limited ability to represent experience,

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This seems to verge toward the concerns triangulated in the spirituality/boredom connection…something about how to represent experience itself to ourselves…seems like a question that belongs to the realm of the existential.

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writing down the reasons why she would have taken a photograph instead of taking it

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Reminds of mid-century conceptualists’ instruction pieces, plus Kenneth Goldsmith’s huge "uncreative" works that you’re \""not supposed to actually read.” In this case, it's almost like a set of instructions you shouldn’t bother following (unlike, say, Fluxus "instruction pieces"), but ones that in and of themselves have some kind of aesthetic value or function.

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classifying the given situation in order to understand its structure

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Information about information.

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wholly decoded.

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Words as objects. If words are not meant to be "wholly decoded," then the words are about the "manual gesture" that expresses something affective with the expressiveness of the lines left as the "inscriptive trace" (Ingold 2007, 3).

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notations

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Annotation, but also the sense of thoroughness, exhaustive explanation, a compulsion to comment. Reminds of themes of addiction and information sublime David Foster Wallace's work, including his footnotes to footnotes.

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This drawing is fairly small, but many of Voigt's pieces are quite large - certainly as tall as she is. Scale does seem to have a place in the field of objects For Boredom is concerned with. Not all written works are long, but a lot of them are decidedly overwhelming, and certainly some of the novels are, too. Voigt’s are a bit different because you can visually take it all in at once, but still, they are large-scale and highly detailed.

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Pale King and Infinite Jest,

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David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, and especially The Pale King, fictionalize all of their characters and data sets, and attempt to evoke the volume of information behind the inevitably partial fragment it can show us. Wallace attempts an obsessively thorough and resolutely methodical treatment of information management. (Eg. footnotes to footnotes).

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We might contrast this with Thomas Claburn's i feel better after i type to you takes an ephemeral and intensely personal engagement with these processes, desires, and behaviours and allows us to literally lay our hands on them in book form. Claburn’s poem renders personal information doubly public in that it not only highlights something that was leaked, but picks out the unusually continuous and strangely narrative chunk of search queries that appear to sketch a sad autobiography of AOL user

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23187425’s intimate life.

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Insofar as AOL user 23187425’s search queries stand out from among a vertiginous list of other customer entries, they evoke what Martin Herbert said of Jorinde Voigt's "Airport Study (Supersymmetrie) 7": \""a partial, but still overwhelming, informational sublime."

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To retain care and scrupulosity about each detail from within the teeming wormball of data and rule and exception and contigency which constitutes real-world accounting – this is heroism

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In a sentiment echoed by many of Wallace’s IRS-employed characters, day-in-day-out dedication to sorting through data is elevated to a sort of spiritual vocation in The Pale King.

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The real

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In Return of the Real the critic Hal Foster considers "the real" to be art and theory grounded in the materiality of actual bodies and social sites. (As opposed to the "art-as-text" model of the 70s and the "art-as-simulacrum" model of the 80s).

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In Rewiring the Real, Mark Taylor describes the thought of "god" and "the real" as synonymous. One vision of theism he is concerned with is that of Schleirmacher, Schiller, Schlegel, Hölderlin, and Novalis, through to Coleridge, Wordsworth, Emerson, Thoreau, and Stevens, where god becomes identified as the creative impulse immanent in the world. He is also concerned with the ontological thought of Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Freud, Poe, Melville, Blanchot, Jabès, and Derrida for whom the real is

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"wholly other, or, in Kierkegaard's words that continue to echo, 'infinitely and qualitatively different'" (4). In the latter tradition, Lacan, following most closely on Freud, is especially associated with the concept of the real. For him, the real is the state of nature from which we have been severed by our entrance into language. It erupts, however, whenever we are forced to confront the materiality of our existence, as with needs and drives, such as for hunger, sex, and sleep.

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ritualistic

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Habit and ritual are so conceptually close in the grid of boredom and spirituality that in The Spiritual Significance of Boredom in the Overload Age I propose the blend-word \""habritual” to capture the co-occurrence of the biomechanical and the psychosocially meaningful aspects.

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Boredom is a head-clearing ascesis

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One of the histories of contemporary boredom is in askēsis, which English dictionaries now define as the practice of severe self-discipline, typically for religious reasons or meditative purposes. Askēsis is the Greek root of ascetic. The original usage of askesis in antiquity, however, did not refer to the self-denial conjured by the image of an ascetic, but to the physical training required for athletic events. Over the years, various valences of athletic stamina and religious devotion from

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different discourses have intertwined. In The Pale King, as the character Lane Dean works silently processing tax returns among a room full of silent people processing tax returns, he contemplates his boredom, combats it, and loses, sliding into some liminal state where he hallucinates a phantom who performs this etymology.

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The phantom refers to the personification of boredom in antiquity as \""the demon of noontide,” who was known to attack monks \""in the stillness of the midday hour and empt[y] the world of any meaning” (Dalle Pezze & Salzani 2009, 8).

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almost anything you pay close, direct attention to becomes interesting

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Michael Raposa (1999) argues that wherever boredom appears in spiritual life, it brings ambivalence; it can both threaten to \""undermine prayer and meditation” and promise to deepen contemplation and renew religious insight.

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Outside its \""simple” form as a passing emotional state, boredom itself represents an ontological position in which the very condition of existence is found to be boring and the world is found wanting for anything intrinsically valuable.

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Yet this aspect of boredom is also just one side of a paradox from religion: as Miller says elsewhere in the Gospel of David Foster Wallace, it is as though \""there is a twist in the loop of transcendence that renders it, Möbius-like, continuous with immanence” (2016, xii).

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Why does boredom seem painful? Shouldn’t it just be boring?

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While self-shattering is nonviolent, there are many other ways that thanatos, the destructive instinct, is twinned with boredom

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Renata Salecl acknowledges the twinning of boredom and aggression when she writes that the society \""which allegedly gives priority to the individual’s freedoms over submission to group causes” (2006) and filters choice through the prism of \""opportunity cost” is one that \""causes aggression towards [the self] and apathy in relation to contemporary social problems which are completely ignored by the emporium of individualist choices” (2013a).

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Sometimes the aggression turns outward, as well. The Internet troll as bored, isolated malcontent is well established as a cultural trope and borne out by empirical data (Sanghani 2013). Liam Mitchell (2013) even ups the ante on this notion by proposing that the troll tackles the \""desire for desires” problem by erecting \""a conscious barrier to unconscious desire” by eliding investment in its principal object, which is amusement at another’s expense, or \""lulz.” In Mattathias Schwartz’s (2013)

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formulation, lulz is \""a quasi-thermodynamic exchange between the sensitive and the cruel”; humour derived from \""disrupting another’s emotional equilibrium.” In pursuing lulz, the troll establishes \""a distance from other trolls (with whom he may or may not feel a bond) and from the people who are governed by normal formations of desire” (Mitchell 2013). Insofar as the troll’s pursuits \""bypass or forestall normal formations of desire, they may be characterized as non-subjective.” This is

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significant because, as Mitchell says, our choices only \""have lasting meaning, for others and for ourselves … when we can be held accountable to our promises,” and this is impossible in a condition of both online anonymity and refusal of subjectivity.

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The study \""Just think: The challenges of the disengaged mind” (Wilson et al. 2014) asked participants to spend some time alone thinking in an empty room. There were three study conditions, in all of which participants generally gave high ratings of boredom. In one condition the experimenters gave people the option of giving themselves a mild electric shock. 67% of men and 25% of women shocked themselves. So goes the saying \""the devil makes work for idle hands.”

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Or more broadly: there are many ways, as Baudelaire said in Les Fleurs du Mal (1857, xxv), that \""ennui makes your soul cruel.”

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entropic

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This is what Edgar Orrin Klapp meant when he wrote in his 1986 Overload and Boredom: Essays on the Quality of Life in the Information Society that \""meaning and interest are found mostly in the mid-range between extremes of redundancy and variety-these extremes being called, respectively, banality and noise” (). Redundancy is repetition of the same, which creates a condition of insufficient difference, while noise is the chaos of non-referentiality, or entropy. In a way, these extremes collapse

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into each other, in that both can be viewed \""as a loss of potential … for a certain line of action at least” ().

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There is perhaps something of "the real" here, as well. Volker Woltersdorff (2012, 134) writes that: The law of increasing entropy is a concept of energy in the natural sciences that assumes the tendency of all systems to eventually reach their lowest level of energy. Organic systems therefore tend toward inertia … Freud identifies the death drive with entropy ... within his theory, the economy of the death drive is to release tension."

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Adam Phillips clarifies the death drive: \""People are not, Freud seems to be saying, the saboteurs of their own lives, acting against their own best interests; they are simply dying in their own fashion (to describe someone as self-destructive is to assume a knowledge of what is good for them, an omniscient knowledge of the ‘real’ logic of their lives)” (2000, 81, cf. 77).

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Like texting, as in Le Fraga's W8ING, Day and other "antiexpressive" or "uncreative" writing can be seen as writing with and through a particular technology of the present, something pursued with the rigor of ritual, something to which is given over astounding time and effort by the maker, and something which might be aimed at self-shattering.

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Antiexpressive writing is \""intentionally self and ego effacing” with tactics of \""uncreativity, unoriginality, illegibility, appropriation, plagiarism, fraud, theft, and falsification as its precepts; information management, word processing, databasing, and extreme process as its methodologies; and boredom … as its ethos” (Goldsmith 2008). Necessarily, antiexpressive works have to contend with the subject in terms of authorial decision-making.

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They tend to refuse \""familiar strategies of authorial control in favor of automatism, reticence, obliquity, and modes of noninterference” (Dworkin 2011, xliv) as a way of responding to the ambivalent dis/enchantments of modernity.

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Each carries a slightly different measure of critique and complicity with the encyclopedic impulse whose origins Jutta Haider and Olaf Sundin (2010) locate in Enlightenment \""assumptions about the public character of information and the desirability of free intellectual and political exchange” (Richard Yeo [2001] qtd. in Haider & Sundin 2010). Likewise, each grapples with Enlightenment ideals of universal knowledge, Romantic visions of heroism, and any concepts of teleology as ways to explain

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the present meaningfully.

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Nonetheless, it seeks to become somehow enchanted with it anyway. Identifying the self-imposed constraints that enable them to explore questions of choice, boredom, patience, endurance, obsession, and iterability, work of this kind can be seen as an \""other” of information overload, and as a cipher for overload boredom described above.

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wal-mart

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If we imagine Claburn retyping a litany of anonymous curiosities and statements, we might wonder whether he was tempted to answer or suggest better-formed questions and propositions, as we might be tempted to do, and as browsers and SMS software are increasingly tempted to do with \""autocomplete” suggestions.

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As they accumulate, en masse certain patternistic features of our search queries materialize. The evolution of computer programming languages used in database management systems and in search engines is toward recognizing these patterns. In 2006, as now, AOL search was powered by Google, which uses natural language processing based on machine learning. Specifically, it uses statistical language models that encode information about how language is used. This information is learned from the web

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by looking at billions of web pages.

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The search spell checker, for instance, would evaluate AOL user 23187425’s line (not included in this excerpt) \""could have gone to detriot” by suggesting corrections for \""detriot” and evaluate these suggestions in the context of the phrase in order to determine the likeliest candidate for what the user actually meant to type.

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But instead of spellchecking and search results, in Claburn’s piece the response to this litany is almost uniform silence. Considering the user’s treatment of the search box for \""confession” (or perhaps prayer), Claburn wonders \""what circumstances prompted the author to converse thus with AOL’s search engine” (qtd. in Dworkin & Goldsmith 2011, 138).

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Whereas usually search engine users employ an information management technique of a call and response - the searcher sends out a phrase and a chorus of search results would reply in their different voices - the second channel of the antiphony is muted in i feel better after i type to you. Stereo becomes mono, and as the syncopation drops out, we’re left with a \""soliloquy” or monologue \""of more than 8,200 queries” (Claburn qtd. in Dworkin & Goldsmith 2011, 138).

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The result definitely does read as a conversation, as the editors (Dworkin and Goldsmith) suggest in the anthology where an excerpt of the poem appears. Perhaps it is like a conversation where the other party had become reticent; maybe the search engine was only listening, just as it was expected to.

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Sophia LeFraga’s (2014) texting reinterpretation of Samuel Beckett’s boredom play Waiting for Godot dramatizes how cycles of waiting, anticipation, disappointment unfold.

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In W8ING LeFraga and another performer sit onstage facing an audience and texting each other rapid, terse little messages about the futility of life, passing time-stamped time, eg.:

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\""Nothin 2 b done.” \""word – I feel like yr right.” \""all my life I’ve been like wtvr b reasonable like you haven’t tried everything yet” \""but the struggle is real”

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In W8ING the performers’ messages scroll by on a screen behind them. Unlike these artists, most texters aren’t within earshot of each other and might spend those blank line breaks puzzling over the accuracy of their readings of the texts, as well as the intelligibility of their own \""Textspeak” (Crystal 2008, 80) - that \""idiosyncratic” dialect where abbreviations economise on keystrokes but threaten ambiguity and misunderstanding.

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But actually the content of these messages is, as Christian Licoppe (2004, 141) said of phone calling, \""secondary to the fact of” messaging. The importance of messaging is precisely in establishing what he calls \""connected presence” - that is, \""the feeling of a permanent connection, an impression that the link can be activated at any time and that one can thus experience the other’s engagement in the relationship at any time” (141).

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The back-and-forth pattern of texting emerges as both ritual and habit; fostering connectivity and yet, in needing to be constantly renewed, blunting experience with inexorable monotony.

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Communication theorist James Carey (1975) differentiates between "transmission communication," which is about the extension of messages in space, and "ritual communication." In the \""ritual model of communication," communication functions as a technology of \""the construction and maintenance of an ordered, meaningful cultural world that can serve as a control and container for human action” (1975, 19).

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But if ritual conjures only the warmth of communion or orderly processing, it shouldn’t; amid the antiphony of message alert tones the \""common mood” is about as likely to be one of anxious or bored waiting as it is likely to be the amity connoted by words like \""connectivity” and \""sharing” so often used to describe the digital social world.

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\""For me as a user,” says the man who developed the "typing awareness indicator" - the technical name for the three dots pictured at the bottom of the W8ING screenshot - if there’s any unease associated with the typing indicator, it’s not from the added immediacy … but a lack of enough immediacy. It tells you that something is going on, but leaves you to wonder what it is. It builds up the anticipation for a profound response only to disappoint you with the inevitable banality of what your

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friend actually says" (Auerbach 2014).

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With some hyperbole, the writer Maryam Abolfazli (2014) agrees: "The three dots shown while someone is drafting a message … is quite possibly the most important source of eternal hope and ultimate letdown in our daily lives. It’s the modern-day version of watching paint dry, except you might be broken up with by the time the dots deliver."

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The expectation that there will be a return message clearly has a power having to do with the anticipation of a message even apart from its content.

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Nonetheless, anticipation is the powerful negative of the same pattern in which reply is the positive. Even as we reach out to others, we put ourselves in the position of having to wait - for something, or maybe nothing, as if for Godot.

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flashes of meaning persist

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Flashes of meaning persist despite an attempt to eliminate meaning. Perhaps this suggests that meaning is impossible to eradicate?

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making a new book with the same words

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Connection to Underworld, "hope of finding patterns where there seems to be nothing but noise".

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sort through the historical and cultural debris of the latter half of the twentieth century in the hope of finding patterns where there seems to be nothing but noise.

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Similar and opposite to Adam S. Miller's statement about Foster Wallace's work in The Gospel According to David Foster Wallace: "The real is full of noise, and more, it’s full of patterns that look like noise."

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many of the authors cited are real and the articles and books noted have actually been published

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Interweaving real and made up authors could be another form of haunting. Mark Taylor describes "the real" and "god" as synonymous in Rewiring the Real. Sparsely including the real may be a way to draw attention to it.

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explaining his editorial procedures and adding his own observations and reflections, which are so extensive that they eventually overwhelm Zampano’s text.

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Similar to the annotations in Foster Wallace's writing (footnotes on footnotes) and Jorinde Voigt's writing. The compulsion to annotate and explain is so strong, that it overwhelms the original text.

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Collecting objects, here in an act of boredom, removes them from their function.

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Craig Dworkin wrotes Arcades in Zero Kerning: "What is decisive in collecting is that the object is detached from all its original functions in order to enter into the closest conceivable relation to things of the same kind. The relation is the diametric opposite of any utility, and falls into the peculiar category of completeness."

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The act of collecting has the potential to transform objects into a function outside of everyday utility and monotony, and fulfill a spiritual need of completeness.

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organizational form of the list

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Listing and collecting items to put them back into their original function rather than remove them from their original function.

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imaginative speculation rather than research

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Interweaving of real with imagined. Similar to Underworld's use of real and imaged sources.

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waiting-w8ing

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piece-object

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evaluate-suggest

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annotate-explain

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typing-indicator

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people-impulse

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destructive-drive-death

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interest-meaning

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indicator-typing-suggest-appear

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bored - boredom

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addiction-compulsion

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compulsion-annotate

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emotional-feel

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partial-information

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The real is the interruption of the basic parameters of human life into people's experience, such as reminding us of death, instincts and drives.

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Information is what allows us to make predictions about a system we don't know, based on what states the system can take on. Information is what allows us to find out what we don't know about the real.

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life-death

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Boredom and the real are both affective confrontations with the conditions of ontology.

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ontological - ontology

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emotional-feel-affect

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spiritual - prayer - spirituality

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prayer-search

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algorithm - instruction

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troll-aggression

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database - data

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process-instruction

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process-algorithm

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process-information

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pattern-algorithm

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god-religion

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affective-drive

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affective-feel

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affective-boredom

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affective-experience

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affective-experience

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emotional-affective

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affective-personal

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affective-state

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affective-society

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social-people-society

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cultural-social-society

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cultural-people

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suggest-attempt-tempt

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suggest-search

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suggest-search-engine

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ascetic-boredom-extreme

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Boredom is a problem of meaning, and it can be the result of information overload or too little information. Meaning is a matter of how things refer to each other. If information is that which allows us to make predictions about what is unknown in a system, then it is a precursor to meaning.

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Insofar as information allows us to make predictions about the nodes that will become the points of reference.

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religious-athletic-ascetic-extreme

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ascetic-prayer

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ascetic-god

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ascetic-body

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mean-refer

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religious - athletic - ascetic - extreme

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#real

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#athletic

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#athletic

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#religious

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religious

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athetic

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author-authorial

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Visual similarity to Texts (Waiting for—) for Nothing; Samuel Beckett, in play, where neon text was 'cancelled' by being dipped into black paint - reducing legibility. Here, legibility is reduced by shading and the speed and quantity of text moving through the screen.

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Kibbins invents text that imitates the tone of a textbook or learning materials, suggesting the presence of meaning.

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The text is obscured and not meant to be fully decoded, as in Jorinde Voigt's and Joseph Kosuth's works.

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Words are rearranged into nonsense sentences and paired with nonsense images.

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Plot Layer:

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The book’s putative subject is the film The Navidson Record, produced by the world-famous photographer Will Navidson after he, his partner Karen Green, and their two children Chad and Daisy occupy the house of Ashtree Lane in a move intended to strengthen their strained relationships and knit them closer as a family. Precisely the opposite happens when the House is revealed as a shifting labyrinth of enormous proportions, leading to the horrors recorded on the high-8 videos Will installed

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throughout the house to memorialize their move. From this video footage he made The Navidson Record, which then becomes the subject of an extensive commentary by the solitary Zampanò (p. 110, Hayles).

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Zampano turns out to have been a blind recluse who wrote an extensive commentary on The Navidson Record. When Johnny Truant, whose name suggests that he is a Johnny-come-lately, and his friend Lude, whose real name is Harry, discover Zampano’s body in his crypt-like apartment, Johnny inherits a monstrous truck that contains pages and pages of the old man’s reflections on the film. The twenty-something-year-old kid … assumes the onerous responsibility of organizing Zampano’s ramblings into

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something resembling a coherent narrative. Johnny appends notes explaining his editorial procedures and adding his own observations and reflections, which are so extensive that they eventually overwhelm Zampano’s text (p. 115, Taylor).

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Zampanò’s narrative, set in the typeface Times, occupies the upper portion of the pages while Johnny’s footnotes live below the line in Courier, but this initial ordering becomes increasingly complex as the book proceeds (p.110, Hayles).

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Johnny Truant reveals that the film The Navidson Record, about which he, Zampanò and others write thousands of pages, may in fact be a hoax: (p. xix-xxx). Yet, as many pages that follow testify, the lack of a real world referent does not result in mere absence (p.111, Hayles).

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Design/Layout Layer:

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Though Danielewski’s name appears on the cover and copyright page, the title page indicates that Zampano is the author and Johnny Truant has contributed an introduction and extensive notes (p. 115, Taylor).

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This book about a book layers text upon text. In addition to Navidson’s film, Zampono’s commentary, and Johnny’s commentary on the commentary, House of Leaves includes an elaborate textual apparatus citing scholarly comments, articles, and books either about the text or relevant to it (p. 118, Taylor).

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Moreover, though many of the authors cited are real and the articles and books noted have actually been published, many of the passages quoted are made up, and pages referenced are either incorrect or do not exist (p. 118, Taylor).

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Every time the reader images a new way to interpret the text, he turns the page only to discover a footnote or footnote to a footnote in which some \""author” has anticipated his analysis (p. 119, Taylor).

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The complexity of the work is compounded by a graphic design that enacts or performs the ideas that the multiple authors and characters explore (p. 113, Taylor).

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In a sense House of Leaves recuperates the traditions of the print book and particularly the novel as a literary form, but the price it pays for this recuperation is a metamorphosis so profound that it becomes a new kind of form and artifact (p. 112, Hayles).

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On \""Nothing”:

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One afternoon, while working as an apprentice at the tattoo shop, Johnny suddenly has the strange feeling that \""something’s really off. I’m off.” What makes this experience all the more unsettling is that \""nothing has happened, absolutely nothing” (26). … he reports …. \""Though my fingers still tremble and I’ve yet to stop choking on large irregular gulps of air, as I keep spinning around like a stupid top spinning around on top of nothing, looking everywhere, even though there’s absolutely

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nothing, nothing anywhere” (27) (p. 123, Taylor).

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Only if we read \""nothing” as a substantive does this passage make sense, a negation converted into the looming threat of something, although it is impossible to say what unless it be negation itself, working to obliterate our everyday assumptions about reality (p. 119, Hayles).

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The text is about nothing – always about nothing. Nothing is what keeps the text in play by rendering it irreducibly open and in/finitely complex. The nothingness haunts the text marks its border by exceeding it. This excess is the siteless site where difference endlessly emerges (p. 109, Taylor).

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As speech emerges from silence, so writing emerges from a void that is never completely erased. Yet precisely this emptiness is what much – perhaps most – writing is designed to avoid. … Above all else, stories are supposed to protect us from the emptiness, meaninglessness, absence and the nothingness they nonetheless harbor. All such efforts, however, prove futile because nothing can be a-voided; there can be no story without the haunting emptiness it is written to fill (p. 125, Taylor).

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The scene is related by Zampanò, who positions his readers as first-person viewers watching the film of The Navidson Record along with him. Since the film does not exist, his description, which inevitably interprets as well as remediates, creates the film as an object within the text and also as a putative object in the represented world (p. 113, Hayles).

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On Representation:

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It instantiates the crisis characteristic of post-modernism, in which representation is short-circuited by the realization that there is no reality independent of mediation (p. 110, Hayles).

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The inscription technologies include film, video, photography, tattoos, typewriters, telegraphy, handwriting, and digital computers. The inscription surfaces are no less varied, as Johnny Truant observes about Zampanò’s notes, including writing on \""old napkins, the tattered edges of an envelope, once even on the back of a postage stamp” (p. xvii) (p. 111, Hayles).

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… in House of Leaves consciousness is never seen apart from mediating inscription devices. The text emphasizes that people within the represented world – Will Navidson and Karen Green on one level, Zampanò on another, and Johnny Truant on yet another – exist only because they have been recorded. Moreover, these characters participate in further cycles of remediation as they use inscription technologies to explore past trauma, reenvision relationships that have been damaged, and understand the

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relation of themselves and others to the inscriptions that bring them into being (p. 116, Hayles).

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House of Leaves is often described as ergodic literature, meaning that "nontrivial effort is required to allow the reader to traverse the text" (Aarseth, 1997, p. 2). Aarseth writes, "… hypertexts, adventure games, and so forth are not texts the way the average literary work is a text. In what way, then, are they texts? They produce verbal structures, for aesthetic effect. This makes them similar to other literary phenomena. But they are also something more, and it is this added paraverbal

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dimension that is so hard to see."

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Similar to the annotations in Foster Wallace's writing (footnotes on footnotes) and Jorinde Voigt's writing. The compulsion to annotate and explain is so strong, that it overwhelms the original text.

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Interweaving real and made up authors could be another form of haunting. Mark Taylor describes "the real" and "god" as synonymous in Rewiring the Real. Sparsely including the real may be a way to draw attention to it.

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In Re-writing Freud by Simon Morris, words are randomly selected from Interpretation of Dreams, although "flashes of meaning persist, haunting the text."

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As seen from these photographs and the gif at the bottom, House of Leaves is hard to photograph or video. Many of its elements are specific to print, such as an object on one side which is mirrored on the other side of the same page.

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Zyerah writes about using bookmarks in the physical book: "The sheer quantity of bookmarks - and their positions in the books - is part of the significance of the text. This is hard to reconstruct, but as you read the text, you'll quickly find that one bookmark isn't enough. Then, two. Then, three. At one point, I required seven bookmarks in order to trace my path through the text. Where are the bookmarks? The bookmarks are where you get caught, snagged on some thorn in the book's side. It's a

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physical indicator that confounds your perception of your own progress."

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Katherine N. Hayles writes in Writing Machines, "Zampanò suggests this chapter should be called "The Labyrinth", a title that makes explicit what is already implicit in typgraphy, that house of leaves mirrors the House on Ashtree Lane, both of which are figured as a labyrinth, a motif already embossed in black-on-black on the cover" (p. 122).

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Shapes resembling "windows" from the house repeatedly come up in the book. On the left page, an object - seemingly a flower pot, is removed from the page.

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On the literature stack exchange, Zyerah answers a question about whether House of Leaves would function well as an e-book by providing a number of examples of the importance of the book's physical presence, although they mention that prior knowledge of how the book is supposed to work may allow it to be read in e-book form later on.

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One example that Zyerah brings up is visible on this page - the text often moves in different directions, which is very difficult to read on a computer screen. In this case, the text is read-able, but makes itself very difficult to read.

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The converging text on the right hand side is initially readable but then slowly merges to a point where it is unable to be fully decoded.

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Zyerah writes: "I've uploaded a video of me simply flipping through a tunnel in the book. With the application of a little kinesthetic thought, there's a physical sense given to the reader that this tunnel is actually inside the book. If you look at the pages as they're stacked together, you look at the wall you reach at the end of the tunnel, and you look back, and it's supposed to feel like you can look through the book.

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This isn't something that's going to be very easy to pick up on using an ebook. Ebooks make it difficult to look at past pages and think about them being a stack of pages."

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Zyerah's forum response, is itself hypertextual and heavily annotated, which the author is well aware of. Zyerah writes: "Footnote 310 has footnotes of its own. Those footnotes take you to other places in the book, and now you need five bookmarks. And look, honestly, I didn't want this example to be 450 words long, but that's kind of the point, isn't it?"

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It seems that any mention of the book that isn't hypertextual (N. Katherine Hayle's relatively short chapter in Writing Machines as one such example) is an exception.

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Curiously, the original user who asked the question, BESW writes: "This is an awesome answer to a question very adjacent to the one I've asked …" where Zyerah responds: "@BESW Apologies for addressing an adjacent point! I… may have gotten a little carried away… ". This exchange highlights the compulsion that the book brings out to annotate, explain, discover hidden footnotes - and show these footnotes to people who haven't found them yet.

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Several pages in House of Leaves, as shown in the video uploaded by Zyerah, mirror the same image on both sides of a printed page. N. Katherine Hayles writes "The box calls into question an assumption so commonplace we are not normally aware of it - that book pages are opaque, a property that defines one page as separate from another" (p. 123).

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191:

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People, things, and events proliferate in narratives and counternarratives that simultaneously connect and disconnect, until everything becomes somewhat chaotic. The only thing that seems to tie it all together is waste. With every turn of the page, there is more waste – wasted lives, wastebands, wasted bodies, limbs, sewers, dumps, landfills, junk, trash, garbage, shit – all kinds of shit – and, of course, radioactive nuclear waste. There are also other less recognizable and predictable forms

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of waste – games, art, and religion.

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195:

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Underworld is big – too big – and messy. By any reasonable measure, it is excessive – 827 pages! It seems to fall apart more often than hang together.

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196:

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As pages turn and stuff keeps piling up, readers are left to sort through the historical and cultural debris of the latter half of the twentieth century in the hope of finding patterns where there seems to be nothing but noise.

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199:

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The temporal organization of Underworld is as complex as its spatial structure. DeLillo’s counternarrative is not straightforward but consists of multiple narratives and counternarratives joined by tangled loop-lines. The events he recounts all take place during the four decades from the summers of 1951 and 1952 and the summer-spring of 1992.

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201:

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It is too easy to set up a simple opposition between a modernist utopia and a postmodernist dystopia because the liminal spaces Delillo explores are too complex to be contained by such sharp boundaries.

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From Underworld as cited in Ticonovic (2000):

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82:

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I lived responsibly in the real. I didn’t accept life as fiction, or whatever Klara Sax had meant when she said that things had become unreal. History was not a matter of missing minutes on tape. I did not stand helpless before it. I hewed to the texture of collected knowledge, took faith from the solid and availing stuff of our experience. Even if we believe that history is a workwheel powered by human blood – read the speeches of Mussolini – at least we’ve known the thing together. A single

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narrative sweep, not ten thousand wisps of disinformation.

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Underworld challenges the assumption that books are composed of one unit of cohesive information.

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The text is composed of historical and cultural debris, although it is not drawn directly from a real-world referent (such as Day by Kenneth Goldsmith). This type of text occupies an imaginative space in between the type of conceptual work like Day and a fully fictional work. How do we categorise this kind of work? It shares features with other works that include both real and imagined information (The Dust, House of Leaves).

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Ticinovic (2000, Master's thesis) suggests that the fragmentation in Underworld is "not an ahistorical postmodern pastiche of fragments, but instead represents a turn in Delillo's work towards a new spirituality or humanism, one which preserves a postmodern aesthetic of plurality and reaches beyond the sometimes banal issues of regionalism."

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Ticinovic (2000) describes the real in Underworld as sensory and human activity versus the "selective realities of capital's media - TV, video, movies, newspapers, etc." (p. 24, Master's Thesis). In this, as in many other texts, one interpretation of the real as 'god' or as 'spiritual' is a hyper-focus on the sensory rather than the mediated. This is especially notable in The Gospel According to David Foster Wallace.

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P. 448:

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The text from Sigmund Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams is fed into a computer program. The program randomly selects words, one at a time from Freud’s text and beings to reconstruct the entire book, word by word, making a new book with the same words. When one word is placed next to another, meaning is suggested, and even thought he syntactical certainty of Freud’s sentences have been ruptured by the aleatory process, flashes of meaning persist, haunting the text.

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David Melnick composed Men in Aida by sounding Homer’s Iliad. That is, Melnick listened to the Greek text as if it were English, translating the sound rather than the sense and drawing out the modern language he heard embedded in the ancient (see David Antin’s attempts in Novel Poem to hear one genre embedded in the forms of another).

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At the same time, Melnick contorts English to the strictures of the Greek phonetic sequences, working from the syllable rather than the word. Rather than render the content of Homeric Greek in English, Melnick Grecizes English from within. In doing so, he undertakes the kind of translation that Walter Benjamin famously called for in \""The Task of the Translator” (Selected Writings, vol. 1, 1913–1926, ed. Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings [Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996],

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253–66). Articulating \""a theory that strives to find, in translation, something other than reproduction of meaning” (259), Benjamin argued that

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\""translation must in large measure refrain from wanting to communicate something, from rendering the sense, and in this the original is important to it only insofar as it has already relieved the translator and his translation of the effort of assembling and expressing what is to be conveyed (260).”

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Words as objects

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A common theme across multiple objects is the communication of something other than meaning, such as in works where words are not meant to be fully decoded and instead become visual objects.

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If translation is to refrain from communicating something, then is it communicating nothing?

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Perelman writes in The Marginalization of Poetry: Language Writing and Literary History: "Like Hegel, for whom the spiritual value of the classical languages was manifest even down to their grammatical elements, and like Arnold, for whom Homer represented a natural fact and a primary literary touchstone, Melnick is taking the words of Homer as a sacred given, valuing the actual sound of the greek above the meaning."

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Without hypotaxis, narrative, or discursiveness, \""The Dust” (Lost and Found [New York: Roof, 2003]) depends on a reader’s knowledge of its context: the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001. Not a strict transcription of objects pulverized or recovered from the site (some of the items included are the products of Michael Gottlieb’s imaginative speculation rather than research), the poem nonetheless evinces the power of the detached and flatly unexpressive catalog to

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access emotions—through strategies of obliquity and indirection—without courting blatant sentiment. The catalog at play here is not just the organizational form of the list, of course, but also the style of the wholesale product brochure; the language of the poem is closer to commercial accounting than to the traditional lyric elegy. The defamiliarizing specificity and descriptive detail of Gottlieb’s litany slows the reader and helps forestall—if only momentarily—the stock, reflexive, or

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scripted responses to the strongly mediated spectacle of the attacks. Where September 11 has become a symbolic event of shared cultural reference, \""The Dust” reduces the monumental status of both the towers and their demise to a scale of concrete and individual particulars.

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From Publisher’s Weekly:

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\""The Dust” is a list poem, one that tallies, in trade catalogue language (\""Interior Concepts workstation T-base for non-raceway panels”), some of the things that got compacted when the World Trade Center towers fell. When Gottlieb finally, and with extreme care, transitions from products to people’s names, the juxtaposition of financial, bureaucratic and personal losses seems to make the ground fall out from under everyday life. The poem is sad, frightening and extraordinary, and while it

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honors the dead, it also refuses to separate them from the things with which they lived.

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Blending the real and the imagined. Similar to the use of both real and imagined sources in House of Leaves. As noted in an annotation on House of Leaves: "Interweaving real and made up authors could be another form of haunting. Mark Taylor describes "the real" and "god" as synonymous in Rewiring the Real. Sparsely including the real may be a way to draw attention to it."In this case, imaginative speculation can be especially ghostly - what does it mean to make up a name in this list? What does

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it mean to make up an object?

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One critical difference between Day and The Dust is the Day takes a mundane, everyday issue of the New York Times as it's material, while The Dust considers an emotionally loaded event. While similar in form, The Dust utilises the mundane to withhold affect and Day reprints the mundane for readers to attend to.

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Interestingly, Goldsmith later published The Day, which took a newspaper from September 11th as it's material.

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In Gottlieb's poem, all written text is treated as objects.

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Gottlieb's objects are both extremely specific (e.g. make, size, type) and universal in that they include brands familiar to many readers. The poem draws attention to the number of possible descriptors for each of our objects, even without information on a specific object's time course (i.e. from production to stocking to purchase). By contrast, Gottlieb doesn't include any additional information in the name listings.

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Even once Gottlieb transitions to people's names, he still interweaves people's names with objects.

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In 2006, America Online (AOL) accidentally released the search queries from some 20 million of its customers. The users were anonymous, identified by numerical tags, and no IP addresses were disclosed, though many were easily identified with a quick triangulation of data. Thomas Claburn quickly recognized the literary potential of this cache, publishing the data from one user with only minor formatting changes to aid readability. As Claburn explains:

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Within the third of the ten files of user search queries AOL mistakenly released (user-ct-test-collection-03), there’s a poem of sorts. Between May 7 and May 31 of this year, AOL user 23187425 submitted a series of more than 8,200 queries with no evident intention of finding anything—only a handful of the entries are paired with a search results URL. Rather, the author’s series of queries forms a stream-of-consciousness soliloquy.

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Whether it’s fact or fiction, confession or invention, the search monologue is strangely compelling. It’s a uniquely temporal literary form in that the server time stamps make the passage of time integral to the storytelling. It could be the beginning of a new genre of writing, or simply an aberration. But it does beg further explanation. What circumstances prompted the author to converse thus with AOL’s search engine?

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Thomas Claburn \""writes text for people and code for machines” (according to his blog Lot49).

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As far as Claburn could guess, user 23187425 had \""no evident intention of finding anything” (qtd. in Dworkin & Goldsmith 2011, 138).

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Having never interacted with AOL on the internet, I repeatedly confused it with IM software, like MSN and ICQ, when reading this description.

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On the website Search-ID: Psychic analysis of AOL users and their search logs, many people speculate on this user's personality and reasons for searching for 'nothing' on AOL. The tone of messages feels closer to a one-sided Instant-Messaging conversation, and the user never actually clicks on any links that come up from the search queries. One commenter, Choronzon's Girl suggests that this user "seems to be talking both to self and to some other entity (God, the Internet, the AOL Robot

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Therapist?)" Another commenter suggests that AOL search is a covert channel to log a conversation, particularly because the search queries "are entered methodically every 30 seconds or so, give or take, for continuous stretches lasting several hours." Another commenter writes "I think something else is going on here, though I'd have no idea how and why…"

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This particular user is distinct from other AOL users, whose search queries are much more typical. For instance, AOL user #11496059 searched for "clearance prom dresses", "prom hair styles", "prom hair styles for medium length hair", "cute prom hairstyles", "updo hairstyles", etc.

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Comments from: http://explicit-id.com/user/23187425-homeless_joe

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The Museum for Viral Memory (http://www.vime.org/previous/user_23187425.html) recorded a number of User 23187425's search queries as sound recordings. On their website, they write: "Downloading and reading these search queries we were instantly reminded of writings by people in manic states. It was like revisiting writings we have received from friends and family suffering from the psychotic highs of manic depression. It also reminded us of the authors that we at the MVM continually rework -

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Samuel Beckett, Antonin Artaud and William S. Burroughs." I found it fascinating that my search into User 123187425 had led back to Beckett, who is referenced in a number of other Objects on this site.

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The Museum of Viral Memory has a UDV project which seeks to record all of Beckett's work. On their website, they describe why they chose Beckett in particular: "We chose to make my first foray into the voice the works of Beckett because hearing them is the closest thing to hearing music we have ever encountered in the spoken language. His words and the diction they demand are closer to plainchant or shape note than speech. They are also the closest thing to a transcription of the inner dialogue

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as we have ever encountered."

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Notably, 'plainchant' and 'shape note' are both congregational singing practices.

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The search queries seem to follow a kind of narrative sequence where subsequent entries reference the content of previous ones. This is puzzling, because the first query has to be erased from the search bar for the second one to be typed in, so the only way the search terms would show up as a sequence are perhaps in this user's browser history. User 23187425 was slowly typing one thought at a time in methodical intervals. The act of typing these search queries, slowly, and one at a time, is

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similar to the slow methodical typing that Kenneth Goldsmith does of the New York Times issue for Day.

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This experience is further mediated as Thomas Claburn methodically typed User 231187425's queries.

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If we imagine Claburn retyping a litany of anonymous curiosities and statements, we might wonder whether he was tempted to answer or suggest better-formed questions and propositions, as we might be tempted to do, and as browsers and SMS software are increasingly tempted to do with \""autocomplete” suggestions.

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As they accumulate, en masse certain patternistic features of our search queries materialize. The evolution of computer programming languages used in database management systems and in search engines is toward recognizing these patterns. In 2006, as now, AOL search was powered by Google, which uses natural language processing based on machine learning. Specifically, it uses statistical language models that encode information about how language is used. This information is learned from the web

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by looking at billions of web pages.

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The search spell checker, for instance, would evaluate AOL user 23187425’s line (not included in this excerpt) \""could have gone to detriot” by suggesting corrections for \""detriot” and evaluate these suggestions in the context of the phrase in order to determine the likeliest candidate for what the user actually meant to type.

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But instead of spellchecking and search results, in Claburn’s piece the response to this litany is almost uniform silence. Considering the user’s treatment of the search box for \""confession” (or perhaps prayer), Claburn wonders \""what circumstances prompted the author to converse thus with AOL’s search engine” (qtd. in Dworkin & Goldsmith 2011, 138).

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Whereas usually search engine users employ an information management technique of a call and response - the searcher sends out a phrase and a chorus of search results would reply in their different voices - the second channel of the antiphony is muted in i feel better after i type to you. Stereo becomes mono, and as the syncopation drops out, we’re left with a \""soliloquy” or monologue \""of more than 8,200 queries” (Claburn qtd. in Dworkin & Goldsmith 2011, 138).

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The result definitely does read as a conversation, as the editors (Dworkin and Goldsmith) suggest in the anthology where an excerpt of the poem appears. Perhaps it is like a conversation where the other party had become reticent; maybe the search engine was only listening, just as it was expected to.

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This text is the personal information from one of about 20 million AOL search users that had been tracked, stored, and accidentally released by the company in 2006. It has been re-released, however - not leaked, but published - under a Creative Commons Attribution license by Thomas Claburn, who saw a poem of sorts in the millions of lines of search results. i feel better after i type to you is available as a 254-page print-on-demand book from Lulu.com.

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In one sense, Claburn’s \""poem” can be seen as one among a number of art world attempts to encounter information overload aesthetically: to introduce different sensations and sensibilities into digital opacity; to draw attention to what it feels like to surveil and be surveilled by all these information architectures; to make something appropriate to the \""complex syncopation between conscious and unconscious perceptions for humans and the interactions of surface displays and algorithmic

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procedures for machines” (Hayles 2012, 13).

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More specifically, i feel better after i type to you is an example of what’s known as \""antiexpressive” or \""uncreative” aesthetics, something that has been called a conceptual \""poetics of the moment, fusing the avant-garde impulses of the last century with the technologies of the present” (Goldsmith 2008).

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(One of its prime figures, the poet Kenneth Goldsmith [2008], has described it as proposing \""an expanded field for 21st century poetry,” but with antecedents in conceptual visual art that appropriates, reproduces, foregrounds text, and composes with algorithms, work that is \""against expression” is not necessarily limited to the poetic field).

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i feel better after i type to you appears in Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing, edited by Kenneth Goldsmith and Craig Dworkin. Other works from the collection include:

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David Melnick's Men In Aida

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From Being Boring by Kenneth Goldsmith:

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The simple act of moving information from one place to another today constitutes a significant cultural act in and of itself. I think it’s fair to say that most of us spend hours each day shifting content into different containers. Some of us call this writing.

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From Zero Kerning by Craig Dworkin:

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To read Goldsmith’s oeuvre, at a certain remove, reveals a consistent concern with spacing – with the collapse of distances into equal measures, and the differences and repetitions subsequently legible within regimes of periodic regulation.

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Intervals not only have meaning, but they are, in some sense, what grounds meaning itself: \""the spacing (pause, blank, punctuation, interval in general, etc.) which constitutes the origin of signification.” The semiotic system of language depends on its multiple articulations at different levels: those intervals between letters, words, and larger units of grammar which introduce the physical space of difference that permits us to distinguish, cognitively, different meanings. Moreover, as

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evinced by the move from the scriptura continua of western antiquity (in which texts were written withoutspacing between words),such intervals have had farreaching conceptual effects, with changes in textual space changing the way we understand the world around us.

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On the other hand, the rigorously uniform and 21 exhaustive structures aspired to by these works are at odds with the modes of their assumed reading: irregular, discontinuous, distracted – skimmed and sampled and dipped.

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\""What is decisive in collecting is that the object is detached from all its original functions in order to enter into the closest conceivable relation to things of the same kind. The relation is the diametric opposite of any utility, and falls into the peculiar category of completeness” (Arcades 204).

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At the molar level, the newspaper source of Day is twice removed from its original spacing. First, the paper is pulled from the dependable interval of the daily (a single date, September 1 , 2000, snatched from a series that st stretches back before any reader’s memory to 1856 and projects forward to any imaginable horizon). Secondly, the book removes the paper from the multiple printings of that single day’s circulation run, as its text is translated into the new format of a second codex

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edition. With this double withdrawal, Day fixes and monumentalizes the transient in the frozen moment of sculpture (like the implicit gossip and fleeting associations of the Birmingham monument).

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Like texting, as in Le Fraga's W8ING, Day and other "antiexpressive" or "uncreative" writing can be seen as writing with and through a particular technology of the present, something pursued with the rigor of ritual, something to which is given over astounding time and effort by the maker, and something which might be aimed at self-shattering.

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Antiexpressive writing is \""intentionally self and ego effacing” with tactics of \""uncreativity, unoriginality, illegibility, appropriation, plagiarism, fraud, theft, and falsification as its precepts; information management, word processing, databasing, and extreme process as its methodologies; and boredom … as its ethos” (Goldsmith 2008). Necessarily, antiexpressive works have to contend with the subject in terms of authorial decision-making.

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They tend to refuse \""familiar strategies of authorial control in favor of automatism, reticence, obliquity, and modes of noninterference” (Dworkin 2011, xliv) as a way of responding to the ambivalent dis/enchantments of modernity.

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Each carries a slightly different measure of critique and complicity with the encyclopedic impulse whose origins Jutta Haider and Olaf Sundin (2010) locate in Enlightenment \""assumptions about the public character of information and the desirability of free intellectual and political exchange” (Richard Yeo [2001] qtd. in Haider & Sundin 2010). Likewise, each grapples with Enlightenment ideals of universal knowledge, Romantic visions of heroism, and any concepts of teleology as ways to explain

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the present meaningfully.

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Nonetheless, it seeks to become somehow enchanted with it anyway. Identifying the self-imposed constraints that enable them to explore questions of choice, boredom, patience, endurance, obsession, and iterability, work of this kind can be seen as an \""other” of information overload, and as a cipher for overload boredom described above.

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Superimpose the known facts about Joined Voigt’s circuitous route to art-making onto her breathtakingly elaborate drawings – which recall wavelength diagrams, chalcedonic cross-sections, oceanography charts, cardiographs, musical scores and gossamer-fine abstractions – and her aesthetic can seem almost inevitable. Trained as a cellist until she was eighteen, developing the reserves of focus on which she says her art now rests, Voigt at first redirected her studies towards philosophy and

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literature, where she found that substituting proliferating diagrams for sentences helped her to understand abstruse concepts. Later, switching universities and finding herself in the middle of a student strike, she elected to enter art school: here, after some frustration with photography’s limited ability to represent experience, she returned to elaborate note-taking, writing down the reasons why she would have taken a photograph instead of taking it, and classifying the given situation in

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order to understand its structure. Applying her notational style to perceptual experience, and – working on the floor, to loud techno music – she has since constructed the already substantial, telegraphic yet sensual and, until recently, primarily black-and-white portfolio of large-scale drawings for which she’s known.

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These works, arising out of a rule-driven, algorithm-utilizing methodology that nevertheless allows room for spontaneity (since Voigt is unable to control the situations it places her in), aim to memorialize, to capture, the underlying mechanics of a given experience. Airport Study 6: Supersymmetrie (2010), with its scribbled notes about the speed and direction of Airbuses, examines how planes take off from an airport, while the rigorously gridded Africa Series (2009) records impressions of

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Africa. How the horizon line rebalances in a mobile spectator’s sightline is the subject of the Horizont series (2010-11), and Views on Chinese Erotic Art, from 16th to 20th Century (2011), where determined loops and arcs bend around near-abstract blue outlines, is self-explanatory. But Voigt does not seem to intend her drawings to be wholly decoded. If she did, she’d write her elegant German notations in a more intelligible way: like Cy Twombly’s texts, her are as much visual as verbal. Her

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artworks are mind maps, evocations of the silent multi-tasking that processes inside someone’s head as they interpret the constantly shifting sensory world before them, or try to grasp the ungraspable quicksilver texture of reality.

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10 Territorien / Konvex-Konkav / Richtungswechsel (10 Territories / Convex-Concave / Change of Direction, 2010), with its teeming shoals of tiny arrows, purports to record the complex and changeable directional flow of wind or water over a pair of curved surfaces, while in Extract Words and Views: Fragments d’un discours amoureux (2012) Voigt anatomizes quotidian forms – a chaise-longue, trousers, an envelope, a galloping horse, hands, flowers, circles, as well as some unrecognizable forms –

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and addends them with textual chatter and compulsive loops, suggesting a lovelorn mind in which the everyday is transfigured. If love cannot be reduced to language, if words are never quite commensurate with emotion – despite heroic attempts such as Roland Barthes’ fragmented devotional, A Lover’s Discourse (1978), which Voigt’s title half-references – then this is in some ways an ideal subject for the artist. She takes phenomena that refuse to be fully trapped on paper, and creates vertiginous

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evocations of the chase: a partial, but still overwhelming, informational sublime.

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This seems to verge toward the concerns triangulated in the spirituality/boredom connection…something about how to represent experience itself to ourselves…seems like a question that belongs to the realm of the existential.

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Reminds of mid-century conceptualists’ instruction pieces, plus Kenneth Goldsmith’s huge "uncreative" works that you’re \""not supposed to actually read.” In this case, it's almost like a set of instructions you shouldn’t bother following (unlike, say, Fluxus "instruction pieces"), but ones that in and of themselves have some kind of aesthetic value or function.

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Information about information.

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Words as objects. If words are not meant to be "wholly decoded," then the words are about the "manual gesture" that expresses something affective with the expressiveness of the lines left as the "inscriptive trace" (Ingold 2007, 3).

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Annotation, but also the sense of thoroughness, exhaustive explanation, a compulsion to comment. Reminds of themes of addiction and information sublime David Foster Wallace's work, including his footnotes to footnotes.

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This drawing is fairly small, but many of Voigt's pieces are quite large - certainly as tall as she is. Scale does seem to have a place in the field of objects For Boredom is concerned with. Not all written works are long, but a lot of them are decidedly overwhelming, and certainly some of the novels are, too. Voigt’s are a bit different because you can visually take it all in at once, but still, they are large-scale and highly detailed.

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First, some a priori statements. A poem is made out of language. Language arises out of need; most of our basic communication needs are denotative. Poets play with language in ways that other language users don’t (and when they do, we might say that such use of language is poetic). Poems open connotative capacities in language in order to do something other than indicate, something more, something different. One definition of poetry that I like is release of maximum connotation.

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So Al Filreis, Brian Reed, and Craig Dworkin — all poet-critic-scholar-teacher guys — have told me that this new work by Sophia LeFraga, \""W8ing 4,” is a poem. It therefore is one. But am I capable of recognizing it as one? What is a poem? What kind of answer does this work propose? Is the work effective; is it a good answer to the first question? What poems do I already know that can help me understand and appreciate what this poem is doing? How does it extend poetry or expand its field? And if

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I don’t like it, will it be possible to recognize and describe its value? And if I do like it, does that mean it’s good? All these questions orbit the work before the act of reading.

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The poem \""W8ing 4” is framed by the degraded language of its title, as well as the technological device of the phone: sound (phone/audible voice) and text (texting/legible voice). In addition to the title’s texting/slang spelling — the use of letters and numbers (for their phonemes) — the title is a fragment. \""W8ing 4.” Waiting for. Waiting for what? Waiting for God (Weil); Waiting for Godot(Beckett); Waiting for the Barbarians (Coetzee); \""Waiting for the Man” (Lou Reed). You’ll find half a

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dozen romance novels on Amazon with titles that begin, Waiting for: Me, Nick, Rachel, Rain. Also, Waiting for Baby, an obvious life manual. LeFraga’s literary allusions may go quite high or quite low. I expect scrambling of old standard cultural codes. Promising, I think, because potentially vigorous; but by now, not very new.

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LeFraga’s work is a video, on Vimeo. The screen shows an iPhone. I can control the forward play, pause, and rewind of the video: kind of like maneuvering through a book, but cumbersome. The resolution is really blurry. I will have a hard time reading the text. High tech meets low-fi. The phone has her name at the top of the screen: $oph. The poet may be the \""speaker,” just as with a conventional lyric poem … ? The money sign is the anti-sign of poetry … Ironic? Am I feeling anxious? What kind

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of writing is this?

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I’m reading and I’m watching at the same time. The illusion is that I’m watching someone — presumably $oph — text with someone else. There are no hands, but I see keys punched; the texting appears as if typed in real time, though actually it’s sped up: funny to think of an experience of waiting unfolding at a higher than natural speed. I’m now working with a set of conceptual contrasts or oppositions: voice/writing; speed/waiting; written and visual language. I see toggling between letters and

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lists of emoticons and other visual tags; also errors, some corrected, some left in. I hear the little swooshy sound effects of iPhone texting. Though conversational, this is a language no one speaks because it’s made up in part of unspeakable abbreviations and images. Texting, in other words, is a purely literary language, though it conforms to many informal speech patterns or sounds — I hadn’t thought about it until this moment. The work is leading me to a new insight about contemporary

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language use, and not just poetic speech. I’m presented with a new paradox: although I called this language degraded, it’s also clearly a literary language, one that mixes its signs: emoticons are like clumsy punctuation marks that function by inflecting tone, or adding color to emphasis; they’re a perfect complement to deliberately inadequate speech: the fumbling expressiveness of the inarticulate.

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But it is a written language that’s creating the illusion of a \""natural” spontaneity, and it’s doing so by virtue of a style or stylistic quality that I recognize as belonging to serious art: the style of artlessness, the high art of no-art. Within the history of styles it goes back at least as far as Defoe, and maybe to the very beginning of the novel, its epistolary form. It’s a kind of verbal Realism, but also associated with Romanticism, Modernism, Postmodernism, and whatever’s happening

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now. Keeping it real! Is it sophistry to wonder if the poem can be called \""traditional”? Such broadly drawn historical/conventional tags aren’t helping me understand. Mostly, the work’s rough textures and the unfinished nature of its materials and the way it foregrounds its medium and the system that creates it — all that strikes me as a new form of Brutalism. (That sounds smart; does comparing Le Fraga’s work to a style of architecture help me understand it? I’ll have to come back around to

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that question to make sure …)

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The phone, among other things, is a communication device for voice and text (it occurs to me that it’s the first syllable in the word \""phoneme.” But so what? Maybe nothing; but I notice my mind is being teased open). The phone is not apparently a poetry device. So it’s a good choice to test the nature of poetic language and poetic form: the device opens the field of the poem much more widely than is conventionally conceived. Twitter may put a premium on condensare, with its limit of 140

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strokes, and lead to some good writing I’d hazard to call poetry. But it’s not a dramatic form. Le Fraga’s work is a dramatic form: the interplay of two voices: so, more like drama or the novel — the social role of language, the immediate drama of communication. It’s clearly playing off of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot; though by using the dude icon to signify whom they are waiting for, Le Fraga is also playing with the romance genre. Are they waiting for Godot, or waiting for Gary? Why not name

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the person, why use an icon? Unless the figure has no name … ? One hears pastiche and deliberate downgrading of speech. Is there a target for this satire? What’s the moral imperative? It’s easy to — in a sense — translate a great work into a trashy parallel form. Or even more simply to rewrite a pulp narrative so that the seams of its artifice and convention are revealed as a parlor game or carnival trick. But such a work is not telling us anything we don’t already know: that art is not life;

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that life is messier; that art uses artifice to heighten the effects of language and our awareness of the world. So, like any good poem, the work is not trying to tell us something, or anything; it’s presenting an experience that moves us and makes us think.

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I gather from the dramatic situation that $oph is texting with another woman. $oph seems to have been away, and has now returned. \""‘W8 / So yr back?’ // ‘Am I?’ // ‘I was starting to think you were gone forever’ // ‘Me 2 tho’ // ‘we’ll have to celebr8 / this being together at last’ // ‘not now but l8tr def’ // ‘lol / you should have been a poet’ // ‘I was. / obvi’.” Is $oph just bantering, or is this some kind of proleptic drama? She’s been away, her friend thought maybe forever. Now she’s

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back, but she’s also not present. The contemporary idiom and the ironic playfulness of much texting speech blur the lines of the situation. The medium is the message? I don’t think so. The medium may actually be a kind of static or signal breaker in speech acts between people. Or, if one of the speakers is really disembodied, the medium may be the only available means of communication. Ghost in the machine. Are we the ghosts in the language machine?

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But they’re in the same place together! Texting each other? Why aren’t they just talking. Kids these days …. Mysteries persist. The mechanical speed of the back and forth and the absurdity of the situation evoke Beckett’s minimalist dramatic clowning and Abbot and Costello’s \""Who’s on First?” routine, with its farcical misunderstandings. \""‘I guess lets try to have a conversation / Since we apparently can’t stop txting each other’ // ‘Word’ // ‘sooooooooooooo say something’ // Chill / I’m

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trying’.” The experience of being caught in the mechanical operations of the universe, according to Henri Bergson, is what creates farce. \""iMean I don’t think we’re at risk of thinking anymore.” Or, \""There’s no lack of void.” The language of texting can’t capture the metaphysics of their weird plight, except that their plight seems to be feeling trapped in the text machine. Is that the \""iMeaning”? Is any language adequate to such feeling? When it comes to communication, aren’t we all trapped

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in the devices of language, don’t we all bump against the limits of what can be said? I can’t seem to stop texting right now, on my computer, as I write this. The implications are growing. This is good. The work is making me think, making me more aware of my own world. \""‘We always find sumthin 2 do that makes us feel like we exist / amirite’ // ‘we’re magicians’.” A little grand, perhaps; but writing can be a kind of magic when it makes things appear in thin air before the mind’s eye. And a

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little later: \""‘Do you think god sees me?’ // ‘you gotta close your eyes’.”

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The drama of the exchange, its first social and then metaphysical concerns, spikes from implicit to explicit here in the final moment. But before we read the word \""eyes” we see the misspelling \""eurs” before it’s corrected — phonetically, that’s ears more than eyes. \""And Being, but an Ear,” writes Dickinson … How do we know the world if not through language? What’s required is reception, not production. Close our ears, close our eyes, we’ll finish knowing — then — finding god, or making oneself

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more visible to god, requires, the work seems to say, the end of texting, of making texts. Isn’t the Bible a kind of sacred canonical texting; the ten commandments a form of texting on \""two tablets of stone written with the finger of God” (Deuteronomy 9:10)? The textual work on LeFraga’s microprocessing tablet, so constructed, proposes, in the end, its deconstruction as the end. A new antinomianism? How will any of these notions lead to a subsequent evaluation of the work? That requires a

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second reading …

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Texting indicators of boredom. It's unclear whether texting relieves the boredom of waiting, or whether texting is itself compounding that boredom.

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Boredom - as mediated through texting - is associated with a lack of memory, an inability to retain specific memories.

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Le Fraga (personal communication June 20 2018) has stated that no text for this piece exists except this video of it. I have transcribed a portion of it to reproduce in text here with her permission.

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Sophia LeFraga’s (2014) texting reinterpretation of Samuel Beckett’s boredom play Waiting for Godot dramatizes how cycles of waiting, anticipation, disappointment unfold.

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In W8ING LeFraga and another performer sit onstage facing an audience and texting each other rapid, terse little messages about the futility of life, passing time-stamped time, eg.:

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\""Nothin 2 b done.” \""word – I feel like yr right.” \""all my life I’ve been like wtvr b reasonable like you haven’t tried everything yet” \""but the struggle is real”

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In W8ING the performers’ messages scroll by on a screen behind them. Unlike these artists, most texters aren’t within earshot of each other and might spend those blank line breaks puzzling over the accuracy of their readings of the texts, as well as the intelligibility of their own \""Textspeak” (Crystal 2008, 80) - that \""idiosyncratic” dialect where abbreviations economise on keystrokes but threaten ambiguity and misunderstanding.

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But actually the content of these messages is, as Christian Licoppe (2004, 141) said of phone calling, \""secondary to the fact of” messaging. The importance of messaging is precisely in establishing what he calls \""connected presence” - that is, \""the feeling of a permanent connection, an impression that the link can be activated at any time and that one can thus experience the other’s engagement in the relationship at any time” (141).

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The back-and-forth pattern of texting emerges as both ritual and habit; fostering connectivity and yet, in needing to be constantly renewed, blunting experience with inexorable monotony.

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Communication theorist James Carey (1975) differentiates between "transmission communication," which is about the extension of messages in space, and "ritual communication." In the \""ritual model of communication," communication functions as a technology of \""the construction and maintenance of an ordered, meaningful cultural world that can serve as a control and container for human action” (1975, 19).

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But if ritual conjures only the warmth of communion or orderly processing, it shouldn’t; amid the antiphony of message alert tones the \""common mood” is about as likely to be one of anxious or bored waiting as it is likely to be the amity connoted by words like \""connectivity” and \""sharing” so often used to describe the digital social world.

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\""For me as a user,” says the man who developed the "typing awareness indicator" - the technical name for the three dots pictured at the bottom of the W8ING screenshot - if there’s any unease associated with the typing indicator, it’s not from the added immediacy … but a lack of enough immediacy. It tells you that something is going on, but leaves you to wonder what it is. It builds up the anticipation for a profound response only to disappoint you with the inevitable banality of what your

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friend actually says" (Auerbach 2014).

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With some hyperbole, the writer Maryam Abolfazli (2014) agrees: "The three dots shown while someone is drafting a message … is quite possibly the most important source of eternal hope and ultimate letdown in our daily lives. It’s the modern-day version of watching paint dry, except you might be broken up with by the time the dots deliver."

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The expectation that there will be a return message clearly has a power having to do with the anticipation of a message even apart from its content.

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Nonetheless, anticipation is the powerful negative of the same pattern in which reply is the positive. Even as we reach out to others, we put ourselves in the position of having to wait - for something, or maybe nothing, as if for Godot.

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1. Boredom

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13:

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The real is boring and user-unfriendly. It resists attention, it’s \""a fact-pattern the bulk of which was entropic and random” (PK 16). The real is full of noise, and more, it’s full of patterns that look like noise.

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30:

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So much of the real is dull and indifferent and expensive. The cost of the real feels too high and so we dream about something else, something easier, someplace else. We may sit down in our office chairs, but when we do, we’re like Hal, who though he’s managed to sit down, spends his time, \""scrolling through an alphabetical list of places he’d rather be” (IJ 806).

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We run from the dull like death itself. Why is it that \""dullness proves to be such a powerful impediment to attention” (PK 85)? What’s so terrifying about an empty room or a silent car or a hard math problem? Why does boredom seem painful? Shouldn’t it just be boring?

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Maybe dullness is associated with psychic pain because something that’s dull or opaque fails to provide enough stimulation to distract people from some other, deeper type of pain that is always there, if only in an ambient low-level way … I can’t think anyone really believes that’s today’s so-called \""information society” is just about information. Everyone knows it’s about something else, way down (PK 85).

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55:

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[Lane Dean’s] new middle-class with government benefits seemed like a boon, but once there he starts to see what the job actually entails: a desk, a chair, a pencil, some memos, some forms, an unending stream of tax returns in need of examination, and a clock.

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2. Concentration

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65:

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\""The way deskwork goes is in jagged little fits and starts, brief intervals of concentration alternated with frequent trips to the men’s room, the drinking fountain, the vending machine, constant visits to the pencil sharpener, phone calls you suddenly feel are imperative to make, rapt intervals of seeing what kinds of shapes you can bend a paperclip into, & c. This is because sitting still and concentrating on just one task for an extended length of time, is, as a practical matter, impossible”

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(PK 291).

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29:

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When he concentrates, Shane Drinion levitates. Usually the distance between his butt and his seat is too small to be visible. But if his concentration deepends, he may float a few inches into the air. Drinion is good at concentrating, especially if the material is difficult, and this makes him very good at examining tax returns.

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70:

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Meredith Rand asks him, is \""paying attention the same thing as being interested in somebody?” And Drinion responds: \""Well, I would say almost anything you pay close, direct attention to becomes interesting” (PK 456).

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15:

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The boy has asthma and needs to stay inside. It’s raining on the day that, bored, the boy starts bending himself into new shapes and his life’s work accidentally begins. In the months and years that follow, the boy patiently works away at twisting his joints and loosening the body’s grip on itself. He works mainly in the bedroom and he keeps the door closed. The carpet is white shag. There’s a tree outside the window. Sometimes his father sits outside the boy’s door and listens, trying to tell

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what’s going on inside. The father is worried and doesn’t know what to do. The boy’s mother is gone. The boy, though, takes his work seriously.

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3. The Other Side of Boredom

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70:

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\""To retain care and scrupulosity about each detail from within the teeming wormball of data and rule and exception and contigency which constitutes real-world accounting – this is heroism” (PK 231). That kind of connection depends on learning how to pay attention to life’s insignificant details. It depends on learning how to care for their errancy and opacity. It depends on bringing yourself to bear on what presents as boring, again and again, until you finally discover \""that boring activities

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become, perversely, much less boring if you concentrate intently on them” (IJ 203).

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77:

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Boredom is a head-clearing ascesis. The key to clearing your head is \""to find the other side of the rote, the picayune, the meaningless, the repetitive, the pointlessly complex. To be, in a word, unborable” (PK 438).

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99:

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…at this point, it doesn’t really matter what your head thinks. It just matters what your body does. Gately’s rehab sponsors advise him to start praying, but they couldn’t care less if he believes in God. It’s irrelevant. Speaking at an AA meeting, Gately says he

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\""feels about the ritualistic Please and Thank You prayers rather like a hitter that’s on a hitting streak and doesn’t change his jock or socks or pre-game routine for as long as he’s on the streak. … He says but when he tried to go beyond the very basic rote automatic get-me-through-this-day-please stuff, when he kneels at other times and prays or mediates or tries to achieve a Big-Picture spirtitual understanding of a God as he can understand Him, he feels Nothing – not nothing but Nothing, an

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edgeless blankness that somehow feels worse than the sort of unconsidered atheism he Came In with” (IJ 443).

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101:

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Prayer ends up being more like baking a cake than like having a meaningful conversation with your long lost father. Cake boxes come with a cake mix already inside, premixed, and \""with directions on the side any eight-year old could read” (IJ 467). There’s no need to reinvent the wheel and make the whole thing all metaphysical.

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n Return of the Real the critic Hal Foster considers "the real" to be art and theory grounded in the materiality of actual bodies and social sites. (As opposed to the "art-as-text" model of the 70s and the "art-as-simulacrum" model of the 80s).

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In Rewiring the Real, Mark Taylor describes the thought of "god" and "the real" as synonymous. One vision of theism he is concerned with is that of Schleirmacher, Schiller, Schlegel, Hölderlin, and Novalis, through to Coleridge, Wordsworth, Emerson, Thoreau, and Stevens, where god becomes identified as the creative impulse immanent in the world. He is also concerned with the ontological thought of Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Freud, Poe, Melville, Blanchot, Jabès, and Derrida for whom the real is

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"wholly other, or, in Kierkegaard's words that continue to echo, 'infinitely and qualitatively different'" (4). In the latter tradition, Lacan, following most closely on Freud, is especially associated with the concept of the real. For him, the real is the state of nature from which we have been severed by our entrance into language. It erupts, however, whenever we are forced to confront the materiality of our existence, as with needs and drives, such as for hunger, sex, and sleep.

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This is what Edgar Orrin Klapp meant when he wrote in his 1986 Overload and Boredom: Essays on the Quality of Life in the Information Society that \""meaning and interest are found mostly in the mid-range between extremes of redundancy and variety-these extremes being called, respectively, banality and noise” (). Redundancy is repetition of the same, which creates a condition of insufficient difference, while noise is the chaos of non-referentiality, or entropy. In a way, these extremes collapse

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into each other, in that both can be viewed \""as a loss of potential … for a certain line of action at least” ().

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There is perhaps something of "the real" here, as well. Volker Woltersdorff (2012, 134) writes that: The law of increasing entropy is a concept of energy in the natural sciences that assumes the tendency of all systems to eventually reach their lowest level of energy. Organic systems therefore tend toward inertia … Freud identifies the death drive with entropy … within his theory, the economy of the death drive is to release tension."

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Adam Phillips clarifies the death drive: \""People are not, Freud seems to be saying, the saboteurs of their own lives, acting against their own best interests; they are simply dying in their own fashion (to describe someone as self-destructive is to assume a knowledge of what is good for them, an omniscient knowledge of the ‘real’ logic of their lives)” (2000, 81, cf. 77).

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Hal Incandenza, arguably the protagonist of David Foster Wallace's novel Infinite Jest. http://infinitejest.wallacewiki.com/david-foster-wallace/index.php?title=Infinite_Jest#The_Incandenza_family

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Re: death drive, above? Or perhaps closer to "self-shattering" (eg. Bersani 1987), which is a nonsuicidal dissolution of the self - a self-transcendence, an escape from the confines of the self's limited (tedious?) experience.

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While self-shattering is nonviolent, there are many other ways that thanatos, the destructive instinct, is twinned with boredom

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Renata Salecl acknowledges the twinning of boredom and aggression when she writes that the society \""which allegedly gives priority to the individual’s freedoms over submission to group causes” (2006) and filters choice through the prism of \""opportunity cost” is one that \""causes aggression towards [the self] and apathy in relation to contemporary social problems which are completely ignored by the emporium of individualist choices” (2013a).

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Sometimes the aggression turns outward, as well. The Internet troll as bored, isolated malcontent is well established as a cultural trope and borne out by empirical data (Sanghani 2013). Liam Mitchell (2013) even ups the ante on this notion by proposing that the troll tackles the \""desire for desires” problem by erecting \""a conscious barrier to unconscious desire” by eliding investment in its principal object, which is amusement at another’s expense, or \""lulz.” In Mattathias Schwartz’s (2013)

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formulation, lulz is \""a quasi-thermodynamic exchange between the sensitive and the cruel”; humour derived from \""disrupting another’s emotional equilibrium.” In pursuing lulz, the troll establishes \""a distance from other trolls (with whom he may or may not feel a bond) and from the people who are governed by normal formations of desire” (Mitchell 2013). Insofar as the troll’s pursuits \""bypass or forestall normal formations of desire, they may be characterized as non-subjective.” This is

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significant because, as Mitchell says, our choices only \""have lasting meaning, for others and for ourselves … when we can be held accountable to our promises,” and this is impossible in a condition of both online anonymity and refusal of subjectivity.

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The study \""Just think: The challenges of the disengaged mind” (Wilson et al. 2014) asked participants to spend some time alone thinking in an empty room. There were three study conditions, in all of which participants generally gave high ratings of boredom. In one condition the experimenters gave people the option of giving themselves a mild electric shock. 67% of men and 25% of women shocked themselves. So goes the saying \""the devil makes work for idle hands.”

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Or more broadly: there are many ways, as Baudelaire said in Les Fleurs du Mal (1857, xxv), that \""ennui makes your soul cruel.”

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Michael Raposa (1999) argues that wherever boredom appears in spiritual life, it brings ambivalence; it can both threaten to \""undermine prayer and meditation” and promise to deepen contemplation and renew religious insight.

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Outside its \""simple” form as a passing emotional state, boredom itself represents an ontological position in which the very condition of existence is found to be boring and the world is found wanting for anything intrinsically valuable.

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Yet this aspect of boredom is also just one side of a paradox from religion: as Miller says elsewhere in the Gospel of David Foster Wallace, it is as though \""there is a twist in the loop of transcendence that renders it, Möbius-like, continuous with immanence” (2016, xii).

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In Boredom: A Lively History (2011), the classicist and philosopher of emotions Peter Toohey believes all boredom is some version of the \""simple” boredom that a child might feel on a rainy day.

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In a sentiment echoed by many of Wallace’s IRS-employed characters, day-in-day-out dedication to sorting through data is elevated to a sort of spiritual vocation in The Pale King.

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One of the histories of contemporary boredom is in askēsis, which English dictionaries now define as the practice of severe self-discipline, typically for religious reasons or meditative purposes. Askēsis is the Greek root of ascetic. The original usage of askesis in antiquity, however, did not refer to the self-denial conjured by the image of an ascetic, but to the physical training required for athletic events. Over the years, various valences of athletic stamina and religious devotion from

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different discourses have intertwined. In The Pale King, as the character Lane Dean works silently processing tax returns among a room full of silent people processing tax returns, he contemplates his boredom, combats it, and loses, sliding into some liminal state where he hallucinates a phantom who performs this etymology.

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The phantom refers to the personification of boredom in antiquity as \""the demon of noontide,” who was known to attack monks \""in the stillness of the midday hour and empt[y] the world of any meaning” (Dalle Pezze & Salzani 2009, 8).

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Habit and ritual are so conceptually close in the grid of boredom and spirituality that in The Spiritual Significance of Boredom in the Overload Age I propose the blend-word \""habritual” to capture the co-occurrence of the biomechanical and the psychosocially meaningful aspects.

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A form, perhaps, of the "creative immanence" referenced in Taylor's explanation of "the real"?

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I first encountered this piece in everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything, the accompanying volume to the first major survey exhibition of Coupland’s artwork curated by the Vancouver Art Gallery. I had the opportunity to view the exhibit in person when it visited the Royal Ontario Museum in March 2015. \""Slogans” is so many things: vibrant, hip, commercial; unsubtle, reiterative, overwrought.

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Produced within the same timeline as the work included in this thesis, it captures the discursive life of social media as I have attempted to trace it across popular culture, journalism and social commentary, not only within its statements but also in the manner of its utterance. While the placard description for the ROM’s exhibit suggests that it targets the effects of the \""omnipresence of technology” more generally, I cannot help but see this piece as Coupland’s rather grim summation of the

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(perhaps not so) social experience of social media: ALL CAPS, bold, black letters of blatant, unrepentant messages signaling hollow social feeling—or a lack thereof.

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His piece assumes a certain legibility on the part of both its creator and prospective audiences, relying on an assumed social media shorthand. When we read these statements, we are supposed to \""get them,” resonating, as Stephen Colbert’s character would say, in our \""gut.” Their presentation, towering as they do from floor to ceiling, in rows of contrasting and assaulting colour schemes, is intended to overwhelm, because, you know, we are being overwhelmed— consumed, even—by social media. Get

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it? We are not supposed to leave feeling good, unless, of course, we count ourselves amongst the offline holdouts who have staved off the social media onslaught. Because if \""Slogans” is meant to represent a vision of life with and within social media, well, it ain’t pretty, even if the colours are.

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In Personal Connections in the Digital Age, Nancy K. Baym, referencing the work of Marita Sturken and Douglas Thomas, proposes that \""[t]he messages we communicate about technology are reflective, revealing as much about the communicators as they do about the technology” (23). Who, then, is Douglas Coupland, sloganist of 21st century technology? According to Sarah Hagi’s review of the Toronto exhibition, Coupland’s visual phrases are \""meant to be provocative, but come off as something

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out-of-touch parents think navel-gazing young people tweet about,” a sentiment echoed in John Semley’s Globe and Mail review of Coupland’s Kitten Clone: Inside Alacatel-Lucent, a deep dive into the \""mundane,” \""unsexy” world of routers and cable that support Internet functionality:

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It’s this sort of totally meaningless statement that typifies Coupland’s dusty media guru philosophy, reading like a Twitter spambot spitting out sub-McLuhanist pith. Coupland is a lively, sharp, and occasionally very funny writer. But this sort of techie-transcendentalist Zen koan stuff is embarrassingly Web 1.0, and accomplishes little beyond making him sound like an anxious, 19th-century Chicken Little who thinks electricity is some kind of sorcerer’s trick. (Semley)

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Ouch. Both Hagi and Semley target Coupland’s age and out-of-touch-ness, and while I have no interest in setting up a full-scale examination of social media along generational lines, taken together, their critiques and Coupland’s work do a fine job of outlining the primary scope of this dissertation: popular social media discourse(s), fed by (aesthetic, moral, etc.) judgments of technological change and innovation, laced with fear and anxiety and chock full of a bunch of stuff that sounds

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meaningful but ultimately says very little. Coupland’s manipulation of ideas related to the human and \""humanity” (e.g. \""Humanity hasn’t been as mentally homogenized since the last ice age” and \""I would like to speak with a human being please”), the severity of which is likewise mimicked in the critiques of his work, represents a gesture of discursive manoeuvring found in contemporary social media commentaries that I elaborate on throughout this thesis and particularly in its concluding chapter.

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Commentaries like Coupland, Hagi and Semley’s and the discourses used therein are precisely what are under consideration here, as opposed to the media they take as the objects of their analyses. This project is all about talking about how we talk about social media.

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During an interview to promote Kitten Clone, Coupland recounts trips to Berlin and London and the scenes encountered there with tech-savvy youngsters in \""egregiously hip hotels:”

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I would walk through the lobby and everywhere I looked, in every chair and every table, there would be a twenty-eight-and-a-half-year-old holding a MacBook Pro and probably an iPad and had buds in their ears—sort of like pigeons on a telephone line—but everyone was doing their own thing but they were all doing it together. I think maybe this is some new form of socialization where, okay, you could be up in your room doing whatever you’re doing, but it’s still somehow a little bit nicer to be

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down here in my own bubble but surrounded by other people just like me inside their own bubbles. And then I realized, you know, maybe it’s always been that way it’s just that you’ve never seen it expressed this way before. (\""Douglas Coupland”)

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I am appreciative of this anecdote, operating as it does somewhat in opposition to the bold statements and sentiments of \""Slogans.” While the scene’s depiction of a group of people \""alone together” recalls the phrasing of another frequent new media commentator (and one decidedly pessimistic about social media’s everincreasing social integration), Sherry Turkle, Coupland’s subtle transition away from the doom and gloom of Turkle is significant, opening up the possibility of interpreting things

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anew. After all, if Chicken Little can pause for a moment to reflect a little more deeply on the status of the falling sky, then the rest of us can, too. I open with these contrasting Coupland cases because both Couplands are relevant to this study, and in fact their duality and interrelation offer a useful framing of the discourses and analyses to come.

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From DOUGLAS COUPLAND: EVERYWHERE IS ANYWHERE IS ANYTHING IS EVERYTHING by Kyra Kordoski:

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The mid-point of this circuit (part of Words into Objects) is covered with a collection of rainbow hued posters hung in grids, each bearing a Slogan for the 21st Century. The slogans are aphorisms, prophecies, questions, and pithy phrases focused mostly on pervasive digital connectivity and its psychological affects. Their tone ranges from bordering on sardonic to almost poignant. Of them, \""I miss my pre-internet brain” probably comes closest to a being slogan for the exhibition itself. It

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points not just to the massive amounts of information we deal with, but to the 21st century’s massive relative increase in information, when compared to the 20th century. It also positions the brain, a bio-physical entity, as bearing the brunt of this shift, rather than the more nebulous ‘soul’ or even ‘mind’, a distinction which is emphasized by the finale of the show—a large-scale rendition of the artist’s own information processing organ. This particular slogan furthermore carries whiffs of

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the nostalgia imparted by the exhibition’s preponderance of now quasi-historical objects.

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For a show so explicitly concerned with social implications of the digital, it is at very least notable both how little technology is used within the exhibition, and how little acknowledgement there is of contemporary new media and net art. Couplands Slogans are frequently about the internet without necessarily feeling like they are taken directly from the internet; despite the presence oversized smartphone barcodes in the Pop Explosion section, the formal affect remains solidly pop without

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veering significantly towards post-internet. Age of course can’t be pegged to medium or style, but the marked formal distance from contemporary digital culture does throw into relief the fact that there are a lot of people out there who have never, or have only very briefly, had a pre-internet brain to miss. anything is everything is patently not digitally native, which makes sense, as neither is Coupland, but his work here seems to be more specifically addressing the psychological experience

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of those whose adult brains span the transition from 20th to 21st century, a fact which complicates the ubiquity suggested by the exhibition’s title and claims of universal social conditions.

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From I Miss my Pre-Internet Brain by Douglas Coupland:

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The shuttle bus from the local hotel drops me off outside what appears to be an architecturally unmodified early Eighties facility for making robot housewives. But I’m actually standing in front of Bell Laboratories – Bell Labs, the research and development arm of the telecommunications company Alcatel-Lucent. A sprawling collection of brick buildings the colour of a wet golden Labrador, Bell Labs stands in the centre of suburban New Jersey’s belt of once-utopian corporate campuses that began

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springing up in the Fifties, the acme of the military industrial complex era.

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I’m discombobulated this morning: I forgot my iPhone, so have that homesick, disconnected feeling you get when you realise you’re phoneless. I’m also jet-lagged and I’m concerned because the date on the shuttle bus’s dashboard clock reminded me that it’s already February. Time is moving too quickly these days – and yet, at the same time, it’s moving too slowly. And it’s not just that I’m growing older. Quite simply, my brain no longer feels the way it used to; my sense of time is distinctly

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different from what it once was, and I miss my pre-internet brain. The internet has burrowed inside my head and laid eggs, and it feels as though they’re all hatching.

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Welcome to the early 21st century, a world where the future somehow feels like… homework.

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What’s really happening is that, after more than 10,000 hours of exposure to the internet and digital technologies such as my iPhone, my brain has been rewired – or, rather, it has rewired itself. Science has a name for this process: Hebb’s Law. When neurons fire together, they wire together. It’s no coincidence that the 10,000-hour rule has recently entered our culture’s popular imagination, explaining to us that after doing something for 10,000 hours, you become an expert at it, because

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that’s how much time your brain needs to fully rewire itself to adapt to a new medium.

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Ask yourself if you’ve spent 10,000 hours on the internet, then think about your own brain. It’s clear there’s a new neural reality. If you’re in doubt, look at people younger than you. Do they interact with other people and the world differently from the way you did when you were their age? Of course they do. So, sometime between then and now, big changes have occurred. Our attention spans are collapsing: we want movies; we want music; we want unfiltered information. We want season four of

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Dexter. And we want it all now.

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I think of this while watching Bell Labs workers bustle into the building. They’re flowing up mainly from the lower parking lot where they parked a fleet of silver, white and black sedans. Many are carrying briefcases and messenger bags containing laptops – these days you bring your own computer to work.

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I enter through gold-tinted glass doors on the west side of the building, and the early Eighties fantasia continues. The high-ceilinged concrete space is filled with display cases filled with artefacts filled with astonishing significance: the world’s first transistor (1947); the world’s first laser (1957); a replica of the world’s first satellite (1961). A plasma television displays in real time the current number of patents generated by the building’s occupants: 29,002 as of this morning.

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Most of us have never heard of Alcatel-Lucent but, essentially, it builds and maintains a huge chunk of the internet. The company was formed in 2006 by the €25 billion merger of France’s Alcatel and the American firm Lucent Technologies. It employs 80,000 people in 130 countries and has annual revenue of €16 billion. Alcatel-Lucent helps us transmit our voices, our movies and our data between landlines, mobile devices and the internet.

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In this sense, it’s a platform company: it doesn’t provide content, it provides channels. You likely interact with Alcatel-Lucent hundreds of times a day without knowing it.

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Alcatel is an embodiment of the new Western neural condition, and at the same time is its mirror. It is transnational, decentralised and emotionally neutral. It feeds on information, has a perpetual urge to upgrade and is always dissatisfied with the present. It exists purely to go forward. It demands and fosters ever more speed; ever more information saturation; and, especially, ever more networks.

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In the old days, people communicated across distances with church bells or sent each other paper missives by way of a postal service; if the need was urgent, there was the telegram, which still required a person to bring the message to your door. These days, we do it with networks. A network is not something you buy in a box. It is a sprawling, messy, planetary machine with countless interdependent parts. There’s wire and fibre to carry traffic – enough optical fibre has been laid to circle the

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globe 11,000 times – and there’s an astonishing amount of highly unglamorous equipment and devices such as switches, routers and satellites overseen by governments and regulatory bodies – all so you can look up the lyrics to Bon Jovi songs any time you want and then buy novelty smartphone ringtones on impulse.

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Of course, a global network is not something out of science fiction that would run forever if people disappeared from the planet. The network needs millions of people to define it, build it, maintain it, manage it and adapt it to meet the ever-morphing demands of seven billion human beings – a number that is only growing.

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Fleetingly, I wonder if the Bell Labs building has free Wi-Fi, but I wonder that wherever I go now.

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The glamorous Deb McGregor takes me on an elevator from the cafeteria to a fourth-floor office that’s a flawless hybrid of neutrality and casual neglect. I’m gratified to find out that this office does not belong to Markus Hofmann, head of Bell Labs Research. Hofmann is a cheerful man in his late fifties who tells me the office we’re in belongs to nobody. \""We don’t really go for offices here in Bell Labs admin. Your office is basically wherever you are,” he says. \""We use whatever one is empty.”

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Hofmann, still a competitive water polo player, has spent 13 years at Bell Labs. He hails from Germany and has a PhD in computer engineering and a master’s in computer science, both from the University of Karlsruhe. He is highly involved with the IEEE (pronounced I-triple-E, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), a professional technological association headquartered in New York City.

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He looks like a school principal who’d discipline you without resorting to corporal punishment, and his eyes tell me that, at any given moment, he’s probably figuring out the natural logarithm of his Visa card number or what his lunch might look like connected by strings into the fifth and/or sixth dimensions.

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Hofmann tells me that the company’s administration practises what it preaches. \""We create global communication systems, and we use all of them ourselves.” I mention that the nomadic existence of the Alca-Loo staffer is certainly different from Microsoft’s 80-hour-a-week staff being ball-and-chained to a Douglas fir tree in Washington State. Hofmann smiles. I look at the desk, where I notice a Trump Taj Mahal pen that reminds me I’m in New Jersey. I ask Hofmann what Bell Labs is currently

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working on and how it fits into Alcatel-Lucent.

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\""Bell Labs is a toolbox. Every day we ask ourselves: ‘What do we want to build?’ And we can ask this knowing that what we build will have real-world deployment through Alcatel-Lucent.”

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The best books of 2014

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Genuine fun fact: in 1992 when I handed in a manuscript, I was reprimanded by the editor for using a fax as part of the plot. \""Not everyone can afford a fax machine, and including it here seems elitist and unfair to readers who can’t be expected to either afford or understand what a fax machine is.” In general, I try to include up-to-date technology in novels. Rather than dating them, it time codes them. People picking up, say, Microserfs two decades later enjoy the book for its tech fidelity

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as for anything else.

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I ask Hofmann what he thinks the long-term effect of access to so much information is going to be. \""Currently, all Bell Labs staff members remember the pre-digital world; our ideal remains a hand-held plus a pen and paper. But that’s us. Obviously, we’re seeing more and more smart young people absorbing massive amounts of information, and we’re unsure what the long-term effects will be.”

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I mention my theory of \""omniscience fatigue”. Thanks to Google and Wikipedia, for the first time in the history of humanity, it’s possible to find the answer to almost any question, and the net effect of this is that information has become slightly boring. (We have to face the fact that God might actually be bored by knowing all the answers to everything.)

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Hofmann gives a dry chuckle. \""We need deep, solid foundations and deep thinking to reach our next human level,” he says. \""Yet time is now the ultimate consideration. You can’t go deep and solid without giving ideas time. But manufacturing competition is crazy, and we have such quick feedback now.”

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This schizoid new future doesn’t seem to disturb Hofmann. His enthusiasm says he’s more than willing to face it head-on.

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One can look back on the print era and witness true poignancy: readers the world over were determined to see their lives as stories, when, in fact, books are a specific invention that creates a specific mindset. Most people can’t find the larger story in their lives. Born, grew up, had kids, maybe, and died… what kind of story is that? There’s a maxim in the world of urban planning that if you let your city be planned by bakers, you will end up with a city of bakeries. If you have a culture

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whose brains are \""planned” by books, you’ll have a citizenry who want their lives to be book-like. If you have a culture whose brains are \""planned” by digital culture and internet browsing, you’ll have a citizenry who want their lives to be simultaneous, fluid, ready to jump from link to link – a society that assumes that knowledge is there for the asking when you need it. This is a very different society from one peopled by book readers.

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Yet the residual need for one’s life to be a story persists from the print era, especially in people born before 1970. Print-era holdouts see the non-linear children of the web as shallow and emotionally impoverished. Young people \""born digital”, with no vested emotional engagement with books, view print holdouts as souls adrift in a useless sea of nostalgia.

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information about information

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Coupland's work, in contrast to that of Jorindge Voigt and Joseph Kosuth, is physically legible.

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The manipulation of lighting sets the stage for drama. Entering the gallery’s largest space to view Texts (Waiting for—) for Nothing; Samuel Beckett, in play our immersion in darkness demands one’s eyes’ adjustment to decode the frieze of white neon text that wraps around the room where wall and ceiling meet.

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The positive ‘white cube’ gallery is reversed into a negative ‘black’ cube. Kosuth culls excerpts from two texts from Beckett, Waiting for Godot and Texts for Nothing – presenting them in white neon that has been ‘canceled’ by dipping each letter and punctuation mark in black paint which reduces legibility depending on your position in the seemingly cavernous space. Kosuth has lured us into a ‘Plato’s Cave’ of manufactured night where the words of the ‘dead end kid’ of the stage are beheld in

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pinpoint celestial grandeur. On the wall to the right a box holds a reproduction of Casper David Friedrich’s Two Men Contemplating the Moon (1819), which inspired Beckett to write Godot. The artist exerts a wry form of control over this romantic favorite by both its colorless reduction in scale and by its display in a structure equally conducive to the reading of menus on the sidewalk. Kosuth has engineered an unexpectedly ecclesiastic space for the gallery; his discrete treatment of the neon

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letters risks visual obscurity, blackened neon in a dark room, to produce a Johnsian environment between language and the conditions of its presentation. Waiting around for Godot results in ‘nothing’ but more language.

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Words are no meant to be wholly decoded - connection to Jorinde Voigt's work

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Language or text mimics meaning.

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This distinction seems to be a central theme across the objects on For Boredom. The Pale King clearly deals with the absence of meaning, while House of Leaves, with its fake footnotes and citations, deals primarily with the production of meaning. What does it mean for Kosuth to investigate the production of meaning by citing a work that deals with the absence of meaning?

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Freud, similarly to Beckett, seems to be popular reference text for many conceptual artists. In Beckett and Freud by Raymond Riva (1970), Riva connects the works of Beckett and Freud, writing "We will see that their very basic ideas concerning men, and occasionally, even their word choice is a particular situation, is strikingly similar." (p. 120)

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"Beckett seems to be communicating in an essentially symbolic language, one which is quite capable of communication while seeming to say nothing and going nowhere. A language, moreover, which all of us learned and (more of less) have forgotten. It is, in Freudian terms, the language of our repressed and sublimated selves … "

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Vime writes: "Visit Lot49 and read the text for yourself. As well, take the time to read the comments on Mr. Claburn's blog about user 23187425. There is a great deal of conjecture, and perhaps the beginning of an outline of who or what made these wonderfully enigmatic searches. The voice of Vicki may be more appropriate than we initially imagined." Perhaps the voice of Vicki, a robotic computer default, may be especially appropriate in reading this text due to the methodical nature of the

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entires (approximately every 30 seconds) or, as a commentator from Search-ID: Psychic analysis of AOL users and their search logs writes, "I think something else is going on here, though I'd have no idea how and why…". Perhaps something in the search-engine backend holds clues about this user's search history.

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Notably, this reading by Dr. Stanley Lombardo was not intended to be used when reading 'Men in Aida', but rather when reading 'Illiad'. By writing 'Men in Aida' without providing an auditory component, Melnick opens up any reading of the Illiad as corresponding to this text.

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