(Notes on the Loss of Inscription)
Giselle Beiguelman
p0es1s 2001



1) Code


Digital literacy deals with a new writing condition. From now on writing does not inscribe anymore. It just describes.


A very popular and curious tag "content = no cache" is enough to introduce that discussion. Placed in the html code, it updates the contents of any on line page, erasing what was written before.


This is really fascinating not just because we know that our culture links written data to memory, but because an interesting paradox emerges in the context of on line writing: in a space built up memory, what prevails is an architecture of forgetting.

May be not an architecture of destruction, that could mean a bet in collective amnesia. But one that resembles to the art of forgetting schematized by Umberto Eco[1], a different cultural system that questions the dialectic of contiguity/similarity of Western semiotics.

In this sense, it means an effort to deal with a cultural platform where text and images are in permanent transit in a fluid ambient (a networked system of connected computers) and because of these factors are not oriented to representation through their support.


It is possible that the inconsequent metaphor between page and screen hides this situation. But it also denotes a vocabulary gap that create false parallel ideas like web and site and indicates a weakness in the field of digital culture criticism...


As a matter of fact those false parallels and synonyms suppress the most interesting possibility of on line writing:  It celebrates the loss of inscription by removing the trace from acts of erasure. [2]


2) Second Hand-culture


By doing so, digital culture points to a new authorship condition: one that faces the novelty of the contemporary phenomena of the second-generation originals.[3]


A phenomena that is more than a simple consequence of the ontological nature of digital data, given that informatics are technology of cloning, of the duplication of code.


Digital texts and images are unlinked to the support. Save it in another format. There is not any difference between the original and the copy.

There are no originals, neither copies. Just information code.


The here and now of authenticity, the work of art “aura”, as put by Walter Benjamin, does not fit digital culture production.[4] 


Nevertheless they are identical resettings of the same informative code, but they are not identical in experience and this is the fascination of the clone logic: It  is the possibility of being identical being different.


Images have left their imago>imitare condition. They
suppressed their etymological essence. They have become second-hand originals.


Texts, in turn, are now closer to their primitive Latin meaning: “texere”, that means to weave, since they are more and more an edited or emended copy of another work, unfolding a relational quality that fades the limits between images and texts.


3) wysyiwg?


On line data (no matter if they are texts, images or sounds) are visible if they are described by texts that indicate their location in a domain and make the recognizable an Uniform Resource Locator, which is a type Uniform Resource Identifier (URI).[5]


Text is place and all those places _which are non-places but we call sites[6]_ are built up to be transmitted and conceived dealing with its downloading time. 


That means that space is a matter of text and seeing is a matter of writing. And both are a matter of weight.


It is really strange that any file on the web seems to be only surface. The very metaphor of the screen with the page reinforce that assurance, dissimulating what implodes the notion of volume and the horizontality of the line, reading formats adequate to the Codex  historical context[7], probably, but not to the liquid texts of digital culture.


A cultural imaginary of nomadic devices and Intelligent agents, where images and texts are now made to be seen on the move, in mobile phones, PDAs and electronic panels in accordance with entropy and the logic of acceleration.


But also according to a lack of logic of the market, which makes what it is seen result of the pattern and quality of the monitor, of connection speed, browser versions and models. In sume: a set of variables that also play an interesting role in this unstable game.

Nothing assures that these images and texts are visual units, possessing that kind of unity that allowed to Mallarmé revolutionize poetry, trusting the materiality of the page.[8]
Art lost its contemplative function and this makes all the difference. The ubiquitous quality of cyberspace does not point to a metaphor of dispersion but to a multileveled subject[9], disconnected of the limits that attach representations to the supports and reduce language to mediation.[10]


Digital writing in this context expands and redirects not the reading support through the substitution of paper (or film or magnetic tape) by the screen, but the reading interface, since one does not think of a world of reading without thinking of a particular reading of the world.


In this context one of the most famous acronyms of Internet publishing software industry “WYSIYG” (what you see is what you get) reveals its subversive potential when transformed into question. It points to new paradigms in the relation between text, image, memory and representation. 


A resetting which will certainly redefine reading and creation in the fluid architecture of a liquid textuality that prescinds of inscription because it stresses juxtaposition in detriment of the complementation, assemblage in detriment of substitution.


It short, cross over in detriment of the compensatory logic of supplement, polisemy instead of monotony or recycling processes rather than preservation.






PS: In the last three years I´ve been developing my artistic work dealing with those questions and in many ways those notes are in fact nodes of those reflections.


The Book after the Book (www.desvirtual.com/thebook) discusses reading interfaces through an interface that appeals to the structure of Borges' The Book of Sand

<Content=No Cache> (www.desvirtual.com/nocache) talks about the lack of criticism on the lost of inscription inherent to on line writing playing with error messages and its descriptive (sic) function

Recycled (www.desvirtual.com/recycled) is defined by its title: a reunion of my favourite pages recycled in a new context organized according to some programming rules that deny stability.

Wop Art (www.desvirtual.com/wopart) is a Wap site (http://tagtag.com/wopart) with a web interface that has the nomadic condition as a point of departure for an aesthetic configuration based on emulation instead of simulation prerogatives.

[1]   ECO, Umberto “ Un Art d'oublier est-il concevable?” Traverse, 40, abr. 1987, p. 126

[2]NOVAK, Marcos – Liquid Architectures and the Loss of Inscription. http://www.t0.or.at/~krcf/nlonline/nonMarcos.html

[3]Lunenfeld, Peter:  Art Post-History: Digital Photography and Electronic Semiotics. IN: Photography after Photography. Amsterdam, G+B, 1996, p. 95

[4] BENJAMIN, Walter. “A Obra de Arte na Era de sua Reprodutibilidade Técnica”. Em: Magia e Técnica: Arte e Política. [Auswall in Drei Bänden. Trad. Sergio Paulo Rouanet]. São Paulo, 5 ª ed.,  Brasiliense, 1993, p. 167.

[5]See World Wide Web Consortium for those terms in Introduction to HTML 4.0. http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/intro/intro.html#h-2.1.1

[6]BERNERS-LEE, Tim. “The Myth of Name and Addresses”. In: Axioms on Web Architecture, 1996. http://www.w3.org/DesignIssues/NameMyth.html

[7]CHARTIER, Roger. Do Leitor ao Navegador [Le Livre en Revolution, Trad. Reginal Carmello Coôrrea de Moraes] . UNESP, 1998.

[8]MALLARMÉ, Stéphane. Um Lance de Dados  Jamais Abolirá o Acaso. [Un Coup de Dés Jamais n'Abolira le Hasard. Trad. Haroldo de Campos]. Em: Campos, Augusto de, Campos Haroldo e Pignatari Décio. Mallarmé. São Paulo, Perspectiva, 1974, p. 151.

[9] LICHTY, Patrick. “Building a Culture of Ubiquity”. http://www.voyd.com/ubiq/. 2001

[10]DERRIDA, Jacques.  Gramatologia. [De la Gramatologie. Trad. Miriam Chnaiderman e Renato Janine Ribeiro] São Paulo, Perspectiva, 1973, p. 177