limited ability to represent experience,
limited ability to represent experience,
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.
writing down the reasons why she would have taken a photograph instead of taking it
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.
classifying the given situation in order to understand its structure
Information about information.
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).
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.
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.
Pale King and Infinite Jest,
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).
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
23187425’s intimate life.
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."
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
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.
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).
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
"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.
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.
Boredom is a head-clearing ascesis
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
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.
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).
almost anything you pay close, direct attention to becomes interesting
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.
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.
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).
Why does boredom seem painful? Shouldn’t it just be boring?
While self-shattering is nonviolent, there are many other ways that thanatos, the destructive instinct, is twinned with boredom
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).
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)
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
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.
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.”
Or more broadly: there are many ways, as Baudelaire said in Les Fleurs du Mal (1857, xxv), that \""ennui makes your soul cruel.”
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
into each other, in that both can be viewed \""as a loss of potential … for a certain line of action at least” ().
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."
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).
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.
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.
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.
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  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
the present meaningfully.
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.
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.
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
by looking at billions of web pages.
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.
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).
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).
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.
Sophia LeFraga’s (2014) texting reinterpretation of Samuel Beckett’s boredom play Waiting for Godot dramatizes how cycles of waiting, anticipation, disappointment unfold.
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.:
\""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”
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
\""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
friend actually says" (Auerbach 2014).
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."
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.
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.
flashes of meaning persist
Flashes of meaning persist despite an attempt to eliminate meaning. Perhaps this suggests that meaning is impossible to eradicate?
making a new book with the same words
Connection to Underworld, "hope of finding patterns where there seems to be nothing but noise".
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.
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."
many of the authors cited are real and the articles and books noted have actually been published
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.
explaining his editorial procedures and adding his own observations and reflections, which are so extensive that they eventually overwhelm Zampano’s text.
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.
Collecting objects, here in an act of boredom, removes them from their function.
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."
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.
organizational form of the list
Listing and collecting items to put them back into their original function rather than remove them from their original function.
imaginative speculation rather than research
Interweaving of real with imagined. Similar to Underworld's use of real and imaged sources.
bored - boredom
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.
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.
Boredom and the real are both affective confrontations with the conditions of ontology.
ontological - ontology
spiritual - prayer - spirituality
algorithm - instruction
database - data
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.
Insofar as information allows us to make predictions about the nodes that will become the points of reference.
religious - athletic - ascetic - extreme