Plato and the origins of digital media: tentative tracings of a surprisingly resilient discourse network

Sutherland, Thomas (2013) Plato and the origins of digital media: tentative tracings of a surprisingly resilient discourse network. In: Australian Media Traditions, 25 -26 November 2013, University of Queensland.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
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It is common wisdom to understand digital computing as the basis of an unprecedented intermediality, in which once distinct media forms find themselves reconstituted as the content (in McLuhan’s terms) of increasingly integrated and homogeneous devices of communication. Following N. Katherine Hayles’ definition of digitization as ‘the act of making something discrete rather than continuous’, however, I argue in this paper that in order to be able to understand the long history of digitization, we must attempt to think the period generally regarded as representing the origin of digital computing – from the 1694 completion of Leibniz’s Step Reckoner onward – as being only the most recent, and perhaps most technically and ideologically effective, instantiation of a surprisingly long-standing discourse network, which expressed itself as much in the universalization of writing as it does now through the discrete systems of modern computing. By tracing the way in which Plato utilizes discreteness and dualism as methods for ascertaining what he views as the true structure of the world, I will contend that digitization must be understood as forming the basis of an episteme that has enabled Western philosophy as a distinct practice. In his desire to reduce the noise of sensory input, Plato introduces a dualistic philosophy premised upon the abstraction of knowledge, reduced to a series of discrete symbols, and in doing so, he reveals the way in which the universalizing tendency of digitization as discursive practice is inherently reliant upon a third term - the mediator - that exists outside of the digital codec that it seeks to impose.

Keywords:media theory, media archaeology, digital, Plato
Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P300 Media studies
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Film & Media > Lincoln School of Film & Media (Media)
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ID Code:26944
Deposited On:10 Apr 2017 09:07

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