Felix Stalder on Sat, 4 Apr 1998 18:21:42 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Interactivity: a praise of clocks

As far as machines are concerned, interactivity is the rule, not the exception.

Interactivity is supposed to be the great novelty of digital technology. I
understand interactivity, in this context, as the potential to purposefully
influence the performance of a technological artifact, for example, click
my way through a CD-ROM, shoot my way through DOOM, or access web pages on
the Internet. The machine reacts on what I do and I react on what the thing
does: some form of two way 'communication'.

But, then again, an elevator is interactive too. I enter, press a button
and get somewhere, directly related to which button I pressed. So is a car,
I can choose between different options, forward, backward, high-speed,
low-speed. The same with the radio, I can switch between different types of
waves and wave lengths. Not different is the thermostat, which regulates
the performance of the furnace based on some input.

In list could go on and on. In fact, it could comprise ALL machinery ever
invented, with the exception of one single type of machinery: __clocks__.
They need maintenance or at least sun shine, that's a given, but their sole
purpose of existence is to indicate something that cannot, under no
circumstances, be influenced by human beings or anything else: linear time.
Whether you look at a clock or not, the fact that it has a history and is a
culturally specific artifact doesn't matter. Conceptually, what
differentiates the clock from any other machinery is that it is not
interactive. In comparison, a windmill is, at least somewhat, interactive.
It needs wind. A clock doesn't need time to run, it makes it. Just think of
high precision clocks,  measureing the time with less than one second
deviance in a million years: the antithesis of interactivity, but the only
one there is. Or not? Is there any other machinery which is not interactive?


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