With the advent of optical fiber networks, not only people’s perceptions have become wired and chained to a digital base, but also their knowledge has escaped the endless loop. “With numbers,” as Friedrich Kittler wrote, “everything goes” (2). From modulation to synchronization, technological discourse has become manipulable in the hands of the Silicon Valley. Images, sound, words and all sorts of data flows are disappearing into black holes—of sound waves and light—and succumbing to nameless high commands. In fact, the new technology has not only subverted writing, but also has rendered it obsolete.
In a postprint space, the printed word has taken a back seat and new media technologies have become the novel ways of communicating and storing data. Obviously, the new technology involves the production, circulation, and consumption of texts. Previously, all data had to pass through the dactylo’s needle or the pen head of the written signifier. It was simpler, at least from a presentist approach, and the task demands expressionism and self-refrentiality, but the latter had to be recast in light of the new media technologies.
You may ask, when did “typing” become “keyboarding”?
Indeed, the use of the typewriter has changed the philosophy of writing from that of a unique expression of a literate individual to that of “a sequence of naked material signifiers”. Other technologies, like the sound recording and filmstrip, have reframed our language of perception. In doing so, the technologies constructed their users and defined their behaviors. We may occasionally like to drift into a reverie of seemingly simpler times, rewriting history through an assemblage of different pieces. That is, isolating and forcing texts to reveal something beyond the materialities and orders of communication, but going back is never an answer, even if it were possible. In other words, we are left only with musings, that is to say, with stories, since “Media”, as Kittler put it, has become the new dharma that “determines our situation”. Nevertheless, media have their own “biases” and “messages” and that must be taken into account.
In this approach Kittler builds on Marshall McLuhan’s emphasis on “mediality,” which enframes the way we think about the media of the past and that of the future. That being said, with the growth of social media networks anyone could create a mediality to others based on their generated content. For example, the one who only consumes sports and local news media has different opinions, and thus “mediality”, to the one who consumes a specific entertainment and international news. Kittler, in this regard, emphasizes the role of media technologies in structuring ‘human affairs’. In Kittler’s usage, “discourse network”, in this case social media designates the “network of technologies and institutions that allow a given culture to select, store, and produce relevant data.” (xxiii) This means, once again, that it is the power of particular technologies to shape the content of communication that is at issue, rather than the ability of humans to produce, use or manipulate these technologies.