Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Border Patrol at HiLoBrow:

Perhaps more frighteningly, as Gillespie argues in Wired Shut, the issue is no longer about what is illegal but about what is possible, as defined by the private security forces we have hired to patrol the borders. No longer public servants, but for-profit corporations. No longer a political football where the debate is at least a matter of public record, but a set of lawyers quietly negotiating Terms of Service agreements, re-writing the borders of possibility at computational speed and enforcing them with software incapable of reason. This new territory is perhaps wider than the old, but the border enforcement is harsh: shoot first, ask questions later.

What troubles me most isn’t that there are borders (there always will be), or that they are different (they always change) but that while in the material world removal is manual and leaves evidence of its passage, in the digital it can destroy without leaving a mark. A redacted document shows, in effect, the action of redaction. The infamous Nixon tapes are not zeroed data, but rather contain an 18.5 minute over-dubbed section of physical tape whose contents historians still hope to recover. Aphrodite’s head still exists, even with her nose missing and a cross on her forehead, and even the Taliban have left enough of the Afghan Buddha statues that international organizations hope to rebuild them someday. But as we evolve into a future where almost all of our cultural output is fragile and digital, I wonder what becomes of the content rejected from the canon?

Very interesting article regarding the transitory and changeable nature of digital media.

NOTE: "Borders" in this article refers to metaphorical borders, not physical borders.

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