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It is generally acknowledged that digital media differ from the analog variety. Nonetheless, both are created for the purpose of storing information or data. Data, in any case, requires a structure or substrate in which it can be stored at any one time. At any one moment it is a resource in reserve for a later time. Analog storage is usually characterized as being formed by means of an impression left by a marking tool upon a receiving surface. In this category we have such familiar forms as hieroglyphs, easel paintings, LP records, video tape, and so forth.

Digital storage, on the other hand, is characterized by there being a substrate that is a logical matrix -- rather than a physical surface subject to direct impression and manipulation. The logical matrix is an architecture of cells or slots, each with its unique address, within which a number, a symbol, rather than an impression is stored. In the case of analog storage we might say that the impression comprising the stored information resembles the marking tool. That is, there is what is called an "indexical" relation, one of spatio-temporal contiguity, between the tool with which one writes and the mark or impression made. In the case of the digital device, the symbolic encoding of the information effectively bears no visible or tactile similarity to the encoding tool. In addition, the fact that each slot of a digital matrix is uniquely addressable makes possible a type of direct access to its symbolic content, known as "random access". Analog information, being mapped onto a physical surface with variable impressions, rather than a uniform matrix whose slots are filled with symbols from a known domain, tends to reinforce a linear mode of access. We tend more to run our eyes and hands, reading (metaphorically and literally), over a surface containing analog information.

  Much has already been said about this. I will only touch on one issue which is important to my work. An operation that digital storage and computation make possible is a sort of universal translation of information from one physical manifestation into others seemingly quite different ones. Thus, my voice, once recorded digitally, may be converted into light on a display, or, through a motor, the motion of a robot, or any number of other sensible phenomena. Not unlike the symbolic system known as money, digital representation enables an economy. Money enables exchange of objects independently of their size or material.

The structure of money, its tangible exchangeability, makes it seem as if goods are more similar materially, and, though distant, attainable, than they may actually be. So with digital computation, the specificity of one form of experience, voice, for example, is dissolved as one experience is translated into another, voice into picture. This operation seems to correspond with a sense that things and ideas never stand alone, but somehow relate to each other, and that there may even be ways of connecting seemingly different or opposite concepts (such as political positions).

Despite this alchemy, I don't think that this operation by itself disturbs our senses of identity in contemporary culture. This is because what I have been describing has been a conservative operation. In other words, in stating that a form is translatable, through digital computation, into other forms, I have taken for granted that our original voice recording will have remained preserved. Untouched. Those of you familiar with today's multimedia tools such as Adobe's Photoshop are also familiar with the "Undo" facility. Identity is preserved by way of duplication. One changes a "working copy" of an image rather than the saved version.

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