Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Wed. Section; vulnerability of digital media

“[A]ffordances are all about possibilities for action, which determine how human beings interact with the physical things in their environment. Computer storage media also have their affordances, but as storage in general has become more capacious and less immediately tangible it is easy to overlook them. (USB thumb drives are perhaps the best examples of a recent storage innovation whose affordances have changed the way we interact with data: they are small and light-weight but also rugged, more like an accessory or gear than the flatter, flimsier profile of media like CD-ROMs or disks, whose vulnerable surfaces must be sheltered.)
Attention to the affordances of various kinds of storage media can reveal much about computing in different contexts, allowing us to reconstruct salient aspects of now-obsolete systems and the human practices that attended them” (32).

What Kirschenbaum places in parentheses was the most fascinating part about this piece. I am constantly wondering about the enclosures, the houses, the casing of digital media and how this affects our experience or colors it in some way. Before when the disks had “vulnerable surfaces [that] must be sheltered,” did we view digital data/information as vulnerable and something that needed shelter? And furthermore, it seems that we treat hard-drives as “hard” or durable and immortal, but they crash. And when they crash, we “lose” everything and perhaps we’ll buy a backup hard-drive. So I’m interested in our interaction with digital media as we think (or not think) about its container.

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