Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Retention of meaning

I would like to juxtapose two approaches of mediation: overexposure and classification in excess. Perhaps one could argue that both methods have similar end results.

Overexposure of information corresponds to a waning of affect, a loss of meaning. In Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Jameson mentions artist Nam June Paik’s work as an illustration of how over-stimulation in the form of multiple screens (ex shown above) resulted in loss of meaning of individual parts. In Control Room, I also hear the same sentiment evoked by the Al Jazeera translator who emphasized importance of those who know how to speak softly – what he believed to be a dying breed – in any discourse. I interpreted his comment as an acknowledgement of the failure of overexposure or excessive tactics in media. Shouting a message doesn’t make it more important.

Paradoxically, one could argue that the greater the realm of secret material, the less meaning or inherent interest the classified information holds. The marginal value of the secret decreases with the increased quantity of documents classified as ‘secret’ or ‘top secret.’ Galison highlights how if the “Establishment of Secrecy […] blanket classifies whole domains of learning (nuclear physics, microwave physics), the accumulated mass of guarded data piles up at a smothering rate. It impedes industry, it interferes with work within the defense establishment, and it degrades the very concept of secrecy by applying it indiscriminately” (pg. 241).

In light of such a burden, what is at stake when the government embarks on a “massive effort to recruit AI (artificial intelligence) to automate the classification (and declassification)” (pg. 241)? Does automatically classified information lose yet another level of significance?

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