Thursday, February 18, 2016

Living for the City

"[Paul Morley's] city where “everything that has ever happened is available” [in his book Words and Music] sounds bizarrely similar to the loony notion of a Universal Library written about recently by Kevin Kelly in a New York Times Magazine cover article—he envisages every book and every magazine article ever written, in all languages, and eventually every movie/TV program/cultural artifact EVER, being gathered into one vast database accessible to all—which glorious prospect isn’t enough for Kelly, who then imagines the Universal Library getting miniaturized and compressed into an iPod-size device that everyone of us will carry around wherever we go (presumably because on the subway to work you might just need to refer to an editorial from an 1865 editorial in the Brattleboro Reformer, or a Sanskrit scroll, or...). Where Morley writes about how in his city of sonic information every item on every (play)list leads to another set of lists, Kelley drools about the prospect of hyperlinks that connects the concepts and key words in any given text to myriad other instances, a paper(less) chase of endlessly receding references and footnotes, a dementia of reading lists and annotations (share your margin-scribblings with your friends!). Both, intriguingly, allude to the immortal nature of these edifices of data, a hint of that extropian hope that it’s possible to cheat death. Kelley’s pocket-portable micro-cosmopolis, Morley/Apple’s “city of music” that fits into a cigarette packet-sized memory box---these are the latest versions of the Singularity that all West Coast techno-utopians seem to believe is nigh, the point where the exponenential curve of Progress reaches vertical: a smiley-face version of the Apocalypse, in which the accumulation of all Knowledge = Enlightenment = World Unity aka the Global Village/Love’s Body/the BwO/etc. A fantasy of Total Connectivity as the End of Difference and the End of History. What’s repressed in this scenario is the fact of finitude—the finitude of resources, of an individual’s time; the limits to the sensorium’s ability to process information (there’s a speed at which stuff isn’t even experienced as such). The liquefaction of culture is actually the liquidation of culture......

"No, this City doesn't sound like a place I'd enjoy living at all."

- Simon Reynolds, Blissblog post, June 1, 2006

Well, Simon, how does it feel living here now that we're forever inside that pocket-portable cosmopolis? 

1 comment:

  1. unrestful! but - if you muster the will - it's quite easy to step outside it.


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