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From Digital to Analog

«Agrippa» and Other Hybrids in the Beginnings of Digital Culture

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Augustín Berti

From Digital to Analog delves into the origins of digitization and its effects on contemporary culture. The book challenges the «common sense» assertion that digitization is just another step in the evolution of the culture of the editorial, film and recorded music industries and their enforcement of copyright laws. Digital technologies in contemporary culture have paradoxically undermined and, at the same time, strengthened such practices, provoking an unprecedented quarrel over the possession of, and access to, cultural products. Agustín Berti uses the release of Agrippa (A Book of the Dead) in 1992 to study this paradox. The importance of Agrippa for digital culture studies is proven through the discussion of the frequently understated importance of the materiality of digital culture. The book develops a critique of digital technology and its alleged neutrality and transparency. Ultimately, it illustrates how Agrippa anticipated a number of contemporary phenomena such as piracy, leaks, remixes, memes, and more, forcing us to rethink the concept of digital content itself and thus the way in which culture is produced, received and preserved today. From Digital to Analog is ideal reading for a graduate student readership, especially Master candidates in the fields of Literature, Arts, Digital Humanities, Digital Culture and New Media Studies.
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Chapter 1: Introduction: Milestones Between Matter And Digits

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CHAPTER 1

Introduction: Milestones between Matter and Digits

Extending the perception that all things material are being digitized, this book’s primary claim is that all that is digital (also) materializes.1 And derived from this claim are the facts that lack of bandwidth, overlapping temporalities, poorly enforced copyright control and expensive and inaccessible cultural products all become key issues when defining a materially minded approach to digital studies.2 The other side of digital culture is the machines operating mathematical abstractions; machines that compute. Looking into what machines are and how they work and change is an unavoidable need when trying to understand contemporary digital culture.

Empires were built by standards. As were large scale modern nation-state based cultures. Transnational, global, or cosmopolitan cultures (pick the perspective of your choice), as well. Though not overtly evident, the technical fact of standardization underlies most major cultural changes and digital technologies are no exception. Digital culture is based on myriad of standards, from the inch size of now obsolete floppy disks to the voltage charges running Internet protocols. What is less obvious is that these standards emerge and settle through a series of complex negotiations and disputes where technical and social aspects intertwine.

Our contemporary hyperindustrial culture is experienced through standardized products of cultural industries still impregnated by Romantic dictums of originality and personality. (Surprisingly enough, in our industrialized culture, standards have very bad press.) In the late sixties, Italian semiotician Umberto Eco identified a dialectics...

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