2011 Lettered Selves

Invited talk, Wayne State University

 

Rejecting the claims made on behalf of spiritual forces, abstract thought, and consciousness, the philosopher Gilles Deleuze  paraphrasing Spinoza, urges “We do not even know what a body can do … what a body is capable of. ” (Nietzsche and Philosophy, 39) One reason why this might be so is we do not know what the alphabet — the vehicle of conscious, abstract thought — has done, is doing to us, to our bodies. Only recently have we begun  to understand our subjection to the letter, to see the extent to which alphabetic inscription has determined western beliefs, subjectivities, and metaphysics.

The Literate West

Alphabetic writing is coterminous with the West’s philosophical and theological origins. From its inception it has served as the West’s dominant cognitive technology (along with mathematical writing); the medium in which its legal, bureaucratic, historical, religious, artistic, and social business has been conducted. Certainly, its hold over the West’s project of organizing, imagining, and philosophizing the world is deeply-rooted and total in its reach. Its modes  of analysis, the affects it ignores and invents, the semiotic pathways it lays  down, the conceptual tropes it promotes, in short, its logic, operates as an unexamined given within rational discourse and all forms of (textually mediated) narrative.  The result: an all-pervasive and seamless alphabetic environment, a textual shaping of thought, imagination, subjectivities, selves, and affect unaware of its own activity as a medium.  A discourse so taken for granted as a transparent, neutral and unproblematic coding of speech, as to be unable to see itself at the origin of the very systems of thought and metaphysics it  understands itself to be merely conveying. Of course, any medium attempting to explicate itself faces intrinsic difficulties. When further the medium defines the means of explication, the task sits on the edge of a disabling circularity.  Only if there are outside forces, different media, alternative modes of understanding and affect which challenge or delimit it, and so enable an exterior perspective, can such recognition by a medium of its own mediality become feasible. It would seem that the arrival of digital media might provide an opportunity for just such an external purchase on the alphabet.

Certainly recognition of its media effects, its deep and pervasive presence within thought and its hold over psychic life, is emerging. As Ivan Illich and Barry Sanders, for example, observe, for the last half millennium the very concept of a person has adhered to that of a ‘lettered self’, an individual psyche inextricable from the apparatus of alphabetic writing describing, articulating,  communicating, presenting, stabilizing, perpetuating, and framing it. ”In the society that has come into existence since the Middle Ages”, they observe, “one can always avoid picking up a pen, but one cannot avoid being described, identified, certified, and handled – like a text. Even in reaching out to become one’s own ‘self’, one reaches out for a text.” (1988, x) Plainly, western thought – in all its rationality, articulated subjectivity, and expressions of selfhood — is imprinted by the alphabet. And was so long before the invention of printing.

The Alphabetic Body

No encounter with a mediating apparatus can be reduced to its mental effects or its declared signifying and representational means. Media interact with the bodies of their users. They alter nervous systems, cause visceral changes,  induce affect, exert force, restructure relations of distance and temporality. In order to function at all, they demand,  at a level beneath their manifest effects, psycho-physiological changes in the bodies of their users at the same time as they disincarnate the objects being mediated. As Steven Shaviro remarks for  film, “We neglect the basic tactility and viscerality of cinematic experience when we describe material processes and effects, such as the persistence of vision, merely as mental illusions. Cinema produces real effects in the viewer, rather than merely presenting phantasmatic reflection to the viewer.” (1993, 51) What  is true of the “psychophysiology of cinematic experience” holds for any encounter with a mediating apparatus – alphabetic, computational, telephonic, televisual, photographic, audiophonic, telegraphic, or any other: always the user is used, the psyche-body of the one who views, writes, reads, listens, speaks, computes is transformed by forces outside the apparatus’s explicit instrumentality and acknowledged effects.

The alphabet mediates spoken language. It is taken to re-present speech: texts, it is said, inscribe utterances, coding them as sequences of letters tied to  sounds. But texts do not in fact inscribe utterances. Texts code only individual words that compose them.  Words which are themselves objects isolated by writing. (Making linguistics the science not of lingua but of its written forms). About the dynamics of the words, how they’re said, the living feel of them, the manner in which their saying informs the utterance they comprise, alphabetic writing is necessarily silent. This is because a text cannot notate tone of voice and so cannot represent what is conveyed or induced by it, namely affect. The affect proper to human speech, which pertains to moods, feelings, passions, attitudes, convictions, and emotions, lies in tone, that is, in the gestures of the vocal apparatus that are the auditory movements and presence of the body within utterance: the voice’s hesitations, silences, changes of pitch, emphases, rhythms, sharpness, timbre, musicality, elisions,  and other elements of   prosody. The alphabet, limited to isolated words with no means of inscribing the liaison between them or the movement of speech, knows nothing of all this. In other words the alphabet allows a toneless ‘speaker’ to come into being, a  virtual voice unmoored from a body whose prosodic gestures are never absent from speech.

This external effect of un-embodiment is accompanied by, and is inseparable from, an internal form of corporeal disassociation, a specific psycho- physiological restructuring of the non-literate brain. ‘Learning one’s alphabet’, acquiring the ability to read and write alphabetic inscriptions, requires a suite of neurological innovations.  Reading and writing, the cognitive business of hallucinating speech from and into letters, demands a permanent alteration of their brains that takes human children a protracted period of repetition and practice to master. Neurologically, the requirements of literacy implement a ‘literacy module’, a neural complex within the neo-cortex dedicated to writing/reading purely textual entities. A module dedicated to handling the production and reception of phonemic strings that constitute written words shorn of their prosodic content and associated affective fields; words decoupled from the moods, feelings, desires, and regulatory activity routinely evinced (and induced) by spoken utterance. The complex is centered in the frontal-occipital lobes and essentially disassociated from the midbrain. It is distinct from the ‘speech areas’ in the lateral-parietal complex governing the generation and reception of spoken language. Alphabetic writing splits the unified co- occurrence of limbic affect and cortical signification, of tone and words, that constitutes speech in two, and replaces the purely signifying half by a text.  In this way, each act of writing/reading activates and consolidates the cortical override of the midbrain that makes it possible.

Hierarchy

Evidently, any system for writing speech establishes relations of cultural dominance over the oral practices it colonizes; a move seemingly intrinsic to the creating and furthering of a literate culture. Alphabetic writing intensifies and particularizes this dominance, stabilizing it into a series of hierarchical relations of a new, more comprehensive order.  By identifying itself (in writing) as a medium inscribing speech without significant loss,  and hence being indifferent to what might turn on the radical disjunction of speech and writing, the   alphabet masks its role in the construction of disembodied agency. This erasure of its own mediating effects allows what at the neurological level is a disassociation — limbic affect bypassed by a text-processing cortex — to become the invisible legitimating source of the paired rankings that have permeated the intellectual mainstream and values of western culture. By this is meant not simply the persistent derogation of the body, the subordination of its force and affect in favour of signification and abstract thought that abets our ignorance of “what a body can do”. But more than this are the metaphysical entities behind these rankings, namely a spiritual psyche – Mind – superior to  the mortal soma and a transcendent Jahweh – God — over and above the  human.  In which case, it’s necessary to ask: How, by what material, cognitive- affective, cultural means, did the entities God and Mind come to be – to exist, to be known, to have agency, to be objects of belief and affect – within western culture?

Ghosts

The answer I propose is a mediological one. God and Mind are ghosts of writing, facilitations,  artifacts, media effects of the alphabet; each a supernatural   agency that emerged in the sixth century BCE within the respective Jewish and Greek deployments of their alphabets. Each born at a point when the medium of alphabetic writing had become sufficiently naturalized, when speech and inscription, utterance and text, could appear interchangeable,  when any difference between them was a practical matter of no theoretical or   philosophical  significance.

To avoid misunderstanding, let me say that by ‘ghost’ I mean something other than the customary spirit of a deceased person or a site of social repression, “a social figure” signifying a haunting (Avery Gordon). If indeed we are surrounded by ghosts in a ‘supernatural world’ (Jennifer Egan “The Keep’) it is – I suggest — because our psyches in this world are permeated by new media. The ghosts I am interested in are invisible, technologically induced entities that emerge, under appropriate circumstances, as self-enunciatiating agencies. Their character and action result from the medium in which their existence is manifest; and their efficacy as objects of belief deriving from their lack of acknowledgement —   their effacement — of this very fact. However, though distinct from social hauntings and specters such as individual revenants like the ghost of Hamlet’s father, media ghosts are nonetheless never free of the supernatural affect surrounding the fate and habitation of the dead.  As Friedrich Kittler asserts  “The realm of the dead is as extensive as the storage and transmission capabilities of a given culture.” (1999) A claim surely pertinent to the medium of telegraphic transmission. By providing real-time – live – communication with remote, invisible, and unknown persons, telegraphy allowed spirits of the dead to come to life, delivering a population of ghosts – remote, invisible, disembodied agents — who transmitted their messages by (appropriately enough) Morse-code like taps through the medium of a human medium. But telegraphy descends from the older, more primal medium of alphabetic writing, its “electromagnetic unheimlich” as Erik Davis describes it,  echoing the unheimlichkeit inherent in disembodied vocality, the psychic shock of utterance from elsewhere and elsewhen, of a voice stored in scrolls of skin and papyrus waiting to be ventriloquized into living speech. A voice at its most uncanny and ghostlike when — by the magic of writing  — it refers to itself.

 The I

There are two forms of self-reference at play here, the spoken and the written  ‘I’,  and they are radically distinct: they project different affects, have different relations to embodiment, operate differently in their milieus, and enunciate distinctive forms of subjectivity. The classic definition of the former – “ ‘I’ refers to the act of individual discourse in which it is uttered and it designates its speaker” (Benveniste)  — has no parallel for the ‘I’ of a text.  There is no unique act of individual discourse, no physical body tied to it,  and no necessary connection (let alone identity) between the one who may have written, or caused to have written, ‘I’,  and the one or thing or fiction tha might or might not be designated by it.  But, nevertheless, it proves possible to ignore these  differences and imagine an I-er, an agent who is behind the written ‘I’ as no different from the one who speaks ‘I’. The result is a new kind of entity, a hybrid agency, fusing features of an embodied speaking ‘I’ with the floating, disembodied presence of the textual ‘I’. According to Pascal Boyer, hybrids of this sort, created by violating an ontological attribute of some familiar being but allowing all attributes and inferences not affected by the violation to remain in place follow a principle of ghost/god formation found in diverse human  cultures.  For the Jews the hybrid was the invisible, external Jahweh who announced his unique and monadic self – I am that I am – within an alphabetic text subsequently fetishized by His presence within it. For the Greeks the hybrid was psyche, a divine, internal agency that became Mind, the source of thought, separate from but somehow – its lasting mystery — attached to the mortal  soma.

Alphabetic Logic

To the lettered selves the alphabet fosters, the supernatural hybrids of an external God and interior Mind are real and credible. Selves and hybrids co- evolved  and are governed by the same logic.  A logic that is

mono-tropic, favoring the monad, the self-enclosed whole, the One,  by virtue  of its very constitution; and linear, operating serially, constrained to process one thing after another rather than many things at once.

The alphabet’s proclivity for the monad stems from its original remit of correlating letters to sonic fragments, designated sounds of the body independent of and unrelated to each other. These body noises, phonemes, the smallest sound bits identifiable by their hearers,  are in themselves   meaningless. That is, they are sonic rather than semantic atoms, in contrast to morpheme-based writings of speech (such as Chinese) based on minimal units of sense. Having no links, being immersed in no larger field of relations outside themselves, the elements of the alphabet are monads: irreducible, independent, self-contained things in themselves.  The medium’s mono-tropism making it an apt resource, it would seem,  for constructing a unique, sufficient unto itself mono-being.

The alphabet’s linearity, its obeisance to serial ordering, one-dimensional  forms, and its corresponding suppression of ‘pluri-dimensional’ – parallel – thought has two, quite different sources: the exigency of speech-determined ordering, and the principle of alphabetic ordering. The first, the spatially- ordered linearity of the text, is an immediate, obvious and seemingly inevitable result of mimetic or iconic re-presentation of speech: the spatial ordering of letters in a word following the presumed temporal order of sounds the order of words in a text corresponding to the presumed linear nature of utterances, and so on. (Of course the mimesis is limited: the analogue flow of speech is  rendered digitally;  its co-occurring prosody eliminated.) The other source of linearity, alphabetic ordering, has nothing to do with the coding of sounds, with alphabetic writing per se, but originates in the deployment of abcedaries,  lists of letters in a fixed order, that appear to have been used from the alphabet’s inception. Though theoretically irrelevant to the functioning of alphabetic writing, originating perhaps as memory aids, this mode of ordering allied to alphabetic inscription of words (and the synergies of place-notation inscription of numbers) has vastly potentiated the linear character of western literacy, being responsible for dictionaries, thesauruses, indexes, Dewey classification, bibliographical scholarship, encyclopedias, concordances, as well as nonsense verse, crossword puzzles, cyphers, and Borges’ fiction of a self-cataloguing library.

Parallel Logic

But the glory days of this ordered linearity are numbered. The age of the text, of alphabetic graphism and its logic, is drawing to a close.  Already, beginning in the 19th century the totality of its domination of western culture encountered its first real resistance, its monopoly challenged by new media, technologies that have since appropriated much of what had so long been discharged and organized by alphabetic writing. Thus, the alphabet’s hold on factual description and memory broken by photography, its inscription and preservation of speech sounds eclipsed by the direct reproduction of sound by the phonograph and its descendants, its domination of narrative form, fictional and otherwise, increasingly upstaged by documentary and film art, and its universal necessity compromised by television’s ability to report/construe the social scene, via images and speech, to the non-literate.

This dethroning of the alphabetic text is now entering a new, more radical phase brought about by technologies of the virtual whose effects go beyond the appropriation and upstaging of alphabetic functionality seen so far. Though enabled by the limit case of the alphabetic principle – two letters 0 and 1 whose words are numbers – these technologies give rise to a parallelist logic fundamentally opposed to that of the alphabet.  Observe that in itself, the opposition of serial/parallel is by no means restricted to the arena of alphabetic writing. Given any two actions or processes they can occur serially, one after the other, or they can happen at the same time, in parallel. The two poles appear variously combined in many cultural fields and artifacts:  for example, music (horizontal melody versus vertical harmony), communication (discursive versus presentational modes), mathematics (arithmetic versus geometry, ordinal versus cardinal numbers), film editing (Eisensteinian versus inter-cut montage),  and electrical wiring (series versus parallel circuits). Two further examples, of particular interest here, are computation (serial versus parallel architecture) and representation (textual signification against pictorial display).

Until the late 1970s the verb ‘to compute’ was understood along the lines laid down fifty years earlier by Turing who abstracted it from his analysis of an isolated, individual person performing a calculation, one step at a time on an ideal machine. When real machines were built after the second world war they adhered to this model: computation consisted of executing linear algorithms, lists of instructions performed one at a time in strict sequence. At the end of this period the verb mutated from a serial to a parallel understanding. The model of a ‘computer’ switched from an individual, consciously calculating human agent  to biological or social systems such as Honeybee colonies, corporations, bureaucracies, medical communities, committees, as well as the sensory activity and physical maintenance of individual organisms. The switch – a belated recognition of collective, distributed processes rather than isolated individual actions as the basis of mental processing  —  has radical consequences. It introduces into thought, into subjectivity,  into self-reference an ineradicable parallelism. Against the isolated linear, alphabetically lettered self it promotes a plural distributed self. Parallel computing is in a sense a handling by digital media of old and familiar deep seated biological and social processes, from multi-cellularity to the division of labor, and its effects on subjectivity promise to be correspondingly profound. By distributing an individual linear consciousness, a monadic thinking self, over a collectivity, parallel computing opens up and pluralizes the alphabetic ‘I’ behind this consciousness at the same time as it reconfigures the social multiplicity, the ‘they/we’ collective, against which it is defined.

So much for computing. What of representation? Does it too evince a shift to the parallel and simultaneous? Yes, precisely this is the effect of digital imagery in both its moving and still forms. I shall leave the former, more diffuse effects aside and focus on the stand-alone, single image. The contemporary visual environment is permeated by a new form of still image, composed of an assemblage of co-present images whose viewing demands a re-conceptualized optical regime. Software control of electronic code rather than manipulation of chemical imprints, means not only can an image be copied endlessly without degradation, but any number of different images can be visually blended, dissolved, fragmented, embedded, and fused to form a new type of image, what one might call an imaged image. Depending on the mode of combination, imaged images can resemble forms of collage and photo-montage which, however, unlike their chemical precursors, can exhibit previously unattainable flows of visual information and affect between their constituent images; or the constituent images can be superimposed, one on top of the other, where the effect is a certain kind of simultaneous seeing of differences. The latter, a digitally engineered palimpsest, is the principle behind the cartographic revolution of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) maps, which again realize a shift from chemical precursors,  from single, unchangeable maps on paper viewed serially to electronic composites of co-present layers of information seen simultaneously. Interestingly, this principle is migrating from the information- bearing GIS map to art objects, manifest as an aesthetic of simultaneous seeing in the work of certain contemporary artists. The effect is then a form of a virtual movement,  an internal dynamic, manifest as a vibration or shimmer within the image. In all cases the imaged image differs radically from an immobile,   unitarily conceived image at the centre of itself.

Observe here a redoubling of the parallelism intrinsic to the image as such. Thus, as one knows, however they might be scanned and examined serially, images per se are not sequential objects, their content is given as a multitude of effects, offering their meanings in no fixed or mandated order, but simultaneously.  Moreover, their parallel, inherently pluralizing and disruptive action has always threatened the dominance and integrity of textual –  particularly theological and philosophical — meanings: hence the Biblical edict against the making of pictures of any kind and Plato’s repudiation of images as fictions of fictions.  In short, the imaged image offers a doubled iconicity, which radically intensifies the threat to the serial protocols of alphabetic thought. And at the same time it de-stabilizes the integrity of the alphabetic ‘I’ by confronting it with forms of self-depiction and enunciation foreign to it. However, to attempt to describe what these forms are, what an ‘I’ proper to the technologies of the virtual might look like, would be premature: the technologies and modes of self they make possible are still in flux. One can nevertheless observe the current state of the lettered self exhibiting an increasing dissolution as digital media and their outworks continue to undermine and reconfigure the alphabetic matrix holding it in place.

A para self

This opening up and coming apart of a psyche which had so long narrated itself as a self-sufficient, autonomous ‘I’ within the confines of alphabetic writing, has a techno-somatic correlate. Neurological implants, vat-grown organ   transplants, and robotic prostheses are increasing the body’s externally derived content and functioning. Genetic, cellular, pharmaceutical, psychotropic, and bio-medical augmentation are altering the body’s organization and underlying software. Machinic interventions through gene analysis, brain mapping, body scans, and a slew of internal scopic procedures, are breaking down the   boundary between inner/outer knowledge and control of the body. The result is a body which, though conditioned by its evolutionary lineage, is increasingly exogeneous – made and conceived from its bio-techno-cultural environs; increasingly transparent – less privately enclosed, subject to more public inspection and survey through a multitude of techniques; increasingly porous – engaged in a constant flow of information and affect across its boundaries;  and increasingly heterotopic – constituted as an assemblage of different processes with their own histories, dynamics and itineraries understood collectively, and conceived perhaps within  “a type of world full of an infinity of creatures” (Deleuze 1993, 109)

From a different direction, the body is also more recordable and writable through new forms of corporeal graphism such as technologies of motion capture which allow the gestures of the body to be mediated – detached, re- routed, and realized anew — in a widening array of instrumental, aesthetic and artistic contexts from telesurgery to virtual theatre. Not coincidentally, at the same time as the body’s movements through space are becoming digitally mediated, our modes of interface with communicational networks are being articulated, experienced and performed in gesturo-haptic terms of touch, movement, and immersion. The “dominant sense in this world of pervasive proximity is no longer vision  … [but] touch.” (Federer 2005, 8) And, as if to emphasize the obsolescence of the alphabet’s aversion to gesture, Derek de Kerckhove observes “The internet is not really amenable to sight as much as to touch. Navigating the net is a tactile affair.” (2005. 1) It would be surprising, given the self’s relation — as a figure, as a product, as   an expression –  to the body for there not to be an emergent ‘I’ co-evolving with and experientially appropriate to such techno-somatic forces. An ‘I’ that would be at once porous, heterotopic, distributed, permeated by emergent  collectivities, crisscrossed by networks of voices, messages, images, and virtual effects, and confronted by avatars and simulacra of itself.  Such an agency might be labeled ‘posthuman’ or ‘transhuman’, insofar as it is seen as surpassing or transcending the self of alphabetic humanism,  but a more media-specific designation would be para-human, in that what is involved is the coming into being of a parallel subjectivity which experiences itself as an ‘I’ becoming  parallel to its (alphabetic) self, an ‘I’  beside itself, a para-self.

Always a  succession and co-existence of Media?  Perhaps the most visible attribute of the contemporary digital upheaval is the ubiquity of the virtual — virtual X —  where X ranges over of familiar and previously stable, textually-framed objects and processes of social, cultural, and scientific life. Thus, virtual space, virtual particles, virtual waves in quantum physics; virtual machines and virtual memory in computer engineering; virtual gene pools, organisms, and environments in artificial life; virtual molecules in theoretical chemistry. And beyond these and other techno-scientific senses, a still expanding field: virtual money, virtual shopping, virtual books, virtual universities, virtual bodies, virtual sex, virtual reality, virtual subjects, virtual presence, virtual history, virtual keyboards, virtual warfare, etcetera, etcetera. These virtual Xs are obviously the result of electronic technologies. The concept of the virtual, however, is not electronic but a recurrent phenomenon, namely the separation wrought by certain media between the effects and furniture of the old world, what was ‘real’ or actual before their intervention, and the new versions they introduce, which simulate/substitute for them. “Media”, Kittler proclaims, “determine our situation.” Well, maybe not ‘determine’, but, if, like contemporary electronic technologies, they are powerful enough, they do transform worlds. They re-calibrate space-time polarities of near/far and then/now, reconfigure possibilities of presence and subjectivity, redraw the boundaries of the dead, and install  new sites of agency and enunciation.

The current wave of virtualization rides on the back of a previous one.  As we’ve seen, alphabetic writing introduces a field of virtual utterances – texts — which function as ‘speech at a distance’ and allow the spoken ‘I’ to be fused with its virtual form, the incorporeal floating alphabetic ‘I’; a fusion with dramatic metaphysical  consequences.

The virtual is however older than the writing of speech. Speech in turn is a re- mediation. Just as the written ‘I’ overlays — substitutes for and simulates — the ‘I’ of speech, so the spoken ‘I’ is the virtualization of a previous act of self- enunciation, an a-linguistic ‘I’ which it likewise overlays and simulates.  The medium within which such an ‘I’ occurs is gesture. Gesture, understood as the affective/signifying movements of the visual, tactile, sonic body, is the primary medium from which (and alongside which) speech emerged. A self-enunciation in such a medium would be a projection of self-referential affect, a declaration of identity/presence through self- and other-touching, pointing, posturing, and signaling. The referent of such an enunciation, would be articulated through iconic and indexical modes and experienced kinesthetically and proprioceptively as a – pre-symbolic — Me. The advent of language introduced into the world of such a being utterances, which function as projected gestures, ‘gesture at a distance’, virtual gestures, that allow the Me to be interfolded with its virtual form, the symbolic self-referring ‘I’  of human speech.

 One can ask, in analogy with the written ‘I’, whether the  spoken self-reference is likewise the site of an un-embodied agency, whether a ghost effect emerges with the saying of ‘I’.  Interestingly, Terrence Deacon, towards the end of his bio-cultural account of the co-evolution of the brain and language, introduces just such an idea. The manner of the interfolding of brain and language, of actual and virtual reference, the back and forth feedback by which human self- reference emerges out of its iconic-indexical substrate over hundreds of generations, offers a perspective, he concludes, on “that curious human intuition that our minds are somehow independent of our bodies”, and thence to “beliefs about disembodied spirits and souls that persist after death.” (454)

This prompts an immediate question arises: are we – shall we in the future – be confronted by digital ghosts? After all, if writing ‘I’ stabilized and made credible an already present intuition of “disembodied spirits”, might one extrapolate the move from writing to its virtualization within digital media? In order to respond one would have to identify the forms of reflexivity, of self-enunciation, proper  to electronic code, what in other words properly constitutes a digital ‘I’. Proper  in the sense of enunciations natural to the plural forms and parallel, distributed logic of digital networks, but unthinkable or at least inexpressible outside them. And,there then arises the question of timeliness: writing’s ghosts appeared in both the Hebrew and Greek milieus only some time after the introduction of alphabetic writing, at a point when the medium had become naturalized, when an actual speaking ‘I’ and the floating virtual ‘I’ of the text could be (con)fused, when a hybrid uniting them could be given credence as a ‘real’ (and not merely imagined/invented ) autonomous agency. No analogous large-scale naturalization of the digital scene is yet in sight. Nor should one expect it, since we are still in motion vis a vis the technologies of the virtual, under their sway and in thrall to the novelty of their effects which seem not to have reached any plateau or culmination. This being so, only fragments of ghosts, local manifestations of some larger distributed, plural agency, should such be in the offing,  are all that can appear.

But to finish this squinting into the not yet of the beyond, one thing seems  plain. In whatever guise their successors may or may not appear in our technological future,  the hoary old ghosts of a disembodied mind-soul and a transcendental mono-being are growing less tenable, less credible, less ‘real’,  by the day, their philosophical infrastructure and accompanying alphabetic mentalities revealing themselves as grand mediological achievements of a departing typographic era -– monumental in their time but no longer relevant or appropriate to our needs.

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