Digital Psychogeography


Some friends and I have built my most advanced Minecraft world yet. Lots of train tracks (there are little cars you can ride in), enchanted stuff, trading with the villagers…I won’t bore you endlessly, but it’s been really good fun to have a quasi-social thing to do. It’s actually really fun—lots of little puzzles, creative freedom, the anarchic democracy of a collaborative effort.

Plus it’s let me learn about server running, setting up ssh and other processes. Which is the basis for a lot of “screensharing” applications. You can throw video output through the ssh (secure shell) protocol.

Big Scary Computers, yes yes. I can hear you tuning out already.

The days are slow, but the weeks are fast. It jumps from month to month! Did we not just end January? And here we find ourselves hurtling into March, and a great many birthdays of people I know.

Spring is knocking about, just the other day I was able to walk around the park without a rain jacket. And tomorrow will be barely above freezing and rainy! The variation keeps us lively, even though we are less influenced by the weather than humans even 70 years ago would have been. Greater are our intelligent isolations.

Now that I have finished «The Curse of Chalion», I will move on to some other realm for my easy fiction reading. I’ve also spent a good deal of time yesterday and today with Said’s «The World, The Text, & The Critic», although I’m not sure that I understand the essay I’m on now. I have an idea what he is writing about, but often I’m unsure what it means, or what is being referred to. What schools of thought are coming into play, and what would that mean, for those other thinkers and schools I am familiar with?

Real Spaces | Fake Places

Psychogeography. How does space make you feel, how does it limit what you can feel? I think it should be obvious that space is a huge part of how we feel about ourselves and the world. Nobody likes hospitals; people love amusement parks and beaches, movie theaters and scenic spots.

I think there is too, then, a digital equivalent, as our attentions and intentions are what color and create a space. That a virtual space is not meatspace does not make it less impactful on the mind. We spend a good deal of our time in logos, among words and representations of things. It is rare, even, to spend time with things themselves (with the body, physically). I have inherited the cultural bias towards this “real,” but too through the cultural ideal of the thing as idea, that is: I like the idea of nature, the beauty of it. But not, it must be admitted, the experience. Indeed, my experience with nature is colored by these ideas. Something something Deleuze & Guatarri. One of my favorite words remains phallologocentrism, or “being centred in the logic of the penis,” an short way to critique masculinized notions of Truth and Reality.

Digital psychogeography, then: the virtual spaces our attention roams (or lives, or is forced into). And how important this is. You could, I am thinking now, use this as a launching point for a treatise on the importance of UX/UI. Surely such philosophically grounded work would mean you could command a premium. New Management (as the feudal lords before them) love appearing Deep and Humanist–drop some Deleuze on them, spread on Guatarri, snort a line of McLulahan!

We are what we think [we are]. And much more that we forget (or do not know) to think we are. One is only short in comparison to others. Learning about anything requires learning about everything. The connections and influences that form the warp and woof of this web of meaning (technical and historical) are infinite! It is into (and out of) this infinity that we must form ourselves, whether knowing or not. We are all products of exactly what has come before. I fully believe Gramsci’s assertion:

The starting-point of critical elaboration is the consciousness of what one really is, and is “knowing thyself” as a product of the historical process to date, which has deposited within you an infinity of traces, without leaving an inventory. It is therefore imperative to compile such an inventory.

[italics from a separate translation]

—Antonio Gramsci, «The Prison Notebooks»

We are also, therefore, products of what is, or more accurately what just was, as the present slips to past each moment. So our inventory is one of what has been, which the historians and other keepers of cultural memory busy themselves with on our behalf, and the other is the far more personal question of What is? What is, for you, the present? What forces in your life bear on you from within? From without? How well do you know all of them? How much control do you have? Can you articulate your way around, through, below?

“You’re always at the place where you always are. But it keeps appearing to change.”

«Hungry Ghost» Starfucker

Of the forces, then, that we must consider when thinking of our Is, are the digital spaces we inhabit for a large part of our waking moments. Not only questions such as What colors are they? How do I like being in them? But questions that bring in the full of historical scholarship: Who designed this, and for what purpose? What agents or intentions are present that I am being pushed not to see?

A fruitful exercise is to conduct such an interrogation on your facebook page. Or, in my case, reddit: my hobby-turned-habit-website. Am I addicted to reddit? No, I do not think so. Not because my behavior does not match some descriptions of a (rather weak) addiction, but because I do not believe the forces that take me back to social media are internally driven, as an addiction would be. I consider it a social force, potentially a disorder (although I would avoid loaded terms this early on in analysis).

This giant external force is no secret: facebook is valued at over $500,000,000,000 as a market cap. That much money is real power. That much money is belief, and all the potentials and pitfalls that come from having True Believers. I am being unfair, in picking on the most hated, but they are perhaps example par excellence, with their rampant and open abuse of “users.” (That would be us.)

There is a system, of which facebook is a five-hundred-billion dollar part, that wants to keep me, and all of us, scrolling and clicking and “reacting.” That we cannot see it doesn’t mean anything–think of David Foster Wallace’s fish in the ocean–we live inside of it nonetheless, it is become the water in which we swim.

So how does this impact our sense of space, of self, of our digital psychogeography? If we were to visualize it, would the empires of tech be borders? Biomes? Landmarks? Or perhaps weather: torrential downpours of likes and feed content, soft flakes of past orders and inbox messages, zephyrs carrying a hint of search histories.

Whatever metaphors we assign will likely be personal. As will the map of spaces and trajectories that guide our digital lives.