As an author and critic, one of the things I do consists of developing ways to consider new practices and new tools of communication and creation which are the New Information and Communication Technologies. That concerns digital medias in comparison with previous medias, and in observing the relationship between art and technical support.
By organizing seminars and public encounters, by presenting artists’ work and by proposing themes of research, writing some articles and publishing some collective books, there is a goal of trying to bring about interaction between mediums and languages, forms of writing and communication, and tackling the mutations that new technologies and their usage imply on an artistic, esthetic, semiological, cognitive and philosophical level, but also in social and political spheres, starting from the transmitter and preceding to the receptor of transmitted messages.
Some of the questions are :
Do the use and introduction of new technologies in art lead us to a mutation in artistic practices ?
What are the new systems of representation and narration to come ?
Is there an emergence of new languages ? New spaces of meaning and exchange ? How to understand them ? How are cultural usages modified ?
What type of relation can exist between new medias and the public, users ? Which cultural politics for new medias ?
How to invent a public space from the possibilities offered by the new technologies of information and communication ?
My specific field of reflection consists of taking on the material (technical) and spiritual (symbolic) relationship between media(s) and language(s).
Here, I will try to pose some questions relative to old and new languages, considering the digital media era, NITC and the internet network. The two parts will speak about :
New technologies and writing
Heterogeneity of languages and social link
New technologies and writing
All forms of expression, all languages, can now be produced or processed by digitalization or the digital. Thus writing, as I intend it, is affected, and creation along with it. Bernard Stiegler, the french philosopher of technology, says that computing can be considered as a new form of writing. It is therefore necessary to understand the way these technologies function, how technè and logos are linked, what their logic is, and how we can use this new alphabet.
How does a computer program process data ? How do computer codes and languages interact with other sorts of codes and languages ? How is the result perceptible on a computer screen ? How is this information given out and transmitted, how do they materialize ?
Independant of the data handled or the processes carried out on this data, the computer program is a combination of binary numbers, called bits, represented by 0 and 1. To create a program, it is necessary to combine a certain quantity of 0 and 1, and also to associate these numbers to external data, what we call coding the data. This allows us to process it. We will not examine the complex procedures of program writing, for which each object processed requires a considerable amount of combinations and instructions for its functioning.
The coding and the program do not appear on the screen, though they determine the existence of what appears. What is visible or audible ? Its digital or digitalized material, in the form of data, with which the code, then the program are associated.
So, the problematic of data process languages is the one of double language.
The data process, by its digital component, creates a separation between the support and the surface : the programm that transmit the processed informations and these datas, are not from the same field of language. For example, a data process programm of texte or image keeps being discretly a numerical system.
We have to do with a double language, concomitant, but from which the logic and the meaning are different and autonomous. The informationnal paradigm of each of them has got its own system. Their adjustment into the data process system is only a technological one, and not a semantic one. And there is no direct transparency for the computer user. It is a double language that it acts as an internal way to the computer.
We can notice that this situation is completly different from analogical technologies, which don’t create the forms by itselves, but which record them and reveal them, or reproduce them : photography, cinema, recorder, for example. Concerning the new technonologies, the internal process to make out signs, or the formal traces, is one of their specific aspects. This potentiality situates the signs, or the forms, into an own referential system. And this is at the interconnexion of the handling of the bits and its results that will be generated the forms of the digital system.
So we can affirm that in computing and the digital, languages are juxtaposed. Functionally, technically, and semiotically. Data is processed by programs, meaning thousand year-old representation systems group together with recent computer languages, language-machines.
How does their logic coincide ? What makes sense or sensation ? Is it possible to control these anachronisms ? Does the machine’s functionalism dissect or reduce the symbolic power of anterior languages ? How can we work within these constraints ?
Concerning NITC, computer and digital systems, data processing will determine representation. The program’s writing, whatever its programming language or information to be processed, is equivalent to the sculpture of forms. The display, or the form it takes, will be marked by the computer programmer’s, the author of the program’s "cutting". It is with such an intent, arranged in the program, that the base of the writing shall be situated.
The writing is considered as an intention, experienced as tension between the material reality of elements exercising an enthropic biological and morphologically tautological action, and an organization of the biological material system, meaning a manipulation of the objects, that could produce a different order, presenting a formal apparence distinct from the material order.
The role of artists and authors is importantand even crucial in the new writing systems, and I think it has to be closed to the technological conception. In the situation and at the time of digital medias, we have to consider the technical supports of the writing in the relationship with the symbolic forms, that is what artists work on. It is necessary to elaborate a structuration in order to create a specific and open system of writing, as well as to produce a symbolic richness in these new forms of representation and communication. The physical possibilities of the material, here the digital, are some elements that have to go both with the writing, because they build as well the formal aspects, and so the representation, and at the end, the meaning.
So, we have to pay attention to the history of writing systems and to look at its evolutions and changes. We have also to integrate in our minds that writing, I repeat again, has now a multimedia dimension.
I cite one more time Bernard Stiegler saying that “the history of the genesis of works of art cannot be dissociated from the history of the technical supports”.
In this way, my position is not only an aesthetic critic, but this an input for a cultural politic in the field of the technologies and digital medias, included in a communication and information society.
Heterogeneity of languages and social link
"In the postmodern era, sciences and technologies bring new languages that add to old ones". Another point is what the french philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard had already termed in 1979 "the heterogeneity of languages" in computerized societies, is what constitutes postmodern knowledge.
New languages accumulate to old ones.
As we said, writing and languages have a long history, now they are multimedia, and computer sciences have their own languages, but also, according to Lyotard, in the XXth century, sciences and technologies are involved with language : linguistic theories, phonologic structures, cybernetic, machine-languages, genetic code, for example.
But, of course, nobody speaks all these languages, and there is no universal meta-language, and so, no universal knowledge.
Jean.François Lyotard, in the introduction of his famous book “The postmodern condition”, announces that “his study has for object the condition of the knowledge in the developped societies”, that means technologicaly computerized, cause he thinks that it makes change the knowledge status. This, is included in the age of postmodern culture, that is characterized by doubt and questionning facing to the tales (political, religious, or scientific) : it is the story crise.
So, by considering these elements, his work bears on the langages facts and their pragmatic aspects.
He also considered that in a society in which communication has more and more place, and become more evident, the language aspect gets a new extent. He though that the social link is emerging from language, and that the society to come has to practice with this element.
With NITC and the internet network, into the time of globalization, considering this situation, is it possible to invent and create forms and ways to communicate keeping alive the social link ? Which kind of society can emerge from it ?
The technological link does not make the social link right away .
We have to organize the exchanges, their wording, the structuration of the discourse, in order to continue to communicate. A new diagram of communication has to be thinked, a new composition of the exchanges has to be written. It means that we have to create new forms of sociability.
Since we are confronted with this diversity of languages, perhaps we must make them homogenous. In this sense, rendering something homogenous entails producing meaning from these heterogeneous fragments. It is a work of writing. Created from polymorphic materials, and keeping symbolic wealth of each of them. We have to combine these fragments of wording and discourse in order to give birth to new forms of communication, new representation systems, and new ideas.
What Jean-Francois Lyotard called the social pragmatism is the ideology to see the appearance of a new wording : for an emancipation of the knowledge, for the preservation of cultural diversity, and facing to the simplification and standardization of messages by the marketing and capitalism merchandising.
Into the capitalism system, all is considered as consumer goods, and knowledge and culture don’t escape to this rule.
The struggle against the communication and information society power and hegemony can go by what Jean-François Lyotard named “the paralogy of the inventors”. Invention is emerging from dissensus, provokes some instability, and then strikes the established and legitimated discourse. This kind of language “strokes” is a method to actualise the social link (by researching new links with the reality, and by composing new logics, by new formulations).
He said also that a dialectic of languages particles is what refine our sensibilities and our differences.
According to that, cultural communities, singular attitudes and also artists work seem to be a failure to globalization of knowledge. In effect, it would be one of the stakes about the production and acces to information, communication and knowledge at the time of global network : a diversity of cultural, historical, forms and levels of languages and symbolic representations that cross and respond in a "game of languages", instead of an information highway with a unic sense. That is the way to found or keep the social link, in the movement of the spirit life and the creation. And this is also a form of communication that makes participate society in its multitude to the sense of what is exchanged and how it represents itself, instead of being considered as a consummer of informationnal products.