Against Information: Reading (in) the Electronic Waste Land
Digital approaches to information processing foreground the unique interdependence between
knowledge and its representation that has been characteristic of western epistemology for the past five centuries. The essential role representation formats play in modern knowledge construction is generally accepted in all disciplines, attributing, learning and intellectual progress less to one's direct engagement with actual phenomena, and more to notational structures that convey its formulation. In this paradigm, knowledge follows exclusively from its theoretical articulation, not the other way around.
As such, the actual world cannot but appear symptomatic; its material presence reduced to little
more than a kind of referential conceit. Michael Heim speaks to this very issue philosophically
as early as the 1990s, recognising clear ontological paradoxes in the then newly emergent VR technology:
just how our culture understands the term "reality" as an actual environment, he observes, can only weaken and become less physically uncertain "as it stretches over many virtual worlds.”2 Heim's comments recall digital culture's especially complex interactions with the material world around us; yet they capture as well the increasing ontological impasse that has developed over the course of at least a century of intellectual and artistic debate on the relationship of patterns, ordering and schema to what we perceive to be material actualities.
(Source: Author's abstract, 2012 ELO Conference site)