The Palpability of the New Digital

The desktop computer, the laptop computer: so clumsy, they replicated the all too familiar viewing screens of tv and film.

The new computing platform is tactile. It gleams; it buzzes and beeps, pulsates and rings. It begs to be touched, gently fingered as if requesting a massage — and we gladly oblige. It is mobile, compact, and perhaps most notably, alive.

The web was — is — the promise of the archive: all information, all media, at one's disposal. And while it enjoys a certain intelligence, and while it is always growing, it is not alive in the same sense that mobile computing is.

Oh, that ding of a new email, the strum of a new text, the accompanying buzz — it is all so deliciously erotic. The mobile is a literal physical appendage, constantly searching the waves, bringing in information just as eyes and noses do.

In The Medium is the Massage, Marshall McLuhan says that technology is an extension of the human body — the wheel, an extension of the foot; the book, an extension of the eye. The mobile is an extension, too, but not of any one sense per se. It extends human perception into the ether. Now, we are able to hear calls across impossible distances and see things half way around the planet right now.

If desktop computing is always there and later (and before), mobile computing is always here and now. With mobile, computers have become flesh.


what the Tee Vee taught said...

The idea of computers as extensions of the body — flesh, as you've noted — can lean towards eerie (at least for me).

The idea of the body becoming the computer, well, that's clearly shit, eh? Who wants to be a fucking computer? Ambitious workers: anything for another buck types, I suppose.

This ad, absolutely hilarious, actually sells the product by suggesting: you'll become robot-like, if not an actually robot, or droid.


Where do I sign? Surely, there will be plenty of waivers.

Daniel Coffeen said...

Of course it can be eerie. My claim is mostly indifferent, worth noting sans judgment. But, in any case, I am not suggesting the human become machine (even though it already is, in the best possible sense) but that the digital has become flesh (not human).

what the Tee Vee taught said...

Nod, nod, nod. I did not mean to broadcast my judgment onto your thought — you were quite clear.

I was laughing and spinning in a circle while considering the marketing strategy of selling "us", ye ole' consumer, on the brilliant promise of "use our product, becomine MORE machine-ish.

Daniel Coffeen said...

I agree: I simultaneously laughed and cringed when I saw that ad for the first time. Everyone's dream: to be a fucking robot at work.

arik said...

It is though, kind of, everyone's dream. What we'll do for praise and a cookie.. Besides, you might opt out, but will the next generation?

(watching the video) Pfff.. this is, in my experience, in terms of writing so Nietzschean: I'm catching up on your blog (incl. comments) backwards in time and am surprised, and then again not really, how like when with reading Nietzsche the stories you have in your mind while reading unfold themselves on the next page but then in the excellent captivating prose of the writer (sounds like 'the prophet'); or, as is now, when reading backwards on the previous page.

arik said...

I'm not completely sure if I get the 'flesh' thing. Each single argument for it seems not enough. Even the 'right now' argument isn't. Because i'm sitting behind my laptop and that's right now too.

Hunter said...

"When there's no limit to what Droid gets, there's no limit to what Droid does."

'Cause that's not totalitarian or anything! Of course, you know the only thing Droid wants unlimited access to is your bank account: myopia typical of capitalism...