, parts standing-in for parts; within the analogic, parts are holes, sintered, untethered, violate. }

The signifier does not reference the signified; it creates it from the analogic. The creation of a signifier re-inscribes the signified elsewhere; as in Saussure's example, the signifier never operates 'within' the real, but within a chain of signifiers, a hermeneutics on the plane of the Other, which inauthentically appears to create the 'Originary' plane, i.e. Creation.

{ Back and forth; the signified is a creation, the world transformed into economy, the world economically transformed. Once the plane takes off, the landing-field is inscribed; a plane crash tears an economy apart. }

To create by speech ('and the Lord said') is always already to embody the creation as inscription. Inscription separates the inscribed and thereby created entity from its complement, the inscribed world external to the inscribed and created entity.

{ The entity was always there, unmarked, unremarked, unnoticed. Now the entity comes to the foreground, is foregrounded, becomes entity. Speech creates nothing; the performative is dependent (as everything else within inscription, as we have seen) upon economy; if saying 'I now pronounce you man and wife' does anything, it's the result of the skein of laws and practices already set down. The pronouncing is not performative; the system performs, and the system has an economic base, a base within the real. This is not marxism or sociology; this is culture all the way down. Take away the skein, and one is left with sounds, nonsense, uninterpretable, somewhere the memory of language. }

A system of inscriptions appears coherent and closed.

{ Sememes function as if closed; in reality, they are piecemeal, broken.  The symbolic is deeply incoherent; the analogic is deeply coherent, 'of a piece.' Think of a game of culture, increasingly territorializing its inscriptions and the real; culture is a continuous negotiation with, and forestalling of, the abject. Better wear a raincoat; water rises, the landscape is devoured. }

Somewhere von Foerster characterizes organism by negation. Negation is the first speech act. Negation is the primary speech act, 'not this, not that' - 'avoid that - that is dangerous' - 'do not go there.'

{ To negate negation is almost never to return to the original; it is to continue elsewhere. There are negation-chains, disturbances of the real, phobias. Binary systems begin with a distinction, separation; binary systems begin closed, those two over there, doing nothing. Something from the outside, something parasitic, begins to make a difference, another, an other, difference. Something starts. Something starts something. }

To negate is to inscribe. To negate is to create. The creation of an entity is always a carving-away. The creation of an entity implies a reduction relative to that entity.

{ Any creating requires energy; any creation requires maintenance. Artifacture bridges analog and digital, maintained from without, worn from within, medicated from without, exhausted from within. }

The digital is the carving-away of what is deemed extraneous. The digital saws into the extraneous, which is its residue.

{ The residue of the digital is of no consequence, trash, garbage, abject. The residue of the digital is forgotten, lost, unnumbered, unaccounted-for and uncounted. }

The residue is the residue of the analog; the residue is parasitic, noise.

{ The residue slough, slushes, spews; the residue is parasitic upon the source and encoding of its expulsion. Limit the noise, listen and there's always noise. Noise isn't white, pink, brown; residue noise is colorless, without attribute or attribution. }

The digital is noiseless, absolute silence.

{ Whatever the digital does, it participates in 'the fragility of the good,' while the 'bad' occupies whole bandwidths, worlds. The good is the thinnest conceivable slice; it's almost not there, it disappears. Outside the digital, the digital is inaudible; there's nothing outside the code, not even silence. }

The analog is absolute noise.

{ Yes, what it is, unfathomable, just there. And what's there is unabsorbed, and it takes x-amount to absorb, classify, divide, construct. If the digital tends towards the immanent, the analog tends toward the imminent. As if noise had anything to do with time whatsoever. As if there were beginnings and endings. }

The circle of signifiers washes against mental impressions. The image of something is always already a construct (Sartre, rule-bound, but the image of the image is analogic.

{ Think of the image of the image as no image at all, some sort of escape from the ox-herding pictures. Impressions are what remains when all these sorts of categories disappear. A kind of blind momentum. }

If something is an analog of something else, both suffer from similar noise. Both suffer from similarity.

{ To say something is an analog is to use 'analog' in a different sense, the sense of analogy. Once similarity, once similar noise, is perceived, isn't it all over with the establishment of equivalence classes? Here a dog, there a dog. Already something discrete seems to be emerging, over here, over there. }

If something is a representation of something else, both draw structures from each other.

{ Representation is mutual-mediation; signifier and signified are both signifiers, both signified. This is a kind of resonance inhabiting the sememe; nothing is as clear as it seems, there's no ontology uncontaminated by the other, no epistemology that doesn't leak at the edges. }

The analog is unstructured; the digital is structured.

{ Again, the analog is nothing at all, even a structure within the analogic is unstructured. }

The analog is communality, use-value. The digital is community, exchange-value. Exchange may be direct or indirect, transitive. Exchange may be based on apparent equivalence, on agreement, on contract. Exchange binds entity to entity. Exchange defines entity. Exchange defines entity in relation to (by virtue of) entity.

{ These old marxist categories... Use value is always already cultural, but nonetheless is distinguished from exchange-value. The latter is part and parcel of equivalence systems, rasters, encodings, codons; the former is the real within the real. But 'use' implies function, and function implies categorization, divisions, inscriptions as well. Think of the analog/use and digital/exchange as dirty polarizations; the distinction is metaphorically useful but metaphysically suspect. }

Analogic use-value is imminent and immanent. Digital exchange-value is distanced, defined. Analog is subject; digital is object. The object of digital is subject to analog. Exchange replaces use. The subject of analog is object to digital. Exchange replaces use. 

{ Digital exchange-value is produced by virtue of transitive systems; analog use-value occurs within intransitivities. One might speak of a parabolic trajectory from use through exchange to use: a hand-ax used as such by someone then becomes an economic unit of exchange and is traded to someone else who uses it. Back and forth, the real is sawn apart. }

Digital is always already a presumed contamination of the real. The presumption is always already false.

{ The etic digital stirs up the emic real? The digital stirs up nothing but itself. (The digital has its emic too.) }

The analog is always already a presumed healing or suturing of the real.

The presumption is always already false.

{ The maternal analog against the phallic digital? Hardly;  the analog stirs up just about everything. }

Without the digital, communication would be impossible. The ideality of the feral world is equivalent to the world under erasure.

{ All organisms possess culture, distinctions, language, communicability, memory, sensation, sensory surfaces and membranes. The feral world is non-existent, just as 'wild' is non-existent - what we are considering, in reality, are other species' cultures. Draw a distinction, negation, there's the digital; don't draw it, and everything's dead. }

To throw away the scaffold is to retain it. To retain everything, releases everything.

{ Nothing's released, nothing's thrown away. The scaffold is a raster. Released from the raster is the raster. }

{ Let's just say it's all unaccountable, unaccounted-for - the real, the digital, anything and everything and nothing else. Let's just let it go. }

'Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darueber muss man schweigen.' (Wittgenstein) - is already lost.

{ There: someone has said something, perhaps for the first time, perhaps for the last. }

Alan Sondheim

Alan Sondheim is a Providence, Rhode Island-based new media artist, musician, writer, and performer concerned with issues of virtuality, and the stake that the real world has in the virtual. He has worked with his partner, Azure Carter and the performer/choreographer Foofwa d'Imobilite. Sondheim is interested in examining the grounds of the virtual and how the body is inhabited. He performs in virtual, real, and cross-over worlds; his virtual work is known for its highly complex and mobile architectures. He has used altered motion-capture technology extensively for examining and creating new lexicons of behavior. His current writing is centered around notions of gamespace, 'edgespace' (the border areas of gamespace) and 'blankness,' projections around edgespace. His current music is based on the impossibility of time reversal, his latest cd is Limit by Public Eyesore. Photo by Azure Carter.



Edited for Unlikely by dan raphael, Prose Editor