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Resolution Dispute 0001 : Genealogy (vs. /his/tory)
[[part of Resolution Studies]]
- Foucault, Michel. "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History." in: the Foucault Reader, ed. P. Rabinow (Harmondsworth: Penguin) 1984. p.81
Genealogy (vs. /his/tory)
While history often refers to the study of lines of descent and origin, the development of families and the tracing of their lineages, in reality, especially in the digital realm, the development of material does not follow any traditional lines of descent. If at all, the ‘historical continuity’ of digital material is one of breaks, voids, bends, forks, in-betweens, legacy, instabilities, ossification, abandonment and turns. In fact, there is no such thing as a ‘technological continuum’. Rather than ‘the history of a digital material’, there are many, parallel, interconnected non-linear, fragmented and overlapping discourses which impact each other in many directions. Thus, digital material, is best described following a genealogical model.
Genealogy does not pretend to go back in time, to restore what Foucault calls an "unbroken continuity, that operates beyond the dispersion of forgotten things". Genealogy is a specific type of history that deconstructs that which once was unified and makes a continuity of discontinuities. It researches the descents and emergences of how systems of affiliation come into play and maps the understanding and meaning of the object accordingly.
Genealogy considers the many affiliated, interconnected and (geo-)fragmented processes that build their own discourses: it intends to shine a light on why particular technologies develop a social-political momentum in a specific point in time and how this momentum changes over time. To write a genealogy means to write the stories of emergence of a use or practice; it reveals the pre-existing battles present at the moment of arising. It threads different strands constructed from ambiguous, pre-existing discourses, it (inter)connects or juxtaposes generations of different communities and their working methods, conceptual themes and politics.
There is no such thing as a complete history. There are only the many stories from different perspectives, derived from uncertain interpretations, that are neither true nor false. The many stories of media technology are constantly subject to revision:
while their language systems emerge, meanings shift, idioms ossify and vernacular turns to affectual signifiers.
... and then they change again.
1. Foucault, Michel. "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History." in: the Foucault Reader, ed. P. Rabinow (Harmondsworth: Penguin) 1984. p.81
The slides underneath are from the New Media class ‘Beyond Resolution’ which I thaught as substitute professor at the KHK (Kassel) in the Sommer Semester of 2018. During this week we unpacked the term ‘Genealogy’ via in two weeks; one week was dedicated to standardization via test cards and the next week was dedicated to the development of the meaning of one specific glitch effect: macroblocking, specifically in moving image. The slides are clickable; they either link to the work reference or zoom.