Heterotopia and New Media – first steps

Since I became interested in heterotopia some years ago, I have been asked frequently how the notion might relate to new media, computer technology and all the multiple platforms of the web. At last I am now starting to direct my attention to the potential spaces of the internet, having been recently nudged in this direction through Thierry Fournier’s exhibition ‘Heterotopia’ that explored the boundaries and overlaps between physical space, the body and the internet.

Where to begin, when Galloway in ‘The Interface Effect’ boldly asserts that ‘there are very few books on new media worth reading’.  Here are a few initial considerations, starting with Heidegger’s beguiling essay ‘The Question Concerning Technology’.

Heidegger argues that technology is not primarily an instrument, no mere means. It is above all a way of ‘revealing’, a ‘bringing forth’ in the way the Greeks thought of  techne  in terms of crafts, art and  poetry but also in relation to nature, to blossom, produce, generate – to bring something out of ‘concealment’ (11).

For Heidegger both science and modern technology (say from nineteenth century) are also a revealing, but what is new is what he calls a ‘challenging’, an endless process of ‘unlocking, transforming, storing, distributing and switching’. (Interestingly, he says that such ways of revealing go hand in hand with a ‘regulating and securing’ 16). Modern technology orders stuff about, manipulates a ‘standing-reserve’ (Bestand), a store, or supply standing by (including both physical and human resources).

So, can we take something away from this aspect of techne without necessarily concluding with Heidegger’s judgement that we are too occupied, caught up in a kind of frenzy,  where regulating and securing hold sway and other forms of ancient ‘revealing’ are banished? To return to Galloway:

Although he does not agree with Manovich that the computer world is predominantly cinematographic, or layers of different media,  Galloway does acknowledge that Manovich debunks several of the myths about new media:

‘Numeric representation, modularity, automation, variability, and transcoding are not to be understood as universal laws of new media. Rather, they describe some of the aesthetic properties of data, and the basic ways in which information is created, stored, and rendered intelligible….’

Manovich offers the insight that digital technologies are essentially poetic and aesthetic objects.  But Galloway goes on to argue that we should abandon any thought of ‘technical media’ in terms of objects and instead ‘begin from the perspective of their supposed predicates: storing, transmitting, and processing’ – a ‘mode of mediation’. According to Galloway, the computer does not refer to anything (unlike the cinema or photography or painting). The computer has no object; it is an object of itself, with its own Being…

That’s the start….

Galloway, A. (2012) The Interface Effect. New York: Polity Press.

Heidegger, M. (1977 [1953]) The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, trans W. Lovitt. New York: Harper Collins.

Manovich, L. (2002) The Language of New Media. New York: MIT.

Reading on Heterotopia and New Media (from my on-going bibliography):

Bury, R. (2005) ‘Cyberspace as Virtual Heterotopia’ in Cyberspaces of Their Own: Female Fandoms Online. New York: Peter Lang, 166-203.

Davis, T. (2010) ‘Third Spaces or Heterotopias? Recreating and Negotiating Migrant Identity Using Online Spaces, Sociology. 44 (4): 661-677.

Edwards-Vandenhoek, S. (2015) ‘You aren’t here: Reimagining the place of graffiti production in heritage studies’ Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 21 (1): 78-99.

Frances, S. (2010) ‘Borges and New Media: Connections Via Heterotopic spaces’, The University of Texas at Arlington (Thesis) .1488243.

Galin, J. R., and Latchaw, J. (1998) ‘Heterotopic Spaces Online: A New Paradigm for Academic Scholarship and Publication’, Kairos 3.

Guidi, J. (2011) ‘The Other Side of the Panopticon: Technology, Archives, and the Difficulty of  Seeing Victorian Heterotopias’. Journal of the Chicago Colloquium on Digital Humanities and Computer Science. 1 (3)

Handlykken, A. K.  (2011) ‘Digital Cities in the making: exploring perceptions of space, agency of actors and heterotopia’ Ciberlegenda. 25

Haider, J. and  Sundin, O. (2010) ‘Beyond the legacy of the enlightenment? Online encyclopaedias as digital heterotopias’ First Monday 15: 1

Handlykken, A. K.  (2011) ‘Digital Cities in the making: exploring perceptions of space, agency of actors and heterotopia’ Ciberlegenda. 25

Henthorne, T. (2010) ‘String theory, French horns and the infrastructure of cyberspace’ Technology in Society. 32:3 204-208

Haider, J. and  Sundin, O. (2010) ‘Beyond the legacy of the enlightenment? Online encyclopaedias as digital heterotopias’ First Monday 15: 1

Liff, S. (2003) ‘Shaping e-Access in the Cybercafé: Networks, Boundaries and Heterotopian Innovation’, New Media and Society, 5: (3): 313-334.

Rymarczuk, R. and Derksen, M. (2014) ‘Different spaces: Exploring Facebook as heterotopia’, First Monday 19 (6) [http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/5006/4091#author – accessed 10 June 2014]

Turcotte, J. F. and Ball, M. N.  (2013) ‘All Transportation is Local: Mobile-Digital-Networked-Technologies and Networked Orientations, Transfers 3 (1) 119-139.

Veel, K. (2003) ‘The Irreducibility of Space: Labyrinths, Cities, Cyberspace’ diacritics. 33: 3/4 151-172

Wark, M.  (1993) ‘Lost in space: Into the digital image labyrinth,’ Continuum, 7: (1) 140–160.

Peter

23 October 2017