Here, then, is the motive of worldwide digitization: to render every impulse, whether aesthetic or utilitarian, in the same, fully-transformable panglossary. And like architecture, the target medium of this world-wide conversion blurs the line between representing and being. The digitals great source of peculiar leverage lies in its rendering equivalent the operand and the operator. When data and the commands that operate upon that data are made of the same, indistinguishable stuff, the way is clear for recursive feats of representational manipulation heretofore unseen outside the human brain. Strings of binary digits are totally fungible. You cannot tell, upon cursory inspection of an array of memory, whether youre looking at an account or at a behavior, at data or at an algorithm.
Read Richard Powers’ Being and Seeming: the Technology of Representation online at the Center for Book Culture