Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Martin Earl on the digital revolution and Barthes

Martin Earl on Harriet, The Fallacy of Rejecting Closure. Martin laments the "death" of analog photography. Essentially saying that digital photography (and I really don't think I'm putting words in his mouth here) is too democratic to be as "valuable" as analog photography. Of course, he uses this as an analogy to talk about certain 20th century literary criticism. Speaking for the masses, Earl concludes that "readers" (all or most?) don't want to be a part of the making of meaning. That reader/author meaning-model should not be democratic as he says Barthes advocates. (it's been a while, but I'm pretty sure Barthes, in The Death of the Author didn't say that the reader "should" be constructing the meaning of the text, but that she/he, in fact, does. In any case, that's what I would say.)

And I know he's using the photography thing as an analogy, but I just can't get past this: he talks about the effect digital photography is having on "the art":

the technology was gradually replacing the subject. It was no longer the look of the world that fascinated, but the look of the way a very compact and, for most, incomprehensible system had taken that look and manipulated it according to a pixilated grid and its underlying Boolean system of endless recombinations, algorithms of plusses and a minuses: an amorality of one or the other.

So, he's longing for the return of the long gone day when the medium wasn't the message. Some 12,000 years after image-making was born, we finally created the pure image making device, something that put the viewer in direct contact with the world. Only through photography were we able to view the true imagery of the Real. Photography completed the work that began with eyes; our ocular evolution was over. And then digital photography ruined it all because... uh... it's too easy. And cause... people don't have to rewind the film with that crank anymore (or whatever it's called). And now, unlike the age of analog photography, we can no longer put our full trust in the images we see.

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