The Holographic Virtual
So, this is a stupid thing to do because now you all get to see how stupid I am… BUT. Over the past few years on Scrawled in Wax, I’ve hashed out some of the things I think are interesting about “the digital virtual”. Those ideas – the weird epistemological status of the digital object, the spatio-temporally multiple subject etc etc blah blah – so occupied my mind, they ended up in my stupid, horrible I-hate-it-so-much dissertation.
Anyway, there’s a little summary of some of those ideas in my most recent chapter, and I thought I might tweak them a bit and put them here for the four of you who still read SiW. So basically, this is supposed to a microscopic rundown of something like ‘the epistemology of the virtual’. So, this is what I think about the web or the digital virtual etc.:
- it is a persistent discursive and phenomenal field in which digital objects enter into relations of exchange; it is discursive because it is a product of, can only be apprehended through, ideological discourses; at the same time, it is not simply ‘imaginary’, but presents as an aesthetic, phenomenal space;
- it is ‘suprasubjective’ in the sense that the field, though sustained by electricity, human activity etc., not only persists, but operates in the absence of the subject;
- that the aforementioned digital objects, including those which are synecdochic representations of the subject, are “holographic” i.e. they have “reality effects” despite the fact that their appearance on digital screens (electrons forming visual representations of the ‘electrons in code’) is material in its visual nature, but not material in terms of a three-dimensional entry into immanent space; the defining aspect of the digital object is that it can discursively operate as material as it also simultaneously escapes the spatio-temporal ‘constraints’ of the material object;
- that furthermore, these digital synechoches enter into relations of exchange (semiotic, ideological, of power etc.) in the absence of their ‘author’, such that social networking, web sites constitute the embodiment of subjectivity into electronic space; if the subject is always a virtual effect of ‘the interiority of subjectivity’ and its projection in the imagination (“the mirror”), the digital forms one more node in the constellational matrix of the always-already virtual process of self-identification/interpellation;
- and finally, that production of a persistent field rooted in malleable code, and that also acts as a quasi-mimetic canvas widely accessible by broad swaths of people (in the wealthy areas of the world) means the digital virtual is also primarily a psychological space. In this psychological space, fantasy plays a key role in self-presentation and also the relationship between self-presentation and the bodily subject in that fantasy forms the interface—i.e. the mechanism of apprehension—between subject and the representations of both digital selves and objects.
I would say that I welcome any critiques and suggestions, but I’d actually probably curl up in a ball and cry. It’ll get tweaked in the revision and its subjection to The Red Pen of the Supervisor, but this is the rough frame that I’m using.