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Human Factors

Someone asked, looking at the statues in the Greek and Roman section of the Met, why there were so many bodies without heads, and heads without bodies. Turns out there was a time when Christians took a fancy to knocking the heads off of statues. Power shifted, paradigms shifted– Christianity moved from the margin to the center; from a form of atheism to the primary form of theism.

There’s a particular humanity and sense of personality that is still transmitted from these faces. A connection is still possible, even across the centuries. These artifacts, even with the ravages of time, radiate meaning. Contrast that with the digital artifact, once corrupted– it becomes unreadable.

Imagine a culture that encoded all of its artifacts in digital media. Then think about a power shift where the new authority erased the digital artifacts of its predecessor. It’s difficult, if not impossible, for power to imagine its end. We assume that what exists will continue to exist. What tools will the archeologist of the future require to unearth the digital culture that we’re creating today?

Published in art artists culture digital


  1. Ah, but the question is, will there be artifacts to wonder over and write poetry about? Or will be stuck with a bunch of files that won't open?

  2. wd40 wd40

    Questions like these should always be enjoyed over good wine & warm company – perfect food for thought 🙂

    That said, I'm pretty confident tomorrow's societies will come to understand, study, interpret, and/or immortalize today's neo-digital life in much the same way they always have: What I can't say for certain is: who will be the Herodotus' and Homers of today – and what form will either their songs or histories take??

    That said, I've always found Keat's reaction to such questions most appealing:

    Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness,
    Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
    Sylvan historian, who canst thou express
    A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
    What leaf-fring'd legend haunt about thy shape
    Of deities or mortals, or of both,
    In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
    What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
    What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
    What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?
    Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
    Are sweeter: therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
    Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd,
    Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
    Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
    Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
    Bold lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
    Though winning near the goal – yet, do not grieve;
    She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
    For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

    Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
    Your leaves, nor ever bid the spring adieu;
    And, happy melodist, unwearied,
    For ever piping songs for ever new;
    More happy love! more happy, happy love!
    For ever warm and still to be enjoy'd,
    For ever panting, and for ever young;
    All breathing human passion far above,
    That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd,
    A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.

    Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
    To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
    Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
    And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
    What little town by river or sea shore,
    Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
    Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?
    And, little town, thy streets for evermore
    Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
    Why thou art desolate, can e'er return.

    O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
    Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
    With forest branches and the trodden weed;
    Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
    As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
    When old age shall this generation waste,
    Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
    Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
    “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all
    Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

  3. Thanks. When I'm in a museum all the faces, particularly in sculpture, can blur together after awhile, but in your video it seemed as if you were panning faces in a crowd watching a procession, each one very intent on the proceedings and unaware of being photographed. I loved it!

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