Steven Connor


What follows is a meditation on a metaphor that continues to provide a way of conceiving our relation to the space of media. It may seem puzzling that I spend as long as I am going to thinking about the prehistory of the idea of the channel in non-communicative contexts. My offer is to try to measure the continuing force of the literality, whatever that may be, of the idea of a channel. Towards the end, I will offer some reflections on the dissolution of the idea of the channel, or of the spatial disposition that has previously constrained what a channel is or can do. I will be saying that the channel depends not upon broadband expression, but on its low bandwidth, on the fact that data must be squeezed through a narrow pipe. My proposition is that decompression of data, the removal of this constraint means a net loss rather than a net gain of information. With no resistance, you can have very high voltage with no amperage. Those of you who want to get quickly to the payload of this piece should scroll through to the last 15 minutes or so. But you can’t if you are istening to this, because this talk is itself a narrow pipe. And, if you could, you would get less information, not more, because there would be less noise for it to have overcome.

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ISSN: 1904-500X

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