digital rhetoric

sublimity, the uncanny, and ambivalence

Tossing some ideas around in my head… So the experience of the Kantian sublime is the mind-blowing encounter with nature (e.g., the Grand Canyon) in which one attempts to take in an experience that does not fit into human scale: a wholeness that shatters our own wholeness. In a complementary way, the uncanny shatters our wholeness by presenting our own mechanical and unconsciousness nature (as when seeing ourselves on video or hearing ourselves on a recording). Fredric Jameson wrote about a technological-networked sublime in which we our individual wholeness is shattered by the globalizing network of late capitalist relations. Each case offers a kind of schizophrenia; each case threatens a paranoid response on our part-the paranoia of monotheism, of the State, of conspiracy theories.

Ambivalence may seem a weak affect in this series. And perhaps it is the wrong term (though I am thinking the term comes up in ANT, right?). However, ambivalence is not necessarily weak. It is an undecided state, one where we find ourselves lost, at sea. Ambivalence is a 20th century term, a term from psychology. It is a state where we are no longer shocked–perhaps–by the distributed nature of networked life. Yet we are hardly reconciled either.

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