22 February 2006

Post-Pod: Media Beyond Mp3 - Chapter 1.1

When Steve Jobs first announced the release of the iPod in 2001, it was unclear just how influential Mp3 technology would be on user-end consumer markets. Within five years, the (now) phenomenon has, literally, taken hold of and, in many respects, characterised a new generation to what I call the 'i-Gen'. This is not to say Apple Computers have single-handedly morphed a generation of people into creating a lifestyle from digitally exchanged and archived music. However, the ‘myth’ of the iPod located as a fashion accessory has driven market factors to seriously reconsider the broader capabilities of this particular technology with applications that far exceed its current boundaries.

The new all-in-one video-iPods are now well circulated amongst digital communities but these are just improvements, and small advances, on a fairly old technology with limited resources. How could the hand held device evolve and would this be different from its current usage? My prediction is that the future of nano technologies will bridge a symbiotic application merging the digital and the biological together and, in doing so, will extend the iPod from media gizmo to post-human receptor.

Image a world where you could download and consume music straight into your brain? Technology so advanced that the division between digital and body are blurred. Plug yourself into an iPod and download antibiotics, or anti-aging nano-agents. Send robots into your body to rebuild hair follicles and limbs, cure acne and grow or repair internal organs, all from a wireless iPod connected to the bio-net (internet turned biological). This is where I see the future of media after the digital; reliant on the nano and its associated currencies that this will undoubtedly develop thereafter.

The major problem with a bio-nanonic iPod is the interjection between device and body. Would the body itself be genetically engineered with connecting ports - like a USB or FireWire - from which to plug such devices into? Could wireless become so advanced that the projection of nano-like robots penetrate the body through receptors, implanted as if some kind of small computer chip or even more advanced, a micro-sized internal port injected into the blood stream or tissue to circulate throughout the body indefinitely?

The ethical issues which surround such a venture are monumental. These far distant iPods could be used for measures of attack – from military hardware, state and religious terrorism, scientific exploitation, torture or coercive interference, to marketing, advertising, communication and fashion.

The future of media – an ‘after-digital’ regime – is surely in development yet throughout the next decade, advancements and investment into nano applications could bare witness to the next generation of human evolution and consumption where people are not only genetically altered but inter-connected, as if some borg-like structure, with one another. What is next for new media consumption? – the collective post-human.

REMIX(1) Authoring the Digital Remix: Images Under Strain.

Throughout 2006 I will publish a series of short discussions about 'remixing' in context to how memory, authorship and the image share an uneasy position.


While it is clear that the idea of 'the remix' is not a recent invention or singular by-product of the Postmodern era and has, in fact, been represented in most facets of human communication for thousands of years, the symptoms of re-appropriation in a twenty-first century context has changed, and from this influenced the dominance of the visual image throughout new media orientated practice.

By the very nature of the digital, transference and manipulation of data occurs through linear appropriation imbedded through narrative structures - from 'A' to 'B', up and down, from here to there. To achieve a methodological process in creative fields, the establishment of images survives because of a remixing of a first image (the original) into a second image (the copy). We can see this when digital photographs are uploaded into a computer: the image becomes a copy of the original file stored from inside the cameras hardrive and transferred to its new location.

Archiving data, whether it be photographs, text or otherwise is dependant on the process of copying. The problem that exists here rests on the image itself — under strain and, to what Australian art theorist Charles Green states as 'under pressure'. Can it be that through the digital there are no original images and from this, what of the ethical dilemmas that attach themselves to a future of generational copies?

If the visual image is indeed under tension from the digital process, then any sense of ethical involvement must address two factors: authorship and deliverance. The first must objectively generate mediation with the second and the latter faces a crisis of authorship through outputting the first. If we agree that the digital process creates a version of the original through the action of ‘remixing’ then one might argue that the authorship of the copy does not necessarily relate to the authorship of the original, it is a new authorship centred on the creation of a version of something else. Moreover, has the originality of an image been superseded by the digital remix? Evidence of this can be found in the manipulation of images through software such as Photoshop giving users the option of collating one image with another to form a third image, and so forth.

Hense, digital technology can no longer be seen as portable photocopiers in filing cabinets – moving, storing and transmitting data between file to file. The strain of the image has taken hold in such a way as to become part of a generational, and accepted, way of life (can a 16 year old imagine life without Mp3 players?) where this fundamental logic is intertwined with the process of the remix: an old dog with new tricks.

(This version will feature in a forthcoming Italian publication titled Lev Manovich: 5 questions about digital culture, edited by Vito Campanelli and Danillo Capasso)