Tag Archives: metamedium

satisfy our needs in response to a minimal effort

In 1928, the poet Paul Valéry had a vision of the future: “Just as water, gas, and electricity are brought into our houses from far off to satisfy our needs in response to a minimal effort, so we shall be supplied with visual or auditory images, which will appear and disappear at a simple movement of the hand, hardly more than a sign.”

I copied this quote into my notebook five years ago, and it knocks me over each time I come across it. Today we can let the entire world—and everyone’s opinions about it—into our heads with a swipe or a click. Of course we’re going to feel a little crazy. Sometimes my mind lands on a jittery thought: screens have become our reality and the physical world simply exists to serve their needs. It’s more of a loopy sensation than a coherent idea, but I clearly need to step up my information hygiene.

Quoting a quote of a note of a quote… partly because that Valery riff is a killer bit of Wells/Verne-era infrastructural futurism that has turned out to have a sting in the tail, but also for the sake of testing Quotebacks, a Chrome extension (Firefox version in the pipeline, apparently) for making and managing aesthetically pretty web citations for blogging purposes, as recommended by Uncle Warren. I’d have paid good money for a tool like this back in the Noughties, and here it is for free! Recommended.

The Metamedium

From a review at the Los Angeles Review of Books:

“Zielinski argues that what he calls “media” (a dense composite notion encompassing both discourse and its material supports) has vanished from the horizon because it is now ubiquitous.”

Obviously I need to read the whole book to make this claim more solidly, but nonetheless: this chimes with a chunk of my own infrastructural theory, where I claim that what we think of as “media” – which are themselves highly complex and increasingly emergent socio-technical systems – flow over and through a medium-of-media, a metamedium. That metamedium is the tangle of infrastructural socio-technical systems to which I refer as “the metasystem”, which has also been pulling a very effective disappearing trick over the last century or so.

Indeed, these two systems are effectively the public and private faces of a single coin. The metasystem is the screen upon which the Spectacle is projected; it is the conceptual veil which allows the enduring Western fiction of the social/natural dichotomy to persist, the discursive prestidigitation which distracts us from the (spatially) distant consequences of our technologically mediated consumption.