Viola, Will There Be Condominiums in Data Space?

To start, I enjoyed Viola’s “Will There Be Condominiums in Data Space,” and it seems like something I’d want to and need to read a couple more times to more fully take in. Today, I’m reading it rather quickly as I’m using Audacity to edit audio, which seems to be an interesting illustration (yet not quite) of the section on Viola’s imagined future of digital composing, in which we “shift away from the temporal, piece-by-piece approach of constructing a program […] and towards a spacial, total-field approach of carving out potentially multiple programs[…] We are proceeding from models of the eye and ear to models of thought processes and conceptual structures in the brain.” I wonder if a better example of this might be Web 2.0 and the separation of form and content. The possibility of models of thought processes and conceptual structures in the brain is intriguing but difficult to imagine, especially in considering how substantially brain structures have purportedly changed in even just the past twenty years.

At any rate, some other themes that came up in this piece include memory systems, educational models (constructive/additive versus a more inquiry-based model), the relationship between the whole and its parts, representational models of reality (branching, matrix, “schizo”), the relationship between art and data space, and, oh, that porcupine. I can’t say I get what that story was meant to do. Is it meant to show some relationship between varying technology users? Their varied perspectives about technology and how it encroaches (or retracts) onto varied (but the same) worlds? Is it an example of a “whole” with distinguishable parts? Who’s the porcupine and who’s the driver? And what does it mean to have condominiums in data space? Someone help me out here.

Zac says, “Viola’s essay is enigmatic. One key to deciphering the argument is his reference to Indian/South Asian spirituality. Viola tells us that the visual image, the geometric diagram and the mantra are all equal outward expressions of the same underlying thing. 


Given this framework, I suggest we also understand the parable of the porcupine and the expository sections of the essay as equal outward expressions of the same underlying thing. So: what is that thing?”

So, what I’m understanding this to say is that Viola is interrogating the boundaries and overlapping nature of the visual image, the geometric diagram, technological memory systems, sound, the story, the essay. Is it that each (visual image, geometric diagram, etc.) are “mmnemo-technics” that illustrate a relationality of “our individual existence”?

Bonus Question: Is data space a sacred space, a secular space, or something else altogether?

I believe the answer to this question may lie near the end of Viola’s essay:

“Applications of tools are only reflections of the users–chopsticks may be a simple eating utensil or a weapon, depending on who uses them.”

My sense is that data space is rendered sacred, secular, sterile, virile, productive, damaging, a reflection of humanity, and a rejection of humanity depending on who uses and interprets them, as that user exists within a particular cultural, historical, and political context. And then the answer also depends on how one defines “sacred” or “secular” or “profane” and what it means to be any or all of these things.

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