And did you hear? It’s official. Commercial art’s primary purpose is to collect data on you. Or at least that’s what Gawker is reporting about Jay-Z’s new album, Magna Carta Holy Grail. “It is not so much an album as a co-branded multimedia content delivery platform, Presented By Samsung™ Galaxy™ . . . . But now another, more unsettling use for the new album has become clear: It’s a massive data-mining operation. Fans used to obsess over album liner notes; now they freak out about terms-of-service.” Art used to be something we put in archives, museums, and libraries. Now it invades our home and puts us in archives. This is hyperarchival realism. Welcome to contemporaneity.
In the most recent issue of The New York Review of Books Robert Darnton discusses the 18 April 2013 launch of the Digital Public Library of America. As Darnton describes the goals of this project, “The Digital Public Library of America [. . .] is a project to make the holdings of America’s research libraries, archives, and museums available to all Americans–and eventually to everyone in the world–online and free of charge.” Wow, total access to the (hyper)archive for anyone. This is an amazing project.
Bryan Bender at the Boston Globe reports how Lieutenant Colonel Jenns Robertson has assembled a report on every bomb the US has ever dropped since WWI(!!!), “a compilation that, at the click of a mouse and a few keystrokes, reveals for the first time the sheer magnitude of destruction inflicted by the US and its allies from the air in the last century.” Going by the name: Theater History of Operations Reports (or THOR), this hyperarchive of US military violence is truly staggering. “One particularly relevant example: From October 1965 to May 1975, at least 456,365 cluster bombs were dropped on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, according to the records analyzed.”
See this fantastic article from Berfrois by Jesse Miksic, “Digital Disquiet: How 8- and 16-bit Games Taught me the Power of Dread.”
Literature has examined the burdens of immortality (Melmoth, Dorian Gray, Tuck Everlasting), and films have reflected upon death’s brutal banality (Antonioni, Haneke). But film and literature can’t do this. Even the most shocking torture-porn or the most unexpected termination (Marvin in Pulp Fiction) don’t amount to the meaninglessness of a main character’s life in these golden-age electronic games. Even when they’re bizarre, or out of left field, movie-deaths at least register as events and turning points in the narrative flow. In the nihilistic early side-scrollers, your death was one of hundreds, endlessly repeatable, and the world was indifferent to it. Everyone else else came back in the appointed role in every cycle, just like you.
Are you living in a hyperarchive?: a French supercomputer has modeled the entire observable universe.