What is our Antiquity?

I often think of TJ Clark's observation that "Modernism is our antiquity. … the forms of representation it originally gave rise to are unreadable." This statement makes clear the way that modernity—the process of the modernizing a world not yet fully modern—is lost to us.

It's hard to tell precisely where the break happened. Is it when Ernest Mandel's late capitalism takes over? Or is it a bit later, when progress has collapsed? After all, it's hard to see the Great Society as a postmodern program. A couple of years later, 1968 is the definitive break: product of the dashed hopes of postwar modernism, an early cry of the culture of overaccumulation, an upheaval toward postmodernity. 

Network culture, I would like to suggest—and I think that in his talk on atemporality Bruce Sterling does this as well—has a certain affinity to modernity in that it is not yet complete.

For all the talk of the generation currently entering college being born digital, this simply isn't true yet. My sense is that pervasive locative and mobile technologies as well as the spread of non-computer Internet browsers is necessary for this and they only become everyday with the 2007 launch of the iPhone.

It's at that point, let's say some ten to fifteen years from now—coincidentally a time when we might have recovered from the crisis of overaccumulation that we find ourselves in—that something quite new will come to pass and that world will be as unrecognizable to us as ours will be to it.   


[1] . T.J. Clark, Farewell to an Idea (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), 3.



the digital generation

I literally feel like my brain has become reprogrammed since I began to carry around an internet-enabled phone two years ago. I can't imagine how different it would have been if I had grown up with access to devices like that on a regular basis. The way one perceives the world will inevitably be very different if given this technology early in life instead of in his or her 30s. Despite growing up around computers, having computer programs saved on cassette tapes and playing Atari as a child is fairly minimal (interactively speaking) compared to having continuous access a hand-held device that pinpoints your location down to the nearest meter and puts you in contact with people all over the world.

Your fifteen year prediction sounds more likely than Sterling's 10 year limit on atemporality.