While reading Manovich, I was struck by his statement that “a code is rarely simply a neutral transport mechanism; usually it affects the messages transmitted with its help.” (64) Of course the notion itself is not too surprising. As Prof. Chun mentioned in class, we were all born into the prison of language; it is not hard to admit that language, as the primary tool we use to conceptualize and communicate, yet which is itself a social/cultural construct, must also to a certain degree shape our conceptualization and communication. What is fresh to me, however, is to think of the computer in such a way – as pointed out by Manovich, “the role of the digital computer shifted from being a particular technology to a filter for all culture, a form through which all kinds of cultural and artistic production were mediated.” (64) Since it is in our era that the computer has become so predominant and the use of what Manovich calls “cultural interface” is so widespread, in what ways are they making our ways of conceptualization and communication differ from people from previous eras, who are accustomed to the forms of printed text or cinema? That computer media “replaced sequential storage with random-access storage; hierarchical organization of information with a flattened hypertext” struck me as something alarming. It follows that our way of organizing information and knowledge is fundamentally changing. I immediately think of my sense of feeling lost reading Internet text, following link from link that are all connected together in a rhizomatic fashion. It is true that through the Internet I now have access to infinitely more information, but it concerns me that some quality in analyzing/organizing/thinking through the information is lost compared to when I read an integrated book. Or maybe even the nature of knowledge is in a way different in our era.
By Qian Yin
Anna Fisher session