Ghosts in the Machine: The Personal Rational on the Fringes of Digital Literature

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

This paper will start by exploring Platonic Formalism as Techne without instantiation. In a concurrently anti-aesthetic and morally rationalist manner, Plato's space for any artistic enactment requires a social engagement utilizing a logical method. This is mathematics without technology, or the semantics of the structured without any methodology for construction and preservation. Analytically speaking, we are given a dialogic picture of the ghost in the machine.

This phrase, used critically by Gilbert Ryle to take apart the mental dualism of Descartes, can contrast with Kierkegaard's appreciation of the thinker - that is, the personal reasoning of Descartes, Socrates debating himself (as he often does). Rationalism takes the form of logical structures that roam the imaginary and hypothetical, a sheerly literary game (Kierkegaard's first stage) in a manner described by absence. A negative machinic aesthetics.

Randy Adams, the Canadian digital poet, accumulated a body of work that grew up in the social blog heavy 2000s period of web history. Amidst a flurry of activity on different corporate American platforms like blogspot and wordpress, the collective blog took root and Adams' own Remixworx was exemplary of this. These projects are crucial as social works as well as platforms for some of the most reflective and relevant work being made at the time. Some artists, such as Carmen Racovitza and Matina Stamatakis, made their primary base in these blogs, and have a body of work that I think can't be properly appreciated without a valorization of these spaces. Others, such as Ted Warnell, have no extant work from such commercial platforms except scattered documents and references (

Computers are born out of the pre-emptive strategizing of American imperialism, and their interconnected evolution has reified over time this military-commercial genealogy. The question for a work in a new medium is not simply how to technically use that medium but what is the social audience - of creators and readers. Much as the printing press and its reproduced codices represent a core method of European communication and political growth, so the computer wears the vestige of America's technical and territorial advance on the world stage.

Starting with an archeology of instrumental rationalism, my exploration will then bifurcate between the social media literature that proliferated through the later 2000s and 2010s, and the social infrastructure that made that possible. In contrast to the internet origin myth that starts free and gradually gets commercially corrupted, I will attempt to make the case that as social bodies settle into its media, the basic nature - both historical and technical - becomes culturally revealed over time. By following a series of creative authors I have found attuned to the computer network's economic and social structures, I hope to diagram the inherent corporate statism that undergirds internet space from its inception. Insofar as such a picture is accurate I argue that the role of the artist becomes one of reversing that overinstrumentalized rationalism, of discovering the platforms for its bias and engaging in a critical practice at once parasitic and analytical. It could be that that Cartesian Spectre, or Plato's Socratic Method, however heuristic, proves the personal rational key to a world whose logic has grown all too technological.

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Jorge Sáez Jimé...