Introduction: Spoilers Ahead
Douglas G. Kenney, “Spoilers!,” National Lampoon, April 1971, 35. The difference between common knowledge and what’s readily knowable is worthy of emphasizing. In an age of total information, paper notation/citation itself may function as a spoiler alert, even as citations supplement what’s readily knowable with a paper trail of bibliographic facts.
Ernest Hemingway, The Snows of Kilimanjaro (New York: Scribner, 1995), 3.
Rivka Galchen, Little Labors (New York: New Directions, 2016), 34.
Jason Cohen, “Yes, Game to Thrones’ Final Season Will Kill Multiple Characters,” Comic Book Resources, March 13, 2018, https://www.cbr.com/game-of-thrones-season-8-who-dies.
Cleve R. Wootson, “There’s a Small Chance an Asteroid Will Smack into Earth in 2135,” Washington Post, March 19, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2018/03/19/theres-a-small-chance-an-asteroid-will-smack-into-earth-in-2135-nasa-is-working-on-a-plan/?utm_term=.d84b264b80c8.
The Epic of Gilgamesh, https://www.cs.utexas.edu/users/vl/notes/gilgamesh.html.
John Maynard Keynes, The Collected Writings (Cambridge: Macmillan/St. Martin’s, 1971), 4:65.
Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire (New York: Vintage, 1989), 59. Cf. the baseline operational stability test for automatization-authentication in Denis Villeneuve, Blade Runner 2049 (Columbia, 2017).
Joan Hawkins, Cutting Edge: Art-Horror and the Horrific Avant-Garde (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 77; see Seth Friedman, “Misdirection in Fits and Starts: Alfred Hitchcock’s Popular Reputation and the Reception of His Films,” Quarterly Review of Film and Video 29, no. 1 (2012): 91–93. Cf. Kenney, “The Movie’s Multiple Murders Are Committed by Anthony Perkins Disguised as His Long Dead Mother,” “Spoilers!,” 33.
Chris Richards, “Our Access to Music Is Unprecedented,” Washington Post, March 9, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/our-access-to-music-is-unprecedented-why-does-it-stress-us-out-so-much/2018/03/07/a00686e6-174a-11e8-b681-2d4d462a1921_story.html.
Kenney, “Spoilers!,” 33.
Flannery O’Connor, “The Life You Save May Be Your Own,” in Collected Works (New York: Library of America, 1988), 183.
Here I’m thinking of Matthijs van Boxsel, The Encyclopedia of Stupidity (London: Reaktion, 2005).
Kenney, “Spoilers!,” 35.
Richard Matheson, “Button, Button,” in The Best of Richard Matheson, 129–37 (New York: Penguin, 2017).
For a discussion of this trope, see Eric Hayot, The Hypothetical Mandarin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).
Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976), 192: “We need a name for the new replicator, a noun which conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. ‘Mimeme’ comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like ‘gene.’ I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. . . . It should be pronounced to rhyme with ‘cream.’”
Vilém Flusser, Into the Universe of Technical Images (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011).
See Susan Blackstone, The Meme Machine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 19.
Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2002).
Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Wife’s Story,” in The Compass Rose, 327–34 (New York: Perennial, 2005).
Edward Said, introduction to Erich Auerbach, Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2003), xiii.
Auerbach, Mimesis, 7.
E. Beverly et al., “Students’ Perceptions of Trigger Warnings in Medical Education,” Teach Learn Med 30, no. 1: 5–14.
See, e.g., Jordan Boyd-Graber, “Spoiler Alert: Machine Learning Approaches to Detect Social Media Posts with Revelatory Information,” https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/meet.14505001073.
And where else would this sort of missive be published besides the Chronicle of Higher Education? See Amy Hungerford, “On Refusing to Read,” Chronicle Review, September 11, 2016, https://www.chronicle.com/article/On-Refusing-to-Read/237717.
E.g., Annesha De, “Who’ll Be the Winner: Human Intelligence vs. Artificial Intelligence,” Fossbytes, November 10, 2015, https://fossbytes.com/co-evolution-human-intelligence-artificial-intelligence; https://www.privacytech.fr/.
The image comes from the illustrator Andrea Danti’s portfolio on Shutterstock.
Robert Hertz, Death and the Right Hand (Oxford: Routledge, 2004).
Harlan Ellison, “Demon with a Glass Hand,” The Outer Limits, dir. Byron Haskin, first aired October 17, 1964.
Flusser, Shape of Things (London: Reaktion, 1999), 52.
Flusser, “Transformance,” http://muellerpohle.net/texts/project-texts/transformance/.
Flusser, Into the Universe of Technical Images, 23.
Ellison, “Demon with a Glass Hand.”
Flusser, Into the Universe of Technical Images, 3.
Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow (New York: Penguin, 1997), 237.
Ellison, Memos from Purgatory (New York: Open Road, 2014).
See https://fanlore.org/wiki/Trigger. There is a substantial, somewhat alarmist body of academic, quasi-academic, and journalistic materials—including readily available bibliographies—about the sociological and psychological basis of triggers, especially their role in the classroom. In this material, one quickly multiplies examples of conceptual convergence and analogies with spoilers/spoiler alerts. See, e.g., http://slideplayer.com/slide/10161940/.
There Is Yet Insufficient Data for a Meaningful Answer: Inhumanism at the Literary Limit
Vilém Flusser, Vampyroteuthis Infernalis: A Treatise, with a Report by the Institut Scientifique de Recherche Paranaturaliste (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012), 67.
Flusser understands the problem as one of art or artifice, but because it concerns form, inscription, and scale, I think the literary may be a more apt way to think about it. See also Mark McGurl, “The Posthuman Comedy,” Critical Inquiry 38, no. 3 (2012): 533–53.
Flusser, The Shape of Things: A Philosophy of Design (London: Reaktion, 1999), 86.
Flusser, Vampyroteuthis Infernalis, 66–67; Flusser, Shape of Things, 88.
See Lisa Gitelman, “Raw Data” Is an Oxymoron (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2013).
Rather than nature/culture, the problem of big data concerns singular/plural. Tellingly, data is seldom encountered in singular form. There’s so much of it. To revisit a critical commonplace, the singular datum means given in Latin in the sense of an input available for (further) processing. An Input-Output-Input model: freely it has been given to you, freely give. Date has a similar root, as Daniel Rosenberg reminds us, and metadata comes semantically overburdened. See Daniel Rosenberg, “Data before the Fact,” in Gitelman,“Raw Data” Is an Oxymoron, 15–40.
Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Raw and the Cooked (London: Pimlico, 1994). See Gitelman,“Raw Data” Is an Oxymoron, 2: “Raw data is both an oxymoron and a bad idea. On the contrary, data should be cooked with care”—the TED-like assertion by Geoffrey C. Bowker serves Gitelman’s collection more as a motto than a thesis. See esp. his afterword, 167–72.
Claude Levi-Strauss, The Raw and the Cooked (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), 1, 64.
See, e.g., Claude Levi-Strauss, From Honey to Ashes (New York: HarperCollins, 1973).
Michel Serres, The Parasite (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007), 4.
See Dean Lockwood and Rob Coley, Cloud Time (London: Zero, 2012). Instead of reserving for raw something the illusion of uninterrupted, authentic experience, the agency of “fossil data” resembles the heap and its noises—the clamor of being.
Flusser, Shape of Things, 86.
Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude (London: Continuum, 2008).
“Vilém Flusser: A Brief Introduction to His Media Philosophy,” https://monoskop.org/images/4/4b/Flussers_View_on_Art_MECAD_Online_Seminar.pdf. See also Siegfried Zielinski, Deep Time of the Media: Toward an Archaeology of Hearing and Seeing by Technical Means (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2008).
G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday (New York: Penguin, 2011), 40.
H. G. Wells, The Time Machine (New York: W. W. Norton, 2008).
H. G. Wells, Experiment in Autobiography (Boston: Little, Brown, 1962).
Justin Clemens and Dominic Pettman, Avoiding the Subject: Media, Culture, and the Object (Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam, 2004), 33.
H. G. Wells, The Sleeper Awakes (New York: Penguin, 2005).
Giorgio Agamben, Idea of Prose (Albany: SUNY University Press, 1995), 88.
Franco Moretti, Graphs, Maps, and Trees (London: Verso, 2005), 14.
Agamben, Idea of Prose, 87.
The classic study of this concept is Karl Mannheim, “The Problem of Generations,” in Essays on the Sociology of Knowledge by Karl Mannheim, ed. P. Kecskemeti, 276–320 (New York: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1952).
Isaac Asimov, “The Last Question,” in The Complete Stories, vol. 1, 290–300 (New York: Broadway, 1990).
Jean-François Lyotard, The Inhuman: Reflections on Time (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1992), 8–9.
J. G. Ballard, Millennium People (New York: W. W. Norton, 2011), 4.
J. G. Ballard, introduction to Crash (New York: Picador 2001), 4.
See Samuel Francis, The Psychological Fictions of J. G. Ballard (London: Bloombury, 2011), 65–66.
Ballard, introduction to Crash.
Ballard, “The Message from Mars,” in The Complete Stories of J. G. Ballard, 1175–83 (New York: W. W. Norton, 2009).
Ballard, introduction to Crash, 5.
Ballard, “Message from Mars,” 1182–83.
Ballard, introduction to Crash, 5–6.
Wells, The Time Traveler (New York: Penguin, 2005), 98.
See Attila Torkos, Timeline for Robots and Foundation Universe, https://www.sikander.org/foundation.php.
Isaac Asimov, “The Last Question,” Science Fiction Quarterly, November 1956.
Andrew Clark, “How Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web Became Yahoo,” Guardian, February 1, http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/feb/01/microsoft.technology.
In 2009, this was the answer. As of 2019, it’s this: “Fundamentally, it is the vast collection of quantities and facts that I provide, compare, and calculate for my users.” http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=What+is+computational+knowledge.
Bruno Latour, Pandora’s Hope (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999), 304.
Bruno Latour, Science in Action (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988), 3.
Arthur C. Clarke, “The Nine Billion Names of God,” in The Other Side of the Sky, 3–14 (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1958).
Pop Culture Today; or, Plasticman, Where Are You?
For a selection, see Adolf Hitler, Norman Cameron, R. H. Stevens, and H. R. Trevor-Roper, Hitler’s Table Talk, 1941–1944: His Private Conversations (New York: Enigma Books, 2000). For confirmation that Hitler was a fan of King Kong, see Ernst Hanfstaengl, Hitler: The Missing Years (1957; repr., New York: Arcade, 1994), 221, as well as Volker Koop, Warum Hitler King Kong liebte, aber den Deutschen Mickey Maus verbot (Berlin: be.bra, 2015).
Leaving aside the complicated issue of possible toxic subtexts in Metropolis and their etiology (including the error of calling the director a fascist for representing a [quasi-]fascist dystopia in his film), Lang exited Nazi Germany on July 31, 1933, claiming later that his departure was motivated by an uncomfortable meeting with Reich minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels, in which Goebbels, Lang claimed, expressed his admiration for his films and tried to draft him to the cause of chief Nazi film propagandist. See Gösta Werner, “Fritz Lang and Goebbels: Myth and Facts,” Film Quarterly 43, no. 3 (1990): 24–27. It is also worth mentioning that Lang’s mother was Jewish. For a discussion of the anecdote, see Tom Gunning, The Films of Fritz Lang: Allegories of Vision and Modernity (London: British Film Institute, 2000), 8–11.
Kracauer cites Hitler’s interest in Metropolis specifically—gleaned from another interview with Lang—but the thrust of his argument concerns the role of Weimar cinema in preparing the ground for Nazism, by externalizing “deep psychological dispositions” toward obedience to authoritarian domination through “subterranean content that, like contraband [crosses] the borders of consciousness without being questioned.” Siegfried Kracauer, From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film (1947; repr., Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2004), 163–64.
Leslie Fiedler, The Devil Gets His Due: The Uncollected Essays of Leslie Fiedler (Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2008), 22.
Qtd. in Stefan Müller-Doohm, Adorno: A Biography (Cambridge: Polity, 2005), 182.
Jacques Rancière, “Why Emma Bovary Had to Be Killed,” Critical Inquiry 34, no. 2 (2008): 233–48.
Dominic Pettman, Infinite Distraction (Cambridge: Polity, 2016), 29.
Jacques Rancière, The Politics of Aesthetics (New York: Bloomsbury, 2013), 52, 30.
Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow, 179.
Andy Warhol, I’ll Be Your Mirror: The Selected Andy Warhol Interviews, ed. Kenneth Goldsmith (New York: Carroll and Graf, 2004), 18.
Robert Venturi, Steven Izenour, and Denise Scott Brown, Learning from Las Vegas (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1972).
Rancière, Politics of Aesthetics, 37.
Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow, 206.
Rancière, Politics of Aesthetics, 54. See Janice Radway, Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984). On the relation between Bovary’s reading habits and popular reading practices around popular romance novels, see Dorothee Birke, Writing the Reader: Configurations of a Cultural Practice in the English Novel (Berlin: DeGruyter, 2016).
Rancière, Politics of Aesthetics, 51.
Rancière, “Why,” 240.
Arthur Danto, “The Artworld,” Journal of Philosophy 61, no. 19 (1964), 5710584.
Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow, 368.
Pynchon, “Is It Okay to Be a Luddite?,” New York Times, October 28, 1984, http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/05/18/reviews/pynchon-luddite.html. Referencing a slogan of the 1960s counterculture (“King Kong Died for Our Sins”), Pynchon describes “Kong” as the “classic Luddite saint,” the only “countercritter Bad and Big enough” to counteract “what would happen in a nuclear war.” The implication is that even Kong as the anxious and “irresponsible” apotheosis of “our” toxified pop cultural coprophelia can’t expiate “us” from the death cult of the military–industrial war machine.
Martin Bak Jørgensen, “The Precariat Strikes Back: Precarity Struggles in Practice,” in Politics of Precarity: Migrant Conditions, Struggles and Experiences, ed. Carl-Ulrik Schierup and Martin Bak Jørgensen (Amsterdam: Brill, 2016), 55.
Pynchon, “Is It Okay to Be a Luddite?”
Philip Armstrong, “Precarity/Abandonment,” in Nancy and the Political, ed. Sanja Dejanovic, 245–71 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015).
Vilém Flusser, Writings (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002), 44.
Rita Felski, The Limits of Critique (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015), 55.
Alexander Galloway, The Interface Effect (Malden, Mass.: Polity, 2012), 52.
Stuart Hall, “Notes on Deconstructing the Popular,” in Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, ed. John Storey (London: Pearson, 1998), 442.
Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. “popular.”
Meaghan Morris, “Banality in Cultural Studies,” in Logics of Television: Essays in Cultural Criticism, ed. Patricia Mellencamp (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990), 22.
Oxford English Dictionary.
Hall, “Notes on Deconstructing the Popular,” 442.
Morris, “Banality in Cultural Studies,” 30.
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (New York: Dover, 1990), 34.
Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow, 206.
Dennis Hall, “Signs of Life in the Eighteenth Century: Dr. Johnson and the Invention of Popular Culture,” Kentucky Philological Review 19 (2005): 14–15. Incidentally, Hall sees Donald Duck, not King Kong, as the pop culture egregore par excellence of the twentieth century.
Compare Morris, “Banality in Cultural Studies,” 40.
For a paradigmatic example, see Radway, Reading the Romance, 221.
Brantlinger and Naremore, Modernity as Mass Culture (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), 8–13.
Brantlinger and Naremore.
Brantlinger and Naremore, 8.
Gilbert Seldes, The 7 Lively Arts (New York: Dover, 2001).
See esp. Steven Connor, “Cultural Phenomenology, CP: or, A Few Don’ts by a Cultural Phenomenologist,” parallax 5, no. 2 (1999): 17–31.
This list borrows from the taxonomy proposed by Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker, http://significantobjects.com/. See also Aaron Jaffe, The Way Things Go (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014).
Dwight MacDonald, “Masscult and Midcult,” in Against the American Grain: Essays on the Effects of Mass Culture, 3–75 (New York: Random House, 1962).
“Siskel and Ebert Defend Star Wars,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ky9-eIlHzAE.
George Yúdice, The Expediency of Culture: Uses of Culture in the Global Era (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2003). My reading of Yúdice is influenced by Francis Mulhern, Culture/Metaculture (New York: Routledge, 2000), and Peter Osborne, “‘Whoever Speaks of Culture Speaks of Administration as Well’: Disputing Pragmatism in Cultural Studies,” Cultural Studies 20, no. 1 (2006): 33–47.
Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow, 314.
Friedrich Kittler, “Pynchon and Electro-Mysticism,” Pynchon Notes 54–55 (2008): 108–21.
Roland Barthes, S/Z (New York: Hill and Wang, 1974), 23.
Boris Groys, Under Suspicion (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), 28: “The currency in which today’s author is being paid is no longer the readers’ agreement but their lack of rejection. Today’s reader accepts a text not by agreeing with it but only by not considering it personally offensive. The discourse of the flowing sense neutralizes every possible rejection by leaving a space for the other, as the saying goes—or, to put it differently, by not annoying potential readers unnecessarily.”
Pynchon, “Togetherness,” Aerospace Safety 16, no. 12 (1960): 6–8, http://www.pynchon.pomona.edu/uncollected/together.html.
Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow, 751.
Flusser, Towards a Philosophy of Photography (London: Reaktion, 2000), 39.
Michel Foucault, Society Must Be Defended (New York: Picador, 2003), 241.
Vilém Flusser, Post-History (Minneapolis: Univocal/University of Minnesota Press, 2013), 20.
Timothy Morton, The Ecological Thought (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2012).
Flusser, Post-History, 47.
Bradley Babendir, “Peter Thiel’s Unfortunate World: On “The Know-It-Alls” by Noam Cohen,” Los Angeles Review of Books, February 11, 2018, https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/peter-thiels-unfortunate-world-on-the-know-it-alls-by-noam-cohen.
Flusser, Post-History, 61.
Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow, 436.
Flusser, Post-History, 54.
Foucault, Society Must Be Defended, 140.
Flusser, Post-History, 65.
Conclusion: Updating as Modernity; or, Impermanent Test Dept.
Siegfried Zielinski, [. . . After the Media] (Minneapolis: Univocal/University of Minnesota Press, 2013).
Walter Benjamin, “The Author as Producer,” in The Essential Frankfurt School Reader, 254–69 (New York: Continuum, 1988).
Ian Hickman, Oscilloscopes (Oxford: Newnes, 2000), 1.
Encyclopædia Britannica (London: 1910), 20:347.
Jon Peddie, The History of Visual Magic in Computers (London: Springer, 2013), 292. See Friedrich Kittler, Optical Media (London: Polity, 2009), 191–92.
Panel discussion, transmediale.12 “In/compatible” symposium, February 5, 2012, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin.
Gill Partington, “Friedrich Adolf Kittler, 1943–2011,” Radical Philosophy 172 (March/April 2012), https://www.radicalphilosophy.com/obituary/friedrich-adolf-kittler-1943-2011. See also https://propagandum.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/gramophone-film-typewriter-by-friedrich-kittler-%EF%BB%BFbook-review.
Mona Simpson, “A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs,” New York Times, October 30, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/30/opinion/mona-simpsons-eulogy-for-steve-jobs.html.
Zielinski, [. . . After the Media], 76.