Digitalism

by liapetronio

Since its invention, the computer has increasingly become an essential part of this world. It is a device that runs on a language of its own, quantifiable only by its own doing. Of course, people wrote these programs, but ever since the invention of numerical representation, the computer has taken on a mind of its own. Numerical representation can be compared to the standardization of parts. Paradoxically it was thought that this would allow for “individual customization” rather than “mass standardization.” It is relatively unclear which has occurred. This is because it is interwoven so deeply into our lives. Computers have become virtual realities disguised as tools for our manipulation. Modularity has reduced data to its smallest element allowing for information to be dissected and manipulated without affecting other information. Information becomes self sufficient and free from hierarchical reins. Data is now non-linear, allowing for users to brows through information seemingly infinitely. This sounds like “individual customization,” but is it? Perhaps it would be if it was not pre-existing data the user is roaming through. Perhaps a software program that invented data only when it was in use would allow for true individual customization and free choice. The internet is so interlaced with the data of the physical world that is becomes indistinguishable. All activity on the web acts differently than activity in the real world. There is no decay, information is stored, analyzed, and used to determine future activity. Chance becomes manipulated. History is active and present is reactive upon it. By programming software to adhere to peoples past actions limits people to choices that confine them to calculations based on the past action, making customization impossible. If something is customized it is chosen from all possibilities, rather than subjective ones. However, this subjective nature of the computer is not much unlike our own. The difference is unified programming. If people wrote their own programs to create data through use, then the data would be free of mass subjectivity and be instead personally subjective. This would allow for individuality of the most extreme sorts. That is, if people need computers for this purpose. Would it be safer for a computer to be lucidly impersonal? Is the façade of personalization the danger to mass culture standardization? For example, older video games did not try to pass for real life. The difference between video game and reality was clear. With virtual reality games it is unclear how much responsibility players have in the outcome of the game. Players can feel empowered by the results they achieve because it is comparable to real life situations. But it is actually not, and this is where culture may become infected. It is when people feel personally attached to their technology and attempt to simulate life through it that culture becomes digitalized and therefore becomes part of the pre-programming through participation. The illusion of ‘personal customization’ as the product of interactive programming feeds society with the belief that they have excessive wants and only more pre-determined choices can free them from the boredom of less pre-determined choice. Perhaps if society was able to control its excessive material fetish, digitalization could allow for more accurate production of goods and services based on the needs of societies, converted to digital form that functions separate from human manipulation eventually allowing for people to cease capital labor. Could digitalism be more suitable for new media culture than an obese oligarchy?

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