Origin of Digital Species
Lev Manovich1 and Simon Cook2 argue that the internet and digital culture should be understood as a product of late Victorian and Modernist visual forms, but it is the goal of this paper to show that the internet and digital culture, while heavily influenced by these visual forms, is not the sole product of them, and that the time period between 1930 and the present day must also be included when analyzing the history of the internet. The best illustration of this point is the similarity and yet fundamental difference between the cinematographic experiments of the Soviet Constructivist Dziga Vertov and the modern visual jockey artists known as the “NomIg Collective”. By analyzing the art forms that exist on the internet it is possible to see how they are related to the preceding forms of art that existed in the times from which Manovich and Cook claim the internet to be a product.
Before the terms Late Victorian, Modernist and Post-modernist visual forms are used, it is important to define what is meant by each of these terms, and to explain how they are all in essence connected to each other.
During the Victorian era the world was transformed. Starting with Darwin’s theory of evolution, the world of science crecendoed into a period of rapid discovery and accelerated advancement that was previously unknown. It was out of this boom in the intellectual world that man’s desire to possess all knowledge began to seem more of an achievable goal and less like medieval lore . It was around the Victorian period that all modern forms of classification are began to expand: Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, Museums are Libraries -to name a few forms- started to grow into their modern form as common tools of classification, as opposed to their previous role of intellectual rarities.
Thus man’s desire to contain all knowledge in one place seemed to become an achievable goal, and the gathering of all manner of artifacts and trivia tidbits became a hobby which developed into an obsession for Victorians. Once all these materials were gathered it became a matter of piecing everything together into cohesive order. Diagrams quickly followed the onslaught of information that bombarded the late Victorian thinker in order to make the processing and containment of this new knowledge possible. Out of this period emerged the diagrams of Marshall , Venn , and Carroll . These diagrams became algorithmic formulas for determining or expressing information. They created a new type of picture: a picture whose purpose is no longer to be visually entertaining, but to perform a utilitarian task and to yield a product: a picture that acts as a machine.
Logical sorting was not the only use for the newly developed technological wonder of categorization. Thinkers like Galton began to use the concept of pictures as tools to experiment with the concept of quintessential characteristics of human groups . This misuse of the technology had...