History as Machine Log


This is sort of a spiritual response to Reza Negarestani’s talk at the Guggenheim.   It just sparked in me the notion of history from a Hegelian Marxist framework and the notion of history from a computer’s perspective. As a log file?

What is history for Hegel? It is an anthropocentric process. It is the history of human consciousness. It is not for example the history of life on earth -that is the natural science. So, there was a moment when history did not exist, and then when humans became conscious – history began.  And of course if you have a beginning, you also have an end (I guess we could argue about this). But I will not talk too much about the end of history and what that means for Hegel.

I have been reading a lot of Flusser, and the relationship between the line and history, between writing and history.  A technology that moves from left to right, that has a beginning a middle and an end creates a historical context, which has these same properties.  A visual culture, that relies on pictures, does not have this. There is no beginning, middle, or end to a painting.  It does not create a history.

We are now living in the age of the techno-image. While the images may seem no different from the images on the cave of lascaux, they are.  Because our techno-images arer created and displayed by uniform bits they can be infinitely combined into different experiences of the image. I can apply a photoshop filter to an image, I can cut and paste other content into the image, I can string a few images together and create an animated gif or a movie.  For Flusser, this means that we are ahistorical in a different sense, there is no beginning middle or end, there is on the creation of the system or context for the image.  This is something like infinite, or different, types of worlding or world building – competing ontologies or metaphysics.

Lets return to the computer log.   What is this? When I create a computer log I can flag different types of statements or errors to be logged depending on its severity such as : debug, info, warning, error and critical. In fact I just pulled these from Django debugging documentation. These different errors then can be handled in different ways – I create a error handler. They can be emailed or sent via sms, or posted to facebook, or recorded into a log (or a multiple of these things).

The error is the techno-image and the log is the echo or reflection of this image in writing, in the historical world. As a log, it is no longer a techno-image but the written word.   How is the computer log different from the Akkadian tablets recording wheat donations to the temple, or similar ancient records? Where as the Akkadian tablet is a record or proof of something that happened, the log is an epiphenomena of the EVENT of the error.    Although it exists in the historical record, this is not its final state.  There is the possibility through further manipulation and transformation it can be USEFUL again -that is it can be used to make decisions or to drive decision making, or to educate a knowledge set.  I can use the log file in a business intelligence software to help diagnose issues, I can aggregate it with other data and make predictions. All the user behavior on facebook is logged as information into a machine log and then further manipulated into preferences that are packaged as commodities and sold to advertisers.

The Machine Log is nowhen, as Reza says. It is not a calendar record, but an EVENT record which is outside the sphere of time.

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