A4

ARGUMENT 4. HET SCHERM

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A| Prologue



The meaning of life doesn’t seem to shine like that screen. [1] Weyes Blood, Movies, Titanic Rising (Sub Pop Records, 2019).


There is this urge. Once you feel the banality of life it swells up. You long for distraction, spectacle. You long for that numbing feeling of information overload that forces you to forget all your needs and that makes you immensely focused. You long for that moment when your mind finally escapes the boundaries of the here and now and goes to that magical place where time is forgotten. You long to start over, to be away, to be fulfilled.
Your body remains passive while the mind is being stimulated by a bright and seemingly endless world. Computer and brain are performing a unique symbiosis: the computer would do nothing without an operator and an operator can do nothing thanks to the computer.

In this essay I try to capture the influence of digital space in our daily life and use large theoretical stories as a framework to do so. [2] “While [everyday life] is the object of philosophy, it is inherently non-philosophical; while conveying an image of stability and immutability, it is transitory and uncertain; ( … )while unbearable in its monotony and routine, it is festive and playful; and while controlled by technocratic rationalism and capitalism, it stands outside of them.” From Mary Mcleod, ‘Henri Lefebvre’s Critique of Everyday Life. An Introduction’, in Architecture of the Everyday (Princeton: Yale Publications on Architecture, 1997), 13–14. As digital space would not exist without the computer and its screen, it cannot be described as something autonomous and therefore it needs to be read as a whole. I try to become aware of the importance the screen has in our lives and I try to discover a way of use that makes us less dependent. Certainly, ever since there is a mobile screen; I feel my body screaming. [3] En natuurlijk kan je er niet tegen zijn om bereikbaar te zijn, natuurlijk kan je er niet tegen zijn om te weten waar je bent en natuurlijk kan je er niet tegen zijn om te weten hoe laat het is. Het is toch maar logisch om om dat te willen weten zult u zeggen: logisch ja, want logisch is economisch en norm(aal). Wim Cuyvers, ‘Global PS’, in Tekst Over Tekst (Stroom Den Haag, 2006), 109–13.



B| The World In The Screen



A digital frontier [4] Daft Punk, The Grid, TRON: Legacy OST (Walt Disney Records, 2010).



Still from Stanley Kubrick, 2001: A Space Odessey


The exponential growth of technological apparatus during the epoch of modernism was fuel to the linear idea of progress. – Or was it the other way around? – A society striving to be better and better, and wherein each invention is promoted as an improvement on the previous, is creating tool after tool to improve and augment our day-to-day life. As this is the story that we are living, it’s hard to see if this is true, and it could be argued if these inventions are really an improvement on life; in their massive amount and diversity, maybe it is ‘improvement’ itself that becomes subject of the question.

What interests us more than the truthfulness of this linear story is the objects it produces, because those are undeniably real. [5] Or you would have to deny reality, and there is no fun in that! So let us talk about these objects.
One of them is the computer: a programmable tool, ready to compute anything you tell it to! Calculations with tons of variables that in the past would have taken weeks to solve, are now done in seconds. In a world ruled by statistics its possibilities seem endless.



An interactive screen



A PDP-1 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology


When the computer became attached to the screen [6] Timesharing was this point, it let multiple users simultaneously interact with one computer. In Walter Isaacson, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution (Simon & Schuster, 2014). something remarkable happened that seems to widen the possibilities so much one could say that a new world emerged. There now is a direct form of interaction between human and computer.
The screen, a tool formerly used to passively feed visual content to the viewer, suddenly acquires depth. A layer is added. The computer enables the passive viewer to shape and control what he sees on the screen and thereby transforms the viewer to operator. The operator interprets and executes at the same time. The computer interprets and executes at the same time. The operator navigates the computer on the sea of digital space through the screen.
The birth of the computer + screen thus marks the birth of Digital Space. It is Digital because it is constructed of numbers and is only available through a medium, a portal, a screen; because the space is virtual and can only be perceived as a projection, a numerical approximation. Then why call it Space? The connotation of space here should not be that of a room, of something physical or sensory but rather that of the space of stars and planets where our minds drift off to when we look at the sky. Space, the final frontier [7] Introductory text of Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek, 1966., as unreachable as Olympus. Unreal space: Digital Space. The screen is boundary and image of that virtual realm and convinces the mind to forget the body. It is an impenetrable border to Digital Space and the body is left awkwardly behind while the mind is being saturated by visual s(t)imulation [8] This concept of aesthetic intoxication is elaborated in Leach, Neil. The Anaesthetics of Architecture, MIT Press, 1999.. Like a moth on a lamp, you are ‘on’ the computer, never ‘in’, not yet [9] When that happens, will it be any different from our reality? Lana Wachowski en Lilly Wachowski, The Matrix, 1999..

Because it arose so quickly [10]Only 3 years after the development of the PDP-1 (1962). , Spacewar! is a beautiful example of the coincidence of the birth of the computer with a screen and of the concept of Digital Space.
Spacewar! is a game that a group of students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed. They were part of a hacker community, having fun and experimenting with all technological equipment they could access. When they got their hands on the PDP-1, one of the first digital and programmable computers with a screen, it did not take long until you could fly a spaceship across a digital world. Digital Space became visible, an emulation of reality with a fun twist.



Public Digital Space



Opte Project [11] Visualization of routing paths through a portion of the internet.


Then [12] First with ARPANET in the 1970’s that transformed into the INTERNET in the 1980’s., the first digital roads were built and Digital Space matured. The internet, a network of networks allowing the flow of information between different computers, turned this Digital Space into a Public Digital Space. Once you are ‘on’, it is a non-hierarchical space and it almost answers those in need [13] … -The real transgression takes place out of the controlled private space: kids playing with fire, the first sexual encounters, drugs… -Public space is the space of breaking the societal rules. -Public space is the space of not-having. -Public space is the space of being; public space is the existential space. -Public space is the space of need (the urge to violate the social standards). Public space is the space where those who are in need go, where those who are in need meet. -Leisure kills public space. … Wim Cuyvers, ‘Public Space’, montavoix (blog), z.d., https://montavoix.blogspot.com. : Looking up information, meeting strangers, having fun, watching porn, etc.; its use seems inherently superficial and passive. The way of interaction just cannot come close to the experience of real space. You watch people have sex instead of having sex yourself.

But there are similarities: just like physical space, Digital Space is being privatised by an all-consuming economy. Its neutrality is being bombarded [14] Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers must treat all Internet communications equally, and not discriminate or charge differently based on user, content, website, platform, application, type of equipment, source address, destination address, or method of communication.. Not all Digital Space is equally accessible anymore. We are excluded via paywalls and maybe we will soon have to pay more to visit certain places.



SALES!


Large companies take the stage and turn this flat paradise into a minefield. They try to channel users [15] Google provides over 114 services here are some of them: entertainment (youtube), education (google books), storage (google drive), wayfinding (google maps) time manegement (google calendar) information exchange (Gmail) and of course navigation on the web… through infinite ad-space that is highly personalised thanks to data collection you must agree with [16] Check the profile google made of you here: https://adssettings.google.com/ . We start to reside on a digital space uniquely tailored by these large companies and almost forget there is a world wide web outside of it.

    Why might it seem problematic to say that the United States is a Christian nation, or a heterosexual one, despite the widespread belief that Christianity and heterosexuality are dominant or majority practices in their respective domains, while at the same time it seems legitimate and indeed “accurate” to say that the US is a capitalist country? [17] J.K. Gibson-Graham, The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It) A Feminist Critique of Political Economy, NED (University of Minnesota Press, 1996). 2.

This logic extends to Public Digital Space. What could be an alternative? Maybe we allow ourselves to truly learn how the internet works, to start using it as a tool. A tool used to serve our needs rather than to create needs. Only then we can discover the wonders this ‘Space’ has to offer. To use opensource software, torrent technology or to use blockchain encryption is a silent rebellion against a bureaucratic and capitalistic environment. It denies the fearful idea of an invisible transcendent rule(r).



https://www.defectivebydesign.org/


A connected screen



An internet café in Accra


In Accra, Ghana, for example, the non-hierarchical nature of public digital space allows for emancipation in symbiosis with the physical world. In internet cafes cliques of young people or ‘bases’ escape parental surveillance [18] Jenna Burell, Invisible Users: Youth in the Internet Cafés of Urban Ghana (The MIT Press, 2012). 39-42.. Figures of authority, often parents or older superiors, disapprove of these spaces and consequently do not visit them nor have them under control. They form places where the youth challenges the older generation, places without control or fixed ownership [19] The owners are often absent, passive or young too..
What they do on the web is of course different for each user, but one example is known to all and a showpiece of the border-crossing, image making nature of Public Digital Space: The scam. Small transfers of funds between friends are a regular feature of relationships among youth in Accra. It is guided by a cultural logic of reciprocity where to give to someone in need today means that one will be in a position to receive later. When these young people took this culture of reciprocity to the web, they were misunderstood [20] So “can I ask him for a favor” and he said “oh, why not I should go ahead.” And I said “ok, my phone is giving me problems and I will be very grateful if he could send me money to get a better phone or if he could send me a new phone.” [He asked] “that what?” And I repeated it again — I didn’t see him online again. He stopped chatting, he disappeared. Burell, Invisible Users: Youth in the Internet Cafés of Urban Ghana. 61. and felt even more excluded than before. The foreigner gaze made relationships seem fake and sparked the rise of fake relationships: the scam was born. Now some play their image as poor southerners on the web as a bread-winning activity.



C| The Body And The Screen



Access to (Public) Digital Space happens via many different typologies of computer-screens with their own characteristics, however, they all share the same fundaments of interaction: touch and watch what happens. It is the basic concept that sucks your mind into digital space.

I have talked about Digital Space in relation to how it is being used or what happens ‘in’ it. But it is of utmost importance to think about the user as well. In other words, how digital space is experienced from/in the real world, our world, our body.

The following three stories are told from the perspective of the body. The use of a tool starts from the interaction with the body. The smartphone, a portable screen, will be the tool handled in each story as it is the computer-screen typology that literally comes closest to the body and because of its growing self-evidence in our daily life [21] Although it is jewellery, we wear it like clothes. Even if a tool is neutral, use is not.

To monitor [22] This text is a personal spin-off of Denisse Vega de Santiago, ‘Loving Gamification’, in VOLUME 56 PLAYBOR, Archis, 2019, 39–43, http://archis.org/volume/loving-gamification/. – a life full of Playbor

A 21st century pizza boy named Ulrich races through the streets. It is his side-job to make some money whilst studying. The university is not so cheap anymore, but he would like to acquire a specific skill set that gets him a well-paid and specialised job, that is why you study right? He loves the work though. He cycles as an independent delivery rider and can choose when and how long he works.

The job is simple: Pick up the order at a restaurant and deliver it to the customer. The phone has as a mini map where you see what routes to take and what position will give you more orders.
Every order gets you the same fee, so Ulrich quickly realises speed is what gets you money and he starts to love the game. You can recognise your colleagues, teammates or competitors by the jacket that comes with the kit, each company has their colour. If you are with too many riders on the same spot, your chances of orders drop and then the dreadful waiting starts, a surrendering to the algorithm. After a while the orders start to drop anyway, most people have eaten and the fun is over, only those who cannot get another job keep cycling through the rain and low order rates. For them it is no game, it is survival. But Ulrich only experiences the pleasures of this gamification of labour.

When Ulrich installed the app he had to consent to a location tracking feature. It was to provide a possible route one could follow to restaurants. A new update however provides the rider with an estimated delivery time. E.g.: this order would take between 4-7 minutes to deliver. This is not a required quota, but boy oh boy does Ulrich like to race against this artificial opponent and it felt so good when after a couple of orders, he finally got to beat it for the first time.

When Ulrich bought his phone he agreed, during the overwhelming installation process, to the same location tracking feature and a lot more. A process that in hindsight resembled more of the forced walk through the tax-free at an airport then an installation of operating software…

To display – an age of transcendental theatricality

Like all his peers Ulrich has an online digital profile on an application of a popular company. There he can see what his friends are doing when he is not there. The moment he wants to share something as well, as an answer to this welcoming reassurance, he gets an uneasy feeling. If he has total control of what he shows than he creates, by definition, an image. Is he really seeing his friends or only an image, a superficial representation of what someone wants him to see? And suddenly all those digital profiles filled with different images of the same person are put in a new light. He desires to know why someone would choose to keep sharing pictures of themselves, why you would want to keep up a permanent performance of a banal life.

That’s why it’s so important to realize that when you get up in front of people, you are always performing. You need to be in costume, completely self-conscious and hyperaware of your presence. There’s a feeling that one’s onstage presence should be truly authentic, but of course it’s anything but that. It’s an act. [23] Kenneth Goldsmith, The Ideal Lecture (In Memory of David Antin) (het balanseer, 2018).

To screen – the perfect home in a capsular society [24] Lieven De Cauter, De Capsulaire beschaving: Over de stad in het tijdperk van de angst, Reflect 03 (Rotterdam: NAi Uitgevers, 2009).

It was raining hard, and Ulrich sped to the bus stop. The moment he sat down he had already unconsciously taken out the thin black slab from his pocket. As if the act of sitting down included that motion as well. Although the device seemed dead, inside the gyroscope and accelerometer registered every movement and when it matched the pick-up algorithm, the screen got its cue and lit up brightly, competing with the sun peeking through the rainclouds. The moment the screen lit up Ulrich was engulfed by bliss. He was sure of it; he had come home. Screened from his environment Ulrich felt safe. Strangers would think he had a purpose. There was once something called waiting, but for Ulrich that had no meaning anymore. As soon as he felt this weird feeling of not knowing, the smartphone was there to give meaning, an omnipresent sweet home. A capsule shielding from everything abnormal, are you bored yet?

D| Epilogue



1.



What we do with the screen and how we design digital space is up to us. So let us become aware of this complicated tool, let us also accept that not everyone wants or has access to the same tools and think of a world where you would still be able to talk to those people.

We for example have a tough relationship with digital space, we like the non-hiearchal nature of it but hate how much of our lives is subjected to its superficiality.



2.



A generic data centre


Digital space takes up real space. It eats from our physical world, consumes it in the form of tall windowless, heat producing monoliths. Everything takes up space, even a world of images.

Digital space is not something that stands independent and is made out of thin air. More digital space means less physical space. To live in that world where you become an image, a created self, is numbing. But to (mis)use [25] Grant Hart, All of My Senses, Intolerance (SST Records, 1989). it, as a tool could make us aware of its limitations.

So instead of asking what the web can do, it might be better to ask what it can’t do. [26] Goldsmith, The Ideal Lecture (In Memory of David Antin) het balanseer.



3.



An image can be so deceiving, don’t you think? So flat that you think there’s something behind it. That it is the border to something else, something we cannot see. The image convinces us that is it more than an image. A peekaboo for our (naïve) brain. And I will end with an alternative. Maybe we do not archive everything in a search for ultimate control. Maybe we stop resisting the passage of time, or it will only end sooner. Maybe we get bored from waiting on the bus, embrace the banal, the dread that sparks life. Maybe we wait for that answer, patiently, like it will never come.



He turned the power to the have-nots
And then came the shot [27] Rage Against The Machine, Wake Up, Rage Against The Machine (Epic Records, a division of Sony Entertainment, 1992). Ending track of Wachowski en Wachowski, The Matrix.



E| Inspiration information?



LISTEN

Weyes Blood, Movies, Titanic Rising (Sub Pop Records, 2019).
The meaning of life doesn’t seem to shine like that screen

Daft Punk, The Grid, TRON: Legacy OST (Walt Disney Records, 2010).
Digital frontier

Rage Against The Machine, Wake Up, Rage Against The Machine (Epic Records, a division of Sony Entertainment, 1992).
He turned the power to the have-nots
And then came the shot

Timbuk 3, The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades, Greetings From Timbuk 3 (Capitol Records, LLC, 1986).
I gotta wear shades.

Grant Hart, All of My Senses, Intolerance (SST Records, 1989).
I’m using and abusing all of my senses

WATCH

Lana Wachowski en Lilly Wachowski, The Matrix, 1999.

Joseph Kosinski, TRON: Legacy (Walt Disney Pictures, 2010).

Euros Lyn, ‘Fifteen Million Merits’, Black Mirror (Netflix, 2011).

Cary Joji Fukunaga, MANIAC (Netflix, 2018).

Kubrick, Stanley. 2001: A Space Odessey. United Kingdom: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1968.

READ

Kenneth Goldsmith, The Ideal Lecture (In Memory of David Antin) het balanseer, 2018).
So instead of asking what the web can do,
it might be better to ask what it can’t do.

Denisse Vega de Santiago, ‘Loving Gamification’, in VOLUME 56 PLAYBOR, Archis, 2019, 39–43, http://archis.org/volume/loving-gamification/.

Charlotte Malterre-Barthes, ‘Normalizing the crisis? Notes on online teaching’, Trans, september 2020.

J.K. Gibson-Graham, The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It) A Feminist Critique of Political Economy, NED (University of Minnesota Press, 1996).

Whitson Gordon, ‘An Introduction to Net Neutrality: What It Is, What It Means for You, and What You Can Do About It’, Lifehacker (blog), 2010, https://lifehacker.com/an-introduction-to-net-neutrality-what-it-is-what-it-5720407

INTERNET, WHERE PRIVACY IS GOING TO COST YOU’, Pacific Standard, 2017, https://psmag.com/environment/welcome-new-monetized-internet-privacy-going-cost-81990.

Walter Isaacson, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution (Simon & Schuster, 2014).

VISIT

https://www.defectivebydesign.org/ https://time.com/3952373/internet-opte-project/



1. Weyes Blood, Movies, Titanic Rising (Sub Pop Records, 2019).

2. “While [everyday life] is the object of philosophy, it is inherently non-philosophical; while conveying an image of stability and immutability, it is transitory and uncertain; ( … )while unbearable in its monotony and routine, it is festive and playful; and while controlled by technocratic rationalism and capitalism, it stands outside of them.” From Mary Mcleod, ‘Henri Lefebvre’s Critique of Everyday Life. An Introduction’, in Architecture of the Everyday (Princeton: Yale Publications on Architecture, 1997), 13–14.

3. En natuurlijk kan je er niet tegen zijn om bereikbaar te zijn, natuurlijk kan je er niet tegen zijn om te weten waar je bent en natuurlijk kan je er niet tegen zijn om te weten hoe laat het is. Het is toch maar logisch om om dat te willen weten zult u zeggen: logisch ja, want logisch is economisch en norm(aal). Wim Cuyvers, ‘Global PS’, in Tekst Over Tekst (Stroom Den Haag, 2006), 109–13.

4. Daft Punk, The Grid, TRON: Legacy OST (Walt Disney Records, 2010).

5. Or you would have to deny reality, and there is no fun in that!

6. Timesharing was this point, it let multiple users simultaneously interact with one computer. In Walter Isaacson, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution (Simon & Schuster, 2014).

7. Introductory text of Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek, 1966.

8. This concept of aesthetic intoxication is elaborated in Leach, Neil. The Anaesthetics of Architecture, MIT Press, 1999.

9. When that happens, will it be any different from our reality? Lana Wachowski en Lilly Wachowski, The Matrix, 1999.

10. Only 3 years after the development of the PDP-1 (1962)

11. visualization of routing paths through a portion of the Internet

12. First with ARPANET in the 1970’s that transformed into the INTERNET in the 1980’s

13. … -The real transgression takes place out of the controlled private space: kids playing with fire, the first sexual encounters, drugs… -Public space is the space of breaking the societal rules. -Public space is the space of not-having. -Public space is the space of being; public space is the existential space. -Public space is the space of need (the urge to violate the social standards). Public space is the space where those who are in need go, where those who are in need meet. -Leisure kills public space. … Wim Cuyvers, ‘Public Space’, montavoix (blog), z.d., https://montavoix.blogspot.com.

14. Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers must treat all Internet communications equally, and not discriminate or charge differently based on user, content, website, platform, application, type of equipment, source address, destination address, or method of communication.

15. Google provides over 114 services here are some of them: entertainment (youtube), education (google books), storage (google drive), wayfinding (google maps) time manegement (google calendar) information exchange (Gmail) and of course navigation on the web…

16. Check the profile google made of you here: https://adssettings.google.com/

17. J.K. Gibson-Graham, The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It) A Feminist Critique of Political Economy, NED (University of Minnesota Press, 1996). 2.

18. Jenna Burell, Invisible Users: Youth in the Internet Cafés of Urban Ghana (The MIT Press, 2012). 39-42.

19. The owners are often absent, passive or young too.

20. So “can I ask him for a favor” and he said “oh, why not I should go ahead.” And I said “ok, my phone is giving me problems and I will be very grateful if he could send me money to get a better phone or if he could send me a new phone.” [He asked] “that what?” And I repeated it again — I didn’t see him online again. He stopped chatting, he disappeared. Burell, Invisible Users: Youth in the Internet Cafés of Urban Ghana. 61.

21. Although it is jewellery, we wear it like clothes

22. This text is a personal spin-off of Denisse Vega de Santiago, ‘Loving Gamification’, in VOLUME 56 PLAYBOR, Archis, 2019, 39–43, http://archis.org/volume/loving-gamification/.

23. Kenneth Goldsmith, The Ideal Lecture (In Memory of David Antin) (het balanseer, 2018).

24. Lieven De Cauter, De Capsulaire beschaving: Over de stad in het tijdperk van de angst, Reflect 03 (Rotterdam: NAi Uitgevers, 2009).

25. Grant Hart, All of My Senses, Intolerance (SST Records, 1989).

26. Goldsmith, The Ideal Lecture (In Memory of David Antin) het balanseer.

27. Rage Against The Machine, Wake Up, Rage Against The Machine (Epic Records, a division of Sony Entertainment, 1992). Ending track of Wachowski en Wachowski, The Matrix.