This month we asked Cyanne van den Houten (Telemagic) which images she thinks say something about the times in which we are living. Think of her as your guide through a crazy world saturated with images.
“Did you know that the cellphone (flip-phone) was born on the Starship Enterprise? Mister Spock had a ‘communicator’ that he could flip open to communicate from any planet back to the ship (except on planet Earth). Magic! ✨ The ‘communicator’ made its first appearance in 1988 in the episode ‘The Cage’. Although the design was not very functional yet, it was a huge inspiration for the world’s first (real) flip-phone ever: the ‘Motorola StarTac’, which was released in 1996. Until this day, we can see traces of sci-fi writers in the DNA of our smart gadgets.”
“The autonomous chess-playing robot ‘Automaton’ tricked and challenged Europe’s virtuoso for 70 years! This machine built by Wolfgang von Kempelen gained popularity because nobody could figure out how it worked. Was it haunted by a ghost, controlled by a small chess player hidden inside, or was it simply magic? An absolute technological marvel far surpassing anything seen in 1770.
Today our logic of technology has become ultra invisible – literally occult. Micro technologies sculpt vibrating streams of electrons into a complex invisible architecture of logic and information. Occultism never before inhabited our games of chess and trojan horses so closely without any spectacle or questions from society. We are happily mystified. Read the (claimed to be the first) tech-critical review by Edgar Allen Poe about the ‘Automaton’ here.”
“It’s amorphous-technology-day! Have you met Cortana, Microsoft’s personal assistant? Did you know she is named after a synthetic intelligence character from the video game series Halo? You surely have heard of Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant. Jeff Bezos of Amazon admitted that they were inspired by the ‘computer’ on Star Trek while building Alexa – but they wanted her to have a less computer-y name. They decided on Alexa, reminiscent of the library of Alexandria (keeper of all knowledge).
A slightly complicated (Google it) but furious love affair is unfolding between Cortana and Alexa. While Cortana is specialized in organizing your life, Alexa is specialized in organizing your household and leisure. What will their celebrity portmanteau be? Alexana? Or is Cortex more on point?”
“Media mirror the spiritual-emotional challenges we face as human, and different media stimulate different chakras. (A chakra is like a radio receiver tuned into particular wavelengths.) By connecting the technologies of the Infosphere to their corresponding chakras (like in the table below), we discover that much of the debate about the impact of media is actually concerned with the shadow side of our ‘interior communications’. We see in each of our external telecommunications networks not only a reflection of the state of our sociocultural development, but also the core inner challenge each of us must overcome. The media become our guide in advancement: our virtual ankle weights, barrels and yoga stretches in our electronic ashram.” This image was made by Jennifer Hadley, and featured in the book Digital Dharma by Steven Vedro (2007).