Digital Genres Four

Biella is talking to us about IRC. (Her paper is online here, but she says she’ll take it down as soon as the conference is over). She’s drawing cultural criticism — specifically Paul Gilroy’s critical depiction of Black/Caribbean culture — into the study of social interactions on IRC channels.

She’s arguing against the premise that “authenticity” constitutes an essential components of community. She also argues against the homogenization of online interaction; if we invoke “technology” as a blanket characterization of what’s going on, we miss the diversity of online interactions and communities.

IRC and Caribbean street talk “are public spaces in which clever word play, performance, and stream of consciousness conversation predominate.” Whereas the Caribbean Diaspora derives from a distinct geographic and cultural dislocation, IRC brings together persons whose physical locations remain dispersed. The forms of speech in both communities converge — but the dramatic divergence of cultural circumstances of Caribbean diaspora identity (on one hand) and hacker channels remains vitally important.

Now Anne Galloway will tell us about “What Is the Augmented City?”: ubiquitous/pervasive computing. Amplified reality assembles, layers, virtual spaces onto physical spaces.

Anne proposes that “We have never been modern” (following Latour). Four facets of ontology: the real, the possible, the ideal, and the actual. The virtual is the ideally real; the abstract is the possibly ideal; the concrete is the actually real; and the probable is actual possibility.

The virtual is a real idealization, as a dream, a memory (as past-ness). The concrete is the present, the taken-for-granted event, the now. The abstract doesn’t exist in se. The probable exists (to the extent that it does) in the future.

Molly Wright Steenson picks up by talking through “imaginary architecture.” Bruno Taut, expressionist architect, wrote in November 1919, “There is almost nothing to build, and if we can really build somewhere, we do it to live. Or maybe you’re lucky enough to be carrying out a good contract? I’m finding the practice to be cloying, and in principle, you all seem to be feeling the same way. Honestly: it is completely good that today nothing’s being ‘built.’ Things can thus mature, we can collect our strength, and when it begins again, then we’ll know our goals and be strong enough to protect our residents from dangerous adhesion or degeneracy. Let us consciously be imaginary architects.” So doing, he founded “the Crystal Chain.” Molly submits that this makes as timely a claim now as it did then. As she narrates the history of the Crystal Chain correspondence, she notes her disappointment that so little design thought today is utopian: “If you silence the discourse of vision too early, you cut it off and get nothing.” “The Web grows community without even trying.” (Trevor leans over and points out that the Disseminary is utopian information architecture.”)

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