Alan Sondheim on Thu, 17 Mar 2005 14:06:26 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Aphoristic Essay on Analog and Digital Orders

Aphoristic Essay on Analog and Digital Orders

The digital: by 'digital' I mean 'discrete.' By 'digital' I mean
'systemic,' characterized by systematization, parameterization.

The analog appears continuous; the digital appears discrete, broken.

In everyday life, the digital is the result of an intervention.

An intervention is a mapping. Every mapping, unless a mapping of itself
('ikonic'), leaves something out.

The intervention requires the setting of a standard raster. A raster is
a filtering of a quantity, almost always with discrete steps. Think of a
raster as a 'screening,' creating elements out of a continuous bandwidth,
then quantifying those elements.

The elements are ordered. The raster sorts the continuous fabric of the
real into separable categories.

The raster is standardized so that information may be transmitted and
received through coherent channels, by means of a coherent transmitter and

The standardization of the raster is a _protocol._ The protocol must be
agreed upon by both sender and receiver.

In everyday life, the establishment of a raster and protocol requires
energy and communication. Raster and protocol must be communicated.

After raster and protocol are established, the parceled semantic content,
coded by raster, may be communicated.

Coding and community establishes raster and protocol. Encoding codes an
object from analog to digital.

>From the viewpoint of the digital, the analog is forgotten; the process is

A digital parcelling is accurate only to the limits of a particular and
conventionally-established tolerance. The tolerance, more often than not,
is tied to economy. In general, the greater the capital available, the
lesser the tolerance.

The analog possesses no tolerance. The analog is _there._

The digital is never _there._ The digital is always process, in-process.

If the digital is indexical, 'pointing towards' a mapping of the contin-
uum, the analog _is_ that scale. The analog is ikonic, the digital is

The distinction between the digital and its referents or domains is onto-
logical; the distinction between analog and its domain is epistemological.

At zero tolerance -'no room for error' - and an infinitely-fine raster,
the digital is equivalent to the analog. The map, in other words, is
exactly equivalent to the thing itself.

The thing itself is equivalent to the thing itself; this is identity.

At infinite tolerance - infinite error permitted - and infinitely-coarse
raster, the digital is equivalent to a kind of _mark._

A mark totalizes 'its' demarcated.

A mark is an _instance._

There are numerous 'real worlds' of nearly-decomposable systems. (Herbert
Simon) The world of everyday life appears continuous; it is only in
dreams, for example, one encounters jump-cuts - sudden shifts of place and
time. This continuous world appears analogic.

The world of symbols and signs - the world of languaging and inscription -
appears discontinuous, syntactic, and digital, characterized by discrete
moments and entities.

The filmworld (Christian Metz) appears an entanglement of languaging and
continuities. Because film is an operable subject (i.e. a subject whose
discursive field is somewhat definable), the entanglement tends towards
polarities, interpretations, interpenetrations, etc. Frames are digital;
the diegesis is analog (continuous story), and digital (semiotics of
narrative); the psychoanalytics are digital (continuous processing of the

Neurophysiology implies, not only entanglements of digital (neural
firings) and analog (potentials), but the problematizing of the analog/
digital split on ontological/epistemic grounds. The domains are both
inseparable and problematized; the distinction is useless.

The same is true on the level of 'fundamental' physics, at least as far as
current research goes; there are quantum processes that involve discrete
levels, and there are continuums; there is the breakdown of space-time at
small distances/times, and so forth. If the world is information 'all the
way down,' the coding at this level is again neither analog nor digital.

In other words, mental and fundamental physical events and processes
abjure any clear distinction between analog and digital, to the extent
that the phenomenology of both is inappropriate. If there is a 'book of
nature,' there is as of yet specific syntactics.

One is always searching for the syntactics, however; it is by means of
coding and encoding that the universe is grasped.

The analog slips through the fingers. The world slips through the fingers.

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

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 digital draws a distinction; the analog erases it.

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

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

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 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 digital quantifies the analog.

The digital carries a price-tag.

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

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

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.

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 totality of inscriptions necessarily forms a _coherent and closed
system,_ since the system is, after all, created by humans or other
organisms, and their cultures.

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 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.

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

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

The digital is noiseless, absolute silence.

The analog is absolute noise.

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.

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

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

The analog is unstructured; the digital is structured.

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.

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

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

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

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

"Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darueber muss man schweigen." (Wittgen-
stein) - is already lost.


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