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nettime: notes on pages/J Crandall
Jordan Crandall on Mon, 7 Oct 96 15:39 MET


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nettime: notes on pages/J Crandall


notes on pages


_Blast_ has set out to reflect changing practices of reading
and viewing, in terms of a publication.  This has led to
investigations of changing modes of perception, and changing
ways in which a reader/viewer is figured.  This leads to an
exploration of changing modes of production, and various
techniques of systematization and regimentation.    

Think of such givens as the "binding."  The binding is not
only the glue that connects the pages, but the
organizational structure the upholds the glue--the process
of structuring and systematizing.  It is the forces and
practices that seek to hold together, to structure an
experience and a form of perception, to enforce roles, to
mobilize or immobilize a body.  What kinds of bodies,
capacities, and behaviors does this binding help to shape? 
And what publicational forms do those bodies and behaviors
help determine?

Think of the page and how a reader interacts it.  You hold
the publication and you read the page, and sometimes your
imagination takes you away from your chair and into a story. 
If you read a compelling story you inhabit it slightly; you
get a taste of the scenery and a feel for the people there. 
Good editorial takes you somewhere else, and in the process,
broadens your everyday reality.  

The page, however, is not only something you hold in your
hand, and it may not even be attached to anything.  New
technologies enable new forms of pages and more powerful
mechanisms for their engagement.  For example, there is the
Web page.  The Web more powerfully offers the illusion of
transporting you.  Maybe it's not so much an illusion
anymore, but a new form of transportation.  (In fact, maybe
pages were always about transportation.)  More immersive,
three-dimensional pages are developing that allow us to
submerge ourselves in new realities.  These pages and their
apparatus not only transport, but they grip the body,
affecting it in powerful ways--more effective than
"imagination."  (That mode of transport has been updated
like a new car model.)  Your body physiologically responds--
your heart pounds, your eyes dart about, and your hands
clutch the air.  One could therefore see pages in terms of
techniques of the body.  But now the page itself has a body,
and it houses bodies and agencies within its confines, which
are no longer confines in the traditional sense.

What constitutes the page?  If the term refers to both
printed sheets and computer screens, there is something that
they both share.  This could be regarded as the interaction
of code and interface.  Codes are arrayed on a surface
("representation"), and that surface is part of a mechanism
of conveyance--an apparatus that transfers and arranges the
codes, while being determined by them.  In the printed book,
it's not only the pages, but the machinery of their
assemblage and distribution--that is, the production
paradigm that upholds the book form.  On the computer, it is
not the screen, but the mechanism that arrays the codes
there, along with its production paradigm.  The latter
contains strata:  layers of codes and interfaces, visible as
one probes beneath the user-friendly surface.  While these
paradigms are very different, the page is a kind of switch
term that is able to traffic between them.  Not in the sense
of linkage, but of conduction.

Interfaces and codes are enmeshed in practices, where they
might be called "technology" and "discourse."  These
interfacing and inscribing practices coalesce in a form that
might be called a page, but it could just as well be some
other form.  It needs to be embodied, in order for it to be
recognized.  And it needs to locate a viewing body, a
reader, to recognize it.  As such it affects the way it is
viewed, even as it is located through viewing-effects. 
These incorporations--reader, page--bound and determine each
other like dual ends of lassoes, each linked to
incorporating forces and practices that form their
conditions of possibility.  

Viewing trajectories can splinter off into mobile viewpoints
within the body of the page.  The gaze does not hit the page
from one side, because the page opens up into a hall of
mirrors and becomes a social field.  It is part of an
apparatus of vision.  It is inhabitable.  It looks back.  

Pages are enmeshed in matrices among embodying practices,
technological practices, and discursive practices.  Pages
"face" for these practices and forces:  they are facings
that might operate as walls, interactive apparatus, or
representations, where they increasingly open onto spaces,
which they heretofore have only represented.   

A mesh of interfaces, codes, and incorporations, indelibly
linked and codetermining, influence each other in complex,
performative and processual loops.  To diagram these
components is to depict them in endless chains, chains that
form various fields of knowledge and practice.  This diagram
resembles a hypertext.  But like hypertextual diagrams and
web metaphors, a birds-eye view is problematic, and
presupposes and exteriority from which to view it from
above.  The viewpoint is always enmeshed in its fields.  And
the hyperlink vector positions an empty, interstitial space,
a ground which seems to have distance, where there is no
longer space nor distance.

Such diagrams are better turned sideways, into a horizon. 
Links vanish.  What replaces them are patterns of overlap
and conduction.  The diagram looks like the opthlamologist's
Phoroptor, the device that tests for vision.  

These conductions are temporary aligned in "moments" of a
discourse, and ordered in articulatory acts.  The "orderer"
has no stable distance from which to master them.  It calls
forth and orders but does not finalize, and it performs
itself in that act of ordering.  Articulatory acts are
bounded into various editorial formations, which are
unstable and incomplete.  The publication attempts to give
them an illusory completeness, to frame, bind, reproduce
these formations as its pages, to systematize and circulate
stacks of them in line with normalizing techniques and
assumptions.  But what other social forms bubble up from
this new ecology?  Perhaps a matrix, in Lyotard's sense.  

The page merges with space, or unleashes space.  The
library, bank, trading floor, shopping space, and theater,
for example, are built of pages and spaces.  How is a page
accessed, navigated, and determined?  How is a space
accessed, navigated, and determined?  And what kind of
reader/navigator do these locate, what visionary faculties,
what forms of figuration, what modes of navigation?  

Perhaps "pacing" might provide a metaphor.  (It may not be
the best one, but in any case it is better than "browsing,"
which evokes the consumer endlessly wandering through
shopping aisles.)  In one sense pacing is a way of mapping
one medium or realm upon another, as when the artist draws
from life, his or her eye pacing back and forth between the
real and its drawn representation in order to align the two
realms in some way.  At the same time, it never fully aligns
those realms, maintaining unresolved motions and spaces
between them.  It suggests a visual, nonlinear figuration,
where the eye paces within and between frames, not in fixed
sequence, registering meaning through differences and
correspondences.  At the same time, it de-emphasizes the
visual, because pacing suggests a rhythm, a beat, which
underlies and undercuts the optical, as when one suddenly
jumps to one's feet to pace about a room, generating a
rhythm that upholds and informs thought.  This is done
through abstraction and localization.  The body moves about
in order to spatialize and mobilize thought, while at the
same time, focusing it, wrestling it to the ground. 
Boundaries of space and body are abstracted through this
movement, while at the same time reinforced, because pacing
generates a mappable pattern and reinforces physical
presence.  It is highly carnal, but it arrives at this
carnality through interstitial forms.  Through its rhythm,
bodies, spaces, and representations are converted into one
another.  

Space is suspended through the page, and this suspension is
itself a structuring principle.  

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