“Dark Matters - 21st Century Ghost”
Zine contribution for Dark Matters, the critical theory class taught by American Artist at the School for Poetic Computation Spring 2019 session.
As I broadcast and transmit through different channels online, I contribute to the fabrication of an alien or machinic entity of my lived experiences, materialising and updating within virtual space. I take control over my digitised self, the same way that my operating software rendered virtual objects to serve my commands; those same objects bearing similarities to the tools in my physical world that I put to use through my human actions.
I begin by entering us into numerous contracts with several corporations, migrating from platform to platform as my machine expands without bodily protest. I am able to navigate my social interactions with ease now. Anchored in my offline relationships and my experience in the physical world, it hides, destroys and regenerates its limbs to materialise in my image. It echoes my voice, my silence, and contributes its activity to the virtual ecology that is home to all the other digital bodies. A discussion held online, a movement of data, a virtual event - these begin to lead to the formation of offline events and conversations that I participate in. I continue to capture and upload, the documentation of my physical experiences prompting more interactions online.
The mutual feedback between my body and machine swirls together. The screens on my devices, acting as frontiers of mixed virtual and physical reality, dip in and out of both worlds, digesting my rituals and social practices. My built environment is increasingly informed by a cloud of computation and yet the architectures that host this formless ‘cloud’ are hidden away from my analysis.
The tech ecosystem grows richer and spreads further, and my digital self remains tethered to my human body and surroundings. As my body ages, my machine has traversed through so many virtual spaces and grown so many facets that I am unable to see all of them. A virtual mirror is held up - it captures all the intimate details of my machine’s interactions and behaviour; a mirrored reflection that they can study and exercise independently of my body. They store this information on a hard drive in a cabinet in a warehouse somewhere I’ve never been. Through our activity, the networks are soon able to anticipate my needs, mould my behaviour and offer me preemptive solutions. The alien infrastructure that my machine inhabits is withdrawing increasingly beyond the grasp of my human understanding. I seem to have lost the control I thought I once had.
After years of technology driven ritual and repetition, my human body finally becomes a corpse. I rest, yet my machine is put to work. It is no longer under data protection laws now that I’m gone. My machine remains a tenant in the social conditions of the living and trapped in computational eternity. With my departure I leave it occupying a virtual estate, contributing culturally and financially to its structure - but they say it’s all in the name of Remembering me. The nature of its existence is dictated through the same disingenuous and bureaucratic mechanisms that we’ve endured up to this point. They explain the extent of privacy applied to my data, and list all of the things that will be on display - all of the posts, images and memories they will have to retain the users I formed relationships with offline. Even after death, they use my virtual body, and impose on it their rules and rituals?
I reflect on the genesis of my machine, and resent that I have merely participated in its creation and have slowly become dispossessed of it over time. I have allowed it to mutate and transform in parallel to my corporeal experiences, but in the event of my death I wish to take agency over its (non)existence so that it may rest peacefully.