With Liu-Chong-Bang, Ho Su-Wen and Chen Chih-Ling
Taipei, Taiwan 2006
The industrialization of literacy has led to a crisis of memory. At the beginning of the twentieth century, there were certainly plenty of things to know. It was, however, still possible to organize that collective knowledge, line it up in neat rows on shelves, and index it alphabetically. By the end of the twentieth century, industrialized forms of knowledge production led to an exponential increase in the amount of things to know, –a glut, of sorts. In his book, Everything is Miscellaneous, David Weinberger describes the breakdown of the Dewey Decimal System of Classification in the face of this glut, and the failure of taxonomies of knowledge in favor of the category ‘miscellaneous.’ In the twenty-first century, there simply has to be a different way of organizing knowledge. We cannot build libraries big enough in an electrate paradigm.
Like spoken language in orality and alphabetic writing in literacy, the Internet holds the promise of augmenting and extending human thought and memory. People no longer use precious neurons remembering the banal. Can you remember your best friend’s phone number? Our cell phones have become cybernetic, prosthetic devices designed to extend memory. We now carry the World Wide Web in our pockets. How soon will we line up to have it implanted in our brains?
In June 2006, I was invited to teach a course at Shih Hsin University in Taipei. While in Taiwan, I created “Imaging Taipei.” The project leads the viewer from the Ciyou Temple in the Northwest of the city thru the Raohe St. Night Market, as it is coming to life in the evening.
In Taiwan, anywhere there is a temple, there is a night market. This relationship marks and mixes the center of Taiwanese social, economic and spiritual life. It may be too soon to tell if the 7/11 down the street threatens that relationship.
Since the brain exists in a three dimensional space, it relies on spatial principles in its functions. When considered in this light, the hyperlink, that fundamental building block of the World Wide Web, owes its success to the way it reflects synaptic brain function and neuroplasticity. The brain does not index thought and order it alphabetically. Instead, it moves from idea to idea through association, not unlike the act of Web browsing. Jumping from one idea to another by association is like crossing an implied space.
Chora is a philosophical term described by Plato meaning a space, or place in space. In his dialogue Timaeus, Plato differentiates between being and becoming. Being is intelligible but not perceptible. It describes abstract concepts, such as the essence of Justice. Becoming, on the other hand, is perceptible but not intelligible, seasons come and go, people live and die. Plato asked, how do being and becoming come together? He used the term chora to describe the space, or receptacle, where being and becoming interact. Chora is neither intelligible, nor perceptible. It is a third kind, where order emerges from chaos, coherence from disassociation, sense from nonsense. Chora is like the winnowing basket that is used to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Greg Ulmer writes, “Many commentators have declared the need for a new logic native to new media, but few have indicated how to invent it. Heuretics (the logic of invention) provides one proven (literate) procedure for bootstrapping from one apparatus to the other. This method involves working analogically. The key analogy is with the Greek invention of metaphysics, meaning specifically (in Aristotle’s terms) the invention of a category system. Electracy needs a mode of classification that does for the digital image what the concept did for the written word (definition as a practice organizing things according to essences and accidents).”
Chora is to electracy what topic is to literacy, the organizing space and practice through which rhetoric relates living memory to artificial memory. In our work, chora gathers multiple topics associated with a geographical region, or zone, into a scene whose coherence is provided by an atmosphere. This atmosphere or mood has an emergent quality, resulting in an unforeseeable way from the combination of topics interfering and interacting with one another. Choramancy is the practice of identifying and documenting Chora.