For seven years I have been carefully archiving, copying and storing info mat ion. For seven years I have never been without two versions of everything. Never, until last Sunday, when after suffering a hard drive failure in my laptop, I was forced to invest all of my faith in technology in the compact external hard drive I had purchased only one month prior.
Waiting to receive the new part from an online store I discovered on www.ebay.com, I sat confident that all would go well, that the new hardware would arrive and that I would simply copy and paste my old information onto it from the external hard drive.
Of course, as fate would have it, I was wrong. The brownout destroyed the mechanics of my external hard drive producing an unpleasant odor of burning circuit boards in the process. I have since then been informed that for anywhere between $800 and $1800, my external hard drive might be dismantled in a static free dust free room, perhaps enabling the recovery of my seven years worth of information, teaching resources, scholarly and creative writing, photography, and pirated music files.
Fortunately, I am writing an online dissertation, several copies of which remained safely backed up on a server somewhere in Texas, spared from extinction by multiplicity. Everything else is presently being held hostage by those parasites of human desperation also known as data recovery specialists.
Consider yet again both Plato's Phaedrus and Derrida's Dissemination and the way both texts interrogate the relationship between writing and memory: writing weakens memory because it was invented as a replacement for memory, a prosthesis--an external hard drive, but what happens when a medium weakens the writing that has weakened memory....is the creation of machine readable data comparable to preserving our thoughts in smoke, light, disappearing ink? Has the complexity of the medium and its subsequent vanishing capability brought the written word back to the verbal?
Needless to say, the loss got me thinking. I've been such a supporter of computer technology for so long and yet in spite of my devotion, I was not spared from "The Great Nothing" of the digital age. Because, let's face it, that is the risk we take when we entrust our thoughts, memories, correspondences, music, and images to the 0's and 1's: it's always a choice between something and nothing--and sometimes we wind up with the latter.
So let's just say, the book started looking a lot better after all of this--its "solid state," its materiality, its portability, its independence on gadgets of any kind: when the electricity goes out, you can still read a book. You can read them in space or at the bottom of the ocean. You can drop them off of cliffs, leave them in an attic for 100 years, spill your coffee on them, take them to the toilet, in planes, underground --and they are always readable, readable without the help of machines: no cerebral prosthesis necessary.
Deleuze and Guattari have in A Thousand Plateaus already redefined the book as an assemblage, a machine capable of linking things together. They made the book as concept function as an operation of juxtaposition, an extension of the "and." This project embraces that notion, questions the
Dwelling vs Prosthesis
(Heidegger vs. McLuhan--computer displays being projected into dwellings, increasing in size so as to be dwelled in instead of prosthetized.)