Thursday, 13 May 2010

Timeless Technology

Is there a technology more contemporary yet timeless than sheet glass or mirrors?


9 comments:

Tor said...

containers? perhaps fall under the same category though.

J. Hamlyn said...

Interesting - vessels no less - holders of people, things or substances which allow them to be kept or moved as a body. What strikes me as interesting is that these things (containers and especially mirrors, sheet glass) are all mediators - who's presence is barely felt and this absence or immateriality seems inextricably connected to their timelessness.

J. Hamlyn said...

Oh and how could we forget that most deceptively transparent of containers of the lucid and opaque: language itself. Though arguably not a technology (http://www.babelsdawn.com/babels_dawn/2009/05/is-language-a-technology.html) language nonetheless mediates experience in a way which also conceals its existence.

Tor said...

Fantastic essay there! And you're right about mediators. Would it not be lots of fun to see some sort of family tree/diagram of mediators/vessels? Complete with little drawings of each object (how does one draw Language?).
What do you mean by sheet glass? instead of just glass. (glass jars, optics etc)

The play between what is contained (jam/jar, vision/eyeglasses, the internet) and peoples interactions with these, the implications made by various containers. A mirror or water surface can f.e. be tools of Narcissus, while language itself is a collective affair "Language is no good without a group of users".

In regards to timelessness i enjoyed the bit where Edison quotes Pinker “The crux of [my] argument is that complex language is universal because children actually reinvent it, generation after generation—not because they are taught.”.

p.s.
Excuse the delayed reply. I wish one could get an email notification when stuff happens.

J. Hamlyn said...

Thanks Tor,
By sheet glass I mean the flat stuff we use in windows. Glass bottles, jars and drinking vessels etc must always take a physical form (design) and all designs are bound by “style” which is the very antithesis of timelessness. So I guess I’m drawing a correlation between formlessness (and immateriality) and timelessness. I really like your idea of a family tree - though I have to say I’m not great with Venn diagrams - it took me ages to work out the simple one in my last post and I’m still not happy with it.

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Tor said...

Don't know how I could miss the subscribe button! Spielraum am fail!

I understand what you mean, by sheet glass now, and I can see the importance of naming the object before it takes on a particular design.

The problem with immateriality, for example digital media, is that it has such a sneaky form. It has no form, compared to sheet glass. Which is concrete. Relating back to your text on eccentricity - it is helpful to have a norm, like sheet glass, to be able to detect articulation.
Things like Hipstamatic (for iPhone) are too heavy handed in execution perhaps out of some sort of primitive longing for underlying form norm?

Digital language has replaced photography as the most formless language. Photography has become concrete, although still of course misunderstood.

Personally I like media where I can have a sense of its presence. Like water. An invisible gas form is hard to deal with. Water is as timeless as gas although being more 'material'.

Scott Brotherton said...

how would paper fair?
would this count as a technology?

J. Hamlyn said...

Hi Scott,
Nice one! Yes I think paper would count as a technology and 20 years ago I'm sure we'd definitely say it's timeless but considering the fact that right at this moment we're communicating without it I'm not so sure. Once again it's a sheet though isn't it - and a "blank" one too which is generally used to mediate communication. It makes me think of those other white sheets between which we loose consciousness and dream. I think there's something really interesting at the heart of all this but I haven't quite put my finger on it yet. Thanks for the comment though - it really helps.

J. Hamlyn said...

"I became startled by the extraordinary difference between something whose surface is completely invisible which only makes itself present by virtue of what it reflects, and a window, which doesn't make itself apparent at all, in the ideal case." -Jonathan Miller

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