préparation d'un numéro spécial de la revue Angles sur "digital subjectivities" 2017-2018
This paper examines the structure of digital media and the role of code in digital convergence. For the analysis of the structure of digital media, three conceptual layers are distinguished: physical, code-logical, and content layers. Then, the dynamics of digital convergence is explicated by highlighting the role which the inter-layer, i.e., digitalized code-logical layer, is playing in mediating content-layer and physical-layer.
Media or medial experience is structured into three layers. Those are physical layer, codelogical layer and contents layer. These layers are meant to be a conceptual distinction, rather than ontological distinction, for analyzing and understanding problems. In brief, the physical layer refers to the physical foundations at the level of hardware such as hardware(chip), computer network, wires cables, the physical infrastructure of radio frequency, film, paper, canvas. musical instruments, etc. The content layer refers to the media contents that are daily experienced at the personal and social level. It is the layer of messages and meaning that includes both experiential layer in which an individual perceives sound, image, letters at the level of his sensation and cultural layer as a form of life where these elements become united into contents so that they are produced, consumed, and distributed. The code-logical layer is a kind of inter-layer which mediates and connects physical and content layers. It is linguistic sign or syntax layer. It includes codes, programs, protocols, and grammars which involve the manipulation of signs. The digital layer in which digitization takes place through segmenting and numerically representing information also belongs to the code-logical layer.
The content layer in an analog medium is strongly subject to the constraint of physical layer (or its physical characteristics) on which contents are realized. That is, in case of the analog media, sound, text, or image can only be realized, saved, or delivered through the unique medium appropriate to their respective characteristics, and as a consequence, each medium exists keeping its independence from other media. For the purpose of saving, for example, a text requires a physical structure such as paper, sound requires recording tape, and picture requires a canvas.
In these traditional media, the code-logical layer is the layer which mediates and translates the content layer to the physical layer of the corresponding medium in an appropriate way. The information, story, or aesthetic beauty that we want to convey through a medium becomes concrete through manipulating the physical parameters of the particular medium. This means that the thoughts or experience, desire one wants to express at the content layer becomes mediated or translated onto the physical qualities of the medium in a certain way. However, such translation does not occur in an arbitrary way, but acquires its own grammaticality as a necessary technique or method develops and becomes standardized in accordance with each medium's physical quality or the content one wants to convey. It is these mediating rules that are populating the code-logical layer.
However, today's convergence between media is not the union of physical layers as of the past, but the phenomena occurring within the inter-layer which is code-logical layer. That is, the present day's digital convergence is in its essence not an incident occurring at the physical layer as like the advent of the computer(hardware), nor the mere union of diverse contents at the content layer, but is a phenomenon that reflects a revolutionary change in the grammar of inter-layer, i.e., code-logical layer. Code-logical layer is no longer the layer which just mediates and translates contents to the particular materiality of a medium. It has changed into a layer such that itself combines various media information. “Digitization” is the driving force which has brought about such change.
Digitization is the reduction of information, contained in text, photographs, music, and video, into the combination of binary numbers of 0 and 1. This opens the possibility to reduce all sort of various media’s content to numerical information, neutral to certain materiality, and then to copy and recombine it in various ways. As a consequence, digitization enables the links, which in the past strongly combined a medium with a particular physical structure, to be dissolved to make a kind of a neutral buffer, which not only alleviates the medium's dependency on the particular material but also opens up the possibility for a new hybrid medium. That is, as digitization features in the code-logical layer, not only has a new media much different from the past appeared but such a powerful and comprehensive change has been brought about that allows various combination and transformation of contents even for the past analog media.
About the author
Sangkyu Shin is associate professor of Ewha Institute for the Humanities at Ewha Womans University. He received his PhD at the University of Texas at Austin in 2003 with the thesis, Meaning and Normartivity – A Study of Teleosemantics, which focuses on the problem of naturalizing the intentionality. He is the author of Artificial Intelligence and the Future Condition of Human Being (in Korean). He has published articles on intentionality, phenomenal consciousness, the extended mind, and transhumanism. He recently published a book, The Future of Homo Sapiens – The Posthuman and Tranhumanism (in Korean).