So… we live in the present, the unmapped and unchartable present, that is past as soon as we formulate the experience – actually before we even ‘experience it’ which occurs in the conscious processes so already past, even if just a nano-second past. We formulate experience as neurological phenomena. We can only analyze media as a past experience.
Maybe gaming is not past-enough. I’m still enjoying the metaphysical meat that old-school digital media gives us to chew on.
Early digital-era metaphysics
I first presented my analysis in a philosophy conference at the dawn of the digital media revolution, it was a “mind the gap” metaphysics. I was pointing to the discontinuity that the media actual presents – gapped. Someone I respected tried to explain how I was wrong. My argument goes: digital media is gapped experience because there are open spaces within the code, similar to alphabetic texts, that we fill in because we are biological beings. “Nature abhors a vacuum” indeed. With photos and sound there is always something, even if we perceive it as empty space. Not so with digital media. It’s a code that represents, rather than presents, the experience that is decoded.
The gapped experience presented in digital media, unlike celluloid film and the imaging chemicals in photography, present us with nothing. Really nothing. We can’t take that in so we fill in. We make up a continuous image, that we experience as present though it’s past. (See everything I’ve said before about this…)
Mind the gap
My astute critic/collaborator told me I just misunderstood code. The ‘o’ in the x and o is just another piece of code. It could be (indeed) a ‘b’ or ‘c’ – but that is totally misunderstanding what I’m suggesting here. I’m not suggesting that ‘0’ is like a donut with a hole in it. I’m suggesting the gap within the code, the gap between any symbol and the next is what opens the code up to infinity. Certainly, as biological beings, we have to fill it in. We live as narrative beings and the narrative has to continuously unfold. The continuity of our cellular interactions is absolutely necessary, just as continuity with our stories is necessary. If the continuity is radically disrupted it’s called death. With a story, it’s called ‘the end’.
Back to Kenny for a minute. When he yells at his friends that they don’t get it, that it isn’t cool, as Kyle suggests, that he can’t die, he screams at them, “It hurts!” He demands they pay attention to the pain – his pain. He demands some comprehension, if not compassion, that he suffers his super-power. Yet it’s the process of dying, not the actual death, that hurts.
Like Jesus on the cross: “It is finished” meant that the pain stopped.
(I’m a priest; you must have known all along I’d get to this… and also if you read Vigil.) It might be that God knew about death – as all-knowing creator actually created death – but for God to know what it feels like for a human to experience death Jesus had to do it, and even then it would only count as this experience o knowing if Jesus was indeed God. There have been storms, fires, whole universes exploding, but no pain there. Only biological beings experience pain, and only a human experiences human pain.)
Radical disruption of the sequence, the narrative sequence with the beginning, middle and end, happens with every space within the code where one symbol ends and another begins, where one pixel breaks to allow the next, like the alphabet – we’ve been here before but perhaps failed to notice. Digital media in this way is closer to the printed page than to photography.
The trajectory of a theory
Just as the invention of the printing press, that radically personalized western folks’ experience of scripture, gave way to the Reformation, the invention of digital media allows for the birth of a new spirituality, highly individuated yet shared… (to be continued…)