What is a wall?

Its fundamental principle, of course, is division. Here from there, inside from outside, yours from mine. In Latin, the very word for “city” originally refers to the stones of its walls.

A wall needn’t be very much at all. Sometimes, indeed, a wall is little more than a line drawn in the air – think of the velvet rope outside an exclusive club.

Where they are more substantial, though, they tend to be conveniently vertical, and thus suitable for the presentation of imagery to members of an upright species with forward-facing eyes. We have always used walls to store and convey information, whether that meant telling stories, marking time, spreading the word, or remembering the fallen. (Lest we forget, they’ve also quite often been used to further somewhat less noble pursuits.)

Without coming anywhere close to being comprehensive, we can specify that walls contain, exclude, defend, bolster, even create.

If we are truly in an age when bits rule over atoms, then surely our walls are becoming virtual as well. What will we choose to do with them…and what can we expect them to look like?

One response to “Wall”

  1. Enrique Ramirez says :

    Your post, especially its invocation of walls, material and digital, reminds me of this quote I stumbled upon for my research:
    “A media theory which transfers Lacan’s methodological distinction to information technologies does not distort it back into object categories, notwithstanding some criticism to that effect. That first of all, the medium of the symbolic is called the computer, or with Turing and Lacan, ‘the universal machine’, follows directly from its conceptual coincidence with the natural numbers. That secondly, the medium of the imaginary must be optical follows not only from the primacy of gestalt recognition, but also, more elegantly, from Cartesian geometry. To the eternal dismay of every computer graphics programmer who must eliminate unfriendly divisions and roots whenever possible because of operating time, the conditions for an object in three-dimensional space either reflecting other objects or allowing them to shine through or rather neither are determined solely by the question of whether the root of a scalar product of two vectors, the moment of direction and the perpendicular line on the object’s surface, is real or imaginary. Precisely these types of reflections and transparencies are referred to in Lacan’s model experiments with a non-human medium, film. That thirdly, and finally, the medium of the real is to be found in analog storage devices is proven by every phonograph record. What is etched into its grooves can assume an infinite number of different numerical values but remains a function of a single real variable, time — at least so long as Stephen Hawking is merely keeping his counter-theory of imaginary time secret from the Pope, but has not yet proven it.”

    — Friedrich Kittler, “The World of the Symbolic — A World of the Machine” in Literature, Media, Information Systems (Amsterdam: G+B Arts, 1997): pp.130-147.

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