Since Lyotard’s final suggestion is to give individuals free access to “memory and data banks,” I think one area that deserves attention is his idea about the nature of data/knowledge (68). Although I buy most of what he writes about the externalization of knowledge, he seems to advance the somewhat posthumanist position that knowledge is separate from material substrates. If knowledge is indeed external to something, it must be transcendental. For example, on page 50, he writes that in high learning, what is transmitted is an “organized stock of established knowledge.” He then writes, however, that while new technologies would change the medium of communication, even suggesting that teachers themselves would be replaced by intelligent terminals, pedagogy would not (unlike what was previously thought) suffer (50). He goes on to write that only in the grand narratives of legitimation that the replacement of teachers by machines is intolerable (51). Since these narratives no longer drive the quest for knowledge, this aspect of “classical didactics” is irrelevant (51). Data banks are the future, he suggests. They “transcend” their users; they are the nature of the postmodern man (51).
What this implies to me is that knowledge is now transcendental and exists in some form completely separate from material instantiation. Instead of taking this as a fact, I think this perceived separation should be investigated. What becomes of form-specific media analysis? It seems more likely to me that this perceived divide between knowledge and material is begat by computerization rather than affected by it. Why do we believe that knowledge is now transcendental? What does this mean for Lyotard’s computerization of society?