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In his book Pour une écologie de l’attention [In Favor of an Ecology of Attention], 1 literature professor Yves Citton notes some important effects of the pervasion of the digital on our regimes of attention:

The digitalization of attention … imposes inevitable standardazition effects, due to the fact that a flux of data cannot circulate in a vector unless it submits itself to the parameters and the homogeneization norms defined by its protocol. In YouTube’s first years of existence, anyone could upload (almost) anything and make it publicly available—as long as they would cut it in slices of ten minutes. We can communicate any type of writing to anyone in any place of the world—as long as we enter it through a keyboard (rendering the text graphologicly mute) or scan it (which erases any relief from the original paper). We can transmit any type of music as an mp3 file—as long as we submit to a compression rate that chokes the vivacity of high-quality recordings. A certain degree of standardization (more or less damageable) is the price to pay to benefit from the ease of transmission offered by its vector.

Citton, 2014, 107-108

The digital appears, in this sens, particularly constraining, since it “pre-parameters” our perception of the real, also limiting the means of acting upon it. It reduces the possibilities, narrows our imaginary in a set of technical paradigms, which are mostly directed by logics of calculation which favour performance over other criteria (cultural or artistic, for example).

The fact that formats, software, protocols, platforms and more broadly the digitalization of our actions are increasingly out of our reach seems to be a massive structural pitfall—especially when it becomes less and less visible, increasingly transparent, “naturalized.”

The use of these vectors imposes—in rigidly mechanical ways and no longer only a supplely cultural fashion—the submission to certain protocols which are the conditions of access. The vectorialist control is exerted at the fundamental level (and often hidden) of the choices of pre-parametring which inherent to the grammaticalization protocols used by devices. Selecting a certain sampling rate (usually conditioned by economic calculations oriented towards market profits) mechanically induces the erasing of certain nuances considered insignificant—by whom? in the name of what? according to which relevance? which sensibilities?

Citton, 2014, 107-108

  1. All translations are mine. ↩︎