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Re: <nettime> There are only Vectors
McKenzie Wark on Wed, 12 Mar 2003 11:24:34 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> There are only Vectors


Dear Human Being,
   thankyou for taking the trouble to read and think.

I will only respond briefly, for I think many of your speculations are
not really addressed to me, but to yourself, to your own future
thinking.

This point I think is crucial, and I have only formulated it this way
recently: Information has an *abstract* relation to matter. Information
is always material. It does not exist independently of its material
substrate. But it can have any substrate. It has no necessary relation
to the substrate in which we happen to find it. For example, these
ascii characters could be on my screen, your screen, a piece of paper.

This has lots of amazing consequences, and more than a few problems.
If you are familiar with meta-mathematics, this solution may remind you
of the differences between Platonism, Constructivism and Intuitionism
in meta-mathematics. The position I would defend falls in one of the
latter two camps. (Don't know which).

Vector is quite an old word, going back to the renaissance. It has meanings
in many fields, which can be useful to hyperlink into, or confusing. I 
prefer
not to get into it too much. I am interested in the relationship between a
geometry and a geography of information.

A vector has a fixed property and an indeterminant property. One could say
length is fixed, axis is not. Strictly speaking, that's a vector. But by 
extension,
one could think more abstractly of a vector as a relation between a 
determinate
and an indeterminate property. Maybe the other way around: Length may be
indeterminate, but axis is given.

I find this very useful for thinking about how information moves through 
time
and space. Any given media has certain fixed properties (my concession to
the McLuhan/Innis/Ong school) and some that are not (and here I want to
return to the historical materialist school from which i come...).

You are right to point out that vector is not a term that Innis or Carey 
use.
But it is my interpretation of how they were thinking. I think my reading
solves certain problems in Innis, but that need not detain us here. I don't
think Virilio really uses it as a concept.

The telegraph is not striictly the first vector that separates the 
(geometric) plane
of information (third nature) from the geographic plane of collective human
labour (second nature). yes, one can beat drums, make smoke signals. But
honestly, are these precursors of all that much *historical* significance?
Thinking ought to be oriented to the historical horizon, in my view.

"There is nothing outside the vector" ie, we can reread Derrida through the
history of communication and the communication of history.




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"Theories are made to die in the war of time." -- Debord
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