Thursday, April 3, 2008

Self-documentation, and a media hierarchy?

Lisa Gitelman and Wolfgang Ernst both bring up a lot of interesting issues that arise as a result of the web being used to document itself. With other media, we can often gain insight by documenting one medium with another. Although this is possible with the web, it seems that only the internet has the capacity to adequately capture all that it contains. I cannot think of another medium that must be used to archive itself. We can quote text within a book, but we can also scan images of it. Similarly, while video can document dance and speech, the web can in turn incorporate video.

Ernst writes that “there is no multi-media in virtual space, only one medium, which basically calculates images, words, sounds indifferently, since it is able to emulate all other media. The term multi-media is a delusion” (108). That the web can essentially include all other media in a single medium suggests that it currently sits at the top of a hierarchy of media in which a given medium has the power to adequately archive only itself and the media below it. Gitelman notes that “the Internet is wrong about its own history” (at least in some cases) (124). If the internet is our only option to document the internet, then this presents quite a predicament. Perhaps we will invent an even more powerful medium, pushing the media hierarchy one step further.

On a tangential note, it’s interesting that the H-Bot performs rather poorly at this sort of self-history. The H-Bot actually reports that Al Gore invented the internet, and is clueless as to when the H-Bot itself was created or by whom. And no matter how I rephrase the question, it repeatedly assures me that the Earth was formed in 4004 BC.

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