I'm glad to see the atemporality thing is taking off.
Bruce Sterling gave a keynote last week (or thereabouts, I mean, it is atemporality, right?) which was the sort of the coming out party for atemporality. I've been tracking the Twitter search on #atemporality for some time now, "listening to the aethers", so to speak. It was mostly Bruce, after the initial minting (or, thereabouts) of the concept by William Gibson a while back, with me and a few others throwing in every now and again. And of course the retweets, trickling down through the matrix like drops of condensation on a window. But now atemporality seems to have blossomed, with a mushrooming of traffic, and several new original contributors picking up the hash tag with new links, etc.
It's atemporality in action!
As I was discussing with M earlier this evening, this is a term that's philosophical time has come. It's a natural extension of several things going on in philosophy, history, and other relevant disciplines. After the end of grand narratives and post-modernism, we need a place to pick up the narratives that remain. Atemporality is simply a coined term for the various technological phenomena we're currently witnessing as our semiotics continue to transform themselves. It's an extension of the resurgence of interest in Bergsonian time, and the investigations of Foucauldian information and technological theory in the age of the Internet, and the aesthetic applications of Deluzian thought regarding desire, society, and information by the next generation of information theorists, and a philosophical grafitti technique being wielded by the post-Burroughs and ex-Dadaists, and estoterics, and occultists, and artists, and writers, all looking for the next new thing, and trying to find something a bit more concrete to explain what the hell we're all doing on the Internet all day long.
And other stuff too.
Of course, the thing about a new, interesting concept like this, is that it can all of a sudden be everything, and we can draw diagrams of the microcosmic and macrocosmic universes from an atemporal angle, play atemporal samples in our DJ sets, and cook atemporal pizzas. Or it can be nothing, and just be a flash in the pan Internet meme.
Well, its all in the usage really, and we'll have to wait and see. Meanwhile, I think it can bear some fruit in various guises, (especially in the atemporal pizza category). There are more than a couple academic disciplines that could use a new buzz word to play with too, and might even get some good work out of it.
But where it really gets interesting, I believe, is when we push the concept. So, now that the term might start being deployed, we shouldn't just add it to our jargon tool box, and take it out on weekends to parties. It is time to take it out on the road, and see exactly what this baby can do.
From my perspective, it's not just the next buzzword. All of those philosophical names I dropped a couple paragraphs up are stuff I've been working with for about five years now, and trying to pick up the wires, test the connections, and figure out where they lead. I'm a bit invested in the concept from a metaphysical and semiotic philosophy perspective, and I think it could really be the ground of some heavy work, if I ever get back into the philosophy game seriously. In the meantime, it is some heady stuff, man, and it's freaking me out.
Of course, not everyone will use the word like that, or maybe no one will be me. But still, I think there are some experiments we could all try at home.
For instance, I had this idea about the mail recently. Atemporality? Well, not strictly about time. But what we're starting to realize, as more and more people read and listen to the idea of something so formerly concrete as TIME and then say to themselves, "hey, there might be something to that" is that the things we thought were concrete, level, and plateau-like might actually be as flat and hard as the surface of the ocean. Which is hard, when smacking it after a large fall, but is also easy to penetrate if you know how to do it, has currents of its own, and also, also sorts of crazy creatures living in an ecosystem beneath it, totally invisible to someone about to drop onto it from a few thousand feet. Not that the mail has creatures living in it, but the fact is, it is much more than simply sending a letter from one place to the other. It is a massive infrastructural force, employing a large number of people spread across an entire continent, able to do amazing feats of physical transport, wasted almost completely on sending junk mail. So what is the postal system, really? What could it do? What if we re-envisioned it in light of our current technology, and the current way we are learning how to use our current technology? What might happen then? Well, it might be a stunt, or it might make something new and really useful. It's hard to say.
What else can be re-envision? What, pray tell, after our metaphysical and conscious assessments of the fabric of time itself, could we think of in a new light? And is it just a re-evaluation? A new perspective? It is not just a new look, more of the same look, with a new ruler. Or measuring, without using a ruler at all. Measuring something that does not require space, or quantify in such units. It is not a new perspective, so much as all of a sudden being able to see multiple perspectives at once. To look towards the future and back at the past with the same feet that are currently standing in the present. An extension of a point in time, a leaking of nowness, into and through always and forever. Singularity in terms of entirety, and multiplicity in terms of universality.
Sure, it sounds out there. But there are two sorts of infinite, that of the very large, and that of the very small. And in this case, while the universe at large and quantum physics might be an interesting place to look, I'm more particularly interested in those things that we think are important, such as time, space, technology and philosophy (big things) and those we are willing to overlook, like literature, numerology, folk songs, music video dance moves, the sorts of paper we write on, the words we still won't say in public, what objects vandals select to break windows with, and the verb tenses in poorly written street graffiti (little things). This is not pulling atemporal rabbits out of every hat, finding examples of the meta theory in every little cultural studies scrap and crumb. It is finding the new things. Who has done things in the name of atemporality? Who has thrown a brick with the word "atemporality" written on it? Anyone? What if they did? What sorts of paper support the sorts of atemporal writing that we already have been doing and will continue to change the way that we are doing in an atemporal way?
We are not looking for old artifacts of atemporality, or proposing new atemporality research. The whole idea is that what we are looking at when we are looking at atemporality is exactly what we're already looking at. Atemporality is not something new we're figuring out and we're trying, it is what we're always already doing. It is seamless with seamlessness, and continuous with continuousness. It is outside the old strata of time with starts and stops, with beginnings and ends. Therefore, it is outside outsidedness. It is inside insidedness. It is not irony, but the conditions under which anything could be ironic. And in this sense it's the same as it's always been. Except that things now are different. Irony doesn't mean the same thing as it used to. It never does. It never did. The meaning of things is always changing. The meaning of meaning is always changing.
So let's keep looking after it. Anything atemporal going on, make sure to report it to the usual non-authorities. Take pictures, if you can, and geotag them. Hashtag them. Upload them anonymously to sites with no links that will only retweet them six months later. If you find any evidence of anything, sequester it, buy space on a throw-away for-profit satellite, and fire that sucker into orbit. Feed it to a giant squid, and upload the video of the squid on YouTube, and then put the squid in orbit. Blog it all, and then force Google to delete your blog, and then tweet about it until it comes back. Echoes are everywhere. Try to drown them out with new noise. Events have not been planned.
Can someone crowd-source me the mailing address to send for an automatic digital atemporal pizza delivery? No? Well, let's keep looking until we can.
Predictions for 2012
5 years ago