Friday, June 8, 2012

Cut, Copy, Paste and the Present

            The article Cut, Copy, Paste explores an aspect of our digital culture that is often overlooked; the aforementioned editing functions found in all audio, video, and word processing workstations. These editing functions are responsible for the ease that comes with creating within a digital environment, yet were mostly taken for granted until this article came around. The essay Cut, Copy, and Paste gives us the stepping-stones to examining how digital media is both positively and adversely effecting our postmodern present, and like all good scholarship, raises as many questions as it answers.
            The article argues that the basic editing tools are a continuation of the most basic tools used by primitive man to interact with his environment. Cut is a continuance of early hand axes or knives, Copy can be found in the earliest aspect of writing, with scribes, and Paste is an archetype of early methods of binding several materials together to make a tool. There are also parallels within our language, the concept of addition, subtraction, and multiplication are a different type of cut, copy, and paste.
            The article presents these digital tools as liberating, allowing a writer or artist to get into a creative flow and edit works with ease. These new capabilities are described as new ‘freedoms’, a description which is symptomatic of a more unsavory aspect of digital mass culture. This is the sort of freedom found in BMW commercials, subway posters for vacation packages to the Caribbean, and obnoxious YouTube ads for the experience of the freedom of club life as mediated through a new Swedish House Mafia single, a freedom through commodities, a freedom that can be bought, sold, and, used. Encountering this sort of attachment of concepts we would normally talk of in the realm of existence to objects (material/immaterial) is fairly common, but leads to absurdity if we were actually to think this way in everyday practical matters. For example, I bought a cast-iron skillet today, but as soon as I got home I didn’t say, “I am now endowed with the freedom to cook burgers without a grill, THANKS WILLIAMS AND SONOMA”, because that would be silly, I would be talking as if I were in a Williams and Sonoma ad.
            That said, the article illuminates not only a very important aspect of our digital-material world, but also how easy it is for us to take for granted such important tools in the very busy digital world. Some of the most salient and prophetic points come at the very end, in discussion of remedial apparatuses, digital politics, and the digitization of production. Remedial apparatuses are quite relevant these days, as the Media ‘Dons’ so to speak have recently spending millions in patents and lawsuits trying to catch up with technological forces that silently and quickly outstripped their ability to control. Youtube is quickly become America’s political background, and was utilized to a great degree in the 2008 victory of Barack Obama and the unexpected popularity of Republican maverick Ron Paul. The rise of Internet shopping, while convenient, has created an even wider gulf between consumer and producer, separated not only by international borders, but by removing much of the real-life overhead needed in such transactions (Just look at the current implosion of formerly successful Big Box chains such as Barnes & Nobles and Best Buy).

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