Language Unplugged, History Not Found
In the frenzied market of digital novelties, language and media have become little more than
tools and tactics. The language arts are subordinated to the profitability of media corporations
and software monopolists. More of an engine room than a library, the Web is continually looted
by innovation and competition. Maintaining a record that reflects this tumultuous climate
falls to the marginal media historian, who sees some value in charting where we've
been when most eyes are directed at dazzling virtual futures. With time the digital material
of this inventory become inert signs of a modish trajectory, as the software
needed to reanimate the archived bits disappear and links fall dead.
PLUG / INVENTORY presents profiles and links for hundreds of content types
found (or formerly found) online. In so doing it addresses prevalent notions of progress.
Though much-hyped, (so called) technological progress introduces incompatibility, dysfunction,
obligatory "upgrading" and conversion. Are you content with your content?
Is the symbiosis of corporatism and individual creativity working well?
What lasting mark does the new language worker have among the cyclones of forced obsolescence,
hostile competition, and media conglomeration?
Despite the suggestive appeal of Ted Nelson's term "literary machines,"
the legacy of business machines draws us notably closer to adding machines
than to literary devices. With words, the person who pushes language to new intensities
lays claim to the title poet. With computers, invention is a more complicated affair.
Artists are now trained to use tools that are themselves carefully engineered products.
This introduces a dependence that is more multifaceted than the poet's dependence on language.
Whereas poets work with the limits of language and imagination, computing power has yet to
liberate creative computing from rapid obsolescence: the dynamics of code and
the market deliver dated inventory rather than timeless invention.
When the medium is invented, durability is either cooperative or unlikely.
When the medium is invented, creativity and suppression comingle.