parallel universes

In Oaxaca I was struck by the difference between the city presented to me by Google, and the one that surrounded me. One was my own personal kingdom, everything smooth and blandly safe in faded blues, greys and yellows. The other was a sensory and emotional overload of colour, scents, people, decisions. One operated in English, the other in Spanish, one familiar, the other completely new. The disconnect felt like two parallel universes, each influencing the other but incompatible. Katherine Hayles, a literary theorist, argues that information in one form is transferred to another is an act of translation, not a free flow from one medium to another. Experiencing this at first hand, on the streets of Oaxaca, I reflected on what stories of human consciousness merging with networked computers revealed about the story tellers implicit assumptions of human consciousness, knowledge and experience. Oaxaca is a centre for traditional crafts and cultures of Mexico and I met artisans recovering material-based knowledge through working with inherited materials, tools and techniques. The information could be recorded through text, images or video, but these alone would not be sufficient for someone to pick up the material and be able to replicate and ‘know’ the objects without the experience of learning through working the material or the experience of using the objects in a familial, cultural context.

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