Whisper Wire: Code as a Medium for Sending and Receiving Un-Homed Messages Through Haunted Media

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

This paper puts 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 which are both physical and digital, and which serve both as linguistic structures and modes of transmission and reception for computer-generated texts. These texts themselves are composed of source code and textual output. They are neither here nor there, but rather here and there, past and future, original and copy. The complex temporaility of this in-between state is further articulated through Galloway’s framing of the computer, not as an object, but rather as “a process or active threshold mediating between two states” (23). This theoretical framework for haunted media will be 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 Freud’s notion of the uncanny and heuristic research into Electronic Voice Phenomena, 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.

(Source: Author's Abstract)

Pull Quotes: 

Whisper Wire is a haunting of Nick Montfort’s computer-generated poem Taroko Gorge (2008). It revisits, recurs, and remains persistently within, and, at the same time, disturbs, distresses, and intrudes upon the structure of Montfort’s source code.

Paradoxically, Whisper Wire produces text in excess, but what that text addresses is an absence, a lack born of distance. The source code and, in the case of the live performance iteration, the human body, become mediums for sending and receiving un-homed messages, sounds, and signals across, beyond, and through this distance. This pragmatic approach to mediation situates the computer, the source code, and the human body not as discreet ontological entities but rather as processes mediating between sites, states, and forms.

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Title Date Location
Inspace ...no one can hear you scream 31.10.2010
United Kingdom
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J. R. Carpenter