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Backwards Up Niagara Falls: Space/Time, Image/Text and the Biases of Information
Unformatted Document Text:  19 in which it resides and to the kind of representation it embodies; it is quantified and atomized, allowing for discrete, measurable pieces to be broken off and transported while preserving their (numerically represented) value. Information therefore appears as an abstract universal, without history or geography, that is separable both from the material practices and media of its production and from the communities of receivers for whom it may have been intended. Building upon and completing the standardization and manipulability of space-time units we discerned in the cinema and newspaper, it subsumes all particularities and maintains autonomy from their specific contexts, ensuring its eminent and uninhibited transferability between discrete temporal and spatial points. Thus depicted, information – as a conceptual reification of the communicative contexts in which it is inscribed – is not simply the technical product of computer technologies and the militant universality of digital code, but is an institutional and discursive achievement of the highest order. And its characteristics, as Dan Schiller (1994) describes in great detail, are eminently adapted to the needs of commodification. Indeed, in its symbolic autonomy, universal transferability and context-free value, ‘information’ aspires to the ideal condition of money itself. ‘Knowledge’, in contrast, is frequently interpreted more holistically as inherently connected to particular realms of inquiry (such as ‘scientific knowledge’) and as still connoting, in some measure, such unquantifiable and non-transferable notions as ‘understanding’: it is not free-floating but linked to the qualities of the one who knows (thus ‘human knowledge’ defines a field in relation to both a subject and an object). Yet even here the term is undergoing the same kind of reifying processes manifested in what we might call ‘the informational model’: the information society is also a ‘knowledge economy’; those skilled in tasks associated with mental rather than manual capacities are ‘knowledge workers’, and the British Film Institute, I was amazed to discover, currently employs a senior executive with the title ‘Head of Knowledge’.

Authors: Frosh, Paul.
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19
in which it resides and to the kind of representation it embodies; it is quantified and atomized,
allowing for discrete, measurable pieces to be broken off and transported while preserving
their (numerically represented) value. Information therefore appears as an abstract universal,
without history or geography, that is separable both from the material practices and media of
its production and from the communities of receivers for whom it may have been intended.
Building upon and completing the standardization and manipulability of space-time units we
discerned in the cinema and newspaper, it subsumes all particularities and maintains
autonomy from their specific contexts, ensuring its eminent and uninhibited transferability
between discrete temporal and spatial points. Thus depicted, information – as a conceptual
reification of the communicative contexts in which it is inscribed – is not simply the technical
product of computer technologies and the militant universality of digital code, but is an
institutional and discursive achievement of the highest order. And its characteristics, as Dan
Schiller (1994) describes in great detail, are eminently adapted to the needs of
commodification. Indeed, in its symbolic autonomy, universal transferability and context-free
value, ‘information’ aspires to the ideal condition of money itself.
‘Knowledge’, in contrast, is frequently interpreted more holistically as inherently
connected to particular realms of inquiry (such as ‘scientific knowledge’) and as still
connoting, in some measure, such unquantifiable and non-transferable notions as
‘understanding’: it is not free-floating but linked to the qualities of the one who knows (thus
‘human knowledge’ defines a field in relation to both a subject and an object). Yet even here
the term is undergoing the same kind of reifying processes manifested in what we might call
‘the informational model’: the information society is also a ‘knowledge economy’; those
skilled in tasks associated with mental rather than manual capacities are ‘knowledge workers’,
and the British Film Institute, I was amazed to discover, currently employs a senior executive
with the title ‘Head of Knowledge’.


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