Half of Life is Developing a Theory For What You Are Already Going to Do Anyway

Kathy G. Spot believes that I am a geezer. She is, of course, quite correct. As mentioned in the comments section on this weekend's post about Poly Styrene (highly recommended), my effort to track down the double CD containing pretty much every noise X Ray Spex ever emitted came to grief this weekend because it was not where it ought to be. She points out that I could subscribe to a digital service and not have to worry about it.

No doubt she has a point. Actually the reason I cannot find that CD is probably that I now have more CDs than can easily fit into the floor-to-ceiling Tower of Jewel Boxes in the living room. The extreme clunkiness of that format (which takes up more shelf space than makes any sense at all) is a real obstacle, since we aren't going to move anytime soon.

But the idea of going "de-material" just bugs the hell out of me. I have, of course, elaborated a grand theory to justify my disinclination. That news should surprise no one. Anyway, here it is:

The decadence of the culture of late capitalism is obvious. (It will soon lead to a trend towards major Hollywood remakes of earlier movies based on TV shows that weren't worth watching to begin with, for example.) Being incapable of generating anything new, the system can now survive only by getting us to keep buying the same old content in new formats -- while steadily phasing out the ability to play things available in earlier formats.

To be up-to-date is, therefore, profoundly reactionary. That, in a nutshell, is one of the main slogan of the Zizekist Workers Party.
April 14, 2008 1:46 PM | | Comments (4)

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If you're a geezer, I'm a geezer's grandad. I have hundreds of CDs & while I have occasionally bought digital copies from Amazon & iTunes, these don't feel real to me. Now I'm old enough to remember the little records with the big hole in the middle, which probably disqualifies me for further discussion of the matter, but there seems to be some fundamental ontological leap involved that I'm just not willing to make. But then that's just another way of creating a theory to cover what I already believe, too.

It seems there might also be an occasion for a Stephen Potter-like Gamesmanship ploy based on your theory. E.g., "Oh, no, I'm such a Luddite, I never know when they'll tell me to change everything over again" -- the idea being to leave the updater feeling that they are but a tool of the System.

But putting faith in the Giant Digital-o-plex to update EVERYTHING seems more than a little foolish, and if scepticism about corporate technology makes me a Luddite, well, where do I sign up with my piece of pointed charcoal? How much vinyl never made it to CD? How many videotapes aren't getting transferred to DVD? There's very little money in re-formatting a ton of this stuff -- almost everything Scott likes, I suspect. (We're keeping tabs.) And I recall the basement of one university library I worked at that had weird, neglected mounds of previous tech solutions to library storage problems -- microdot readers, that sort of thing. A techno-evolutionary Jurassic dead end -- but who knew? So now we get to watch how fast the blu-ray format goes obsolete.

In the end, Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash model of the future library, where everything has been digitalized, is a fantasy webheads love but which I suspect has large, dusty holes in it. Where most of my (precious!!) collections will wind up.

Going digital isn't all it's cracked up to be. I've spent ages getting most of the music I could possibly ever want onto my computer, and the drive it was on, although it was the newest, just died on me. Even the cleverest undelete software can't find more than about 10 albums out of the 135Gb that was once there.

Go CDs! At least I have some of it still available to me.

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