Radio Silence

Critical Writing
Publication Type: 
Language: 
Year: 
2016
Presented at Event: 
Publisher: 
Page Numbers: 
30-33
Journal volume and issue: 
issue 9
Record Status: 
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Abstract (in English): 

This essay takes a media archaeological approach to putting forward haunted media as theory of mediation able to address contemporary networked writing practices communicated across and through multiple media, multiple iterations, multiple sites, and multiple times. Drawing upon Derrida’s invitation to consider the paradoxical state of the spectre, that of being/not-being, this paper considers the paradoxical state of long-distance communications networks. Both physical and digital, they serve as linguistic structures for modes of transmission and reception for digital texts. Composed of source code and output, these texts are neither here nor there, but rather here and there, past and future, original and copy. The in-between state has been articulated in terms of ‘medium’ in Western philosophy since classical times. The complex temporaility of this in-between state is further articulated in this essay through Alexander Galloway’s framing of the computer, not as an object, but rather as “a process or active threshold mediating between two states”. The theoretical framework for haunted media put forward in this essay is employed to discuss a web-based computer-generated text called Whisper Wire (Carpenter 2010). Whisper Wire 'haunts' the source-code of another computer-generated text, Nick Montfort's Taroko Gorge (2008), by replacing all of Montfort’s variables with new lists of words pertaining to sending and receiving strange sounds. Drawing upon heuristic research into Electronic Voice Phenomena, and citing Freud’s notion of repetition as a hallmark of the uncanny, Whisper Wire will be framed as an unheimlich text — a code medium sending and receiving un-homed messages, verse fragments, strange sounds, disembodied voices, ghost whispers, distant wails and other intercepted, intuited or merely imagined attempts to communicate across vast distances through copper wires, telegraph cables, transistor radios, and other haunted media.

Pull Quotes: 

The spectre of the body has always haunted communications media.

The Greeks conceived of the human body as a medium, or techne, through which a Muse might craft a poem.

Whisper Wire is an unheimlich poem, a code medium sending and receiving un-homed messages, verse fragments, strange sounds, disembodied voices, ghost whispers, distant wails and other intercepted, intuited, or merely imagined attempts to communicate across vast distances through copper wires, telegraph cables, transistor radios and other haunted media.

Images: 
Hack Circus - issue 9

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Title Developers Year initiated
JavaScript 1995

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Record posted by: 
J. R. Carpenter