Transmitting Culture: 7.


Hoofstuk 7 – Ways of Doing


Ways of Doing

The research programs implied by a mediological perspective can be divided into two branches. One side favours diachrony, asking by which networks of transmission and forms of organization a given cultural legacy was constituted. On the other side, with more importance given the synchronic cross-cut, the question is how the appearance of a new system or equipment modifies an institution, an established theory, or precodified practice.

In short, whether one surveys, so to speak, the meteor craters resulting from an unexpected object’s impact on a mental planet or reconstitutes the fluidities of magma behind forming eruptive rock, it is the shock of heterogeneous elements that will interest the observer.

Culture and technology move together and cannot do without one another: the two enemy sisters do not get along but must come to a working compromise.

Out of negative protestation there can arise a positive mutation (as every new object that is made intelligible transforms the frames of intelligence itself).

Three gestures in this direction fall unpremeditatedly into line: decentering, materializing, and dynamizing.


There is clear evidence, however, for a causal complex in which the popularity of journalism followed from the steel railway. Industrialized mass transport enlarged printed matter’s sphere of circulation; it determined the industrialization of the press (the daily newspaper costing one sou) and brought massive influxes of money onto the intellectual.

This shift in emphasis, from the better – to the lesser-known, can be called the mediological indexation of a phenomenon. It puts what appears marginal at the very center.

Faced with a doctrine that is already constituted and presents itself as an autonomous whole, attention must be directed from literal meaning-content to the frameworks that administer belief in that content.

What institution gave rise to the indoctrination and put it across? How was its doctrine propogated, inculcated, and reproduced? Which models of conformity did it follow?

This complex in its turn served to set down, store, and circulate traces in a manner characteristic of a given, historically determined mediasphere: the logosphere, or age of orality and its first inscriptions in writing; the graphosphere, or age of print; and the videosphere of recorded images and sound, digitized and pixellated sign-pictures, and unimedia.

Some estimates are that half the species that have ever lived have become extinct since the first appearance of life on earth. A good number of ideological species encounter a similar fate, at the hands of their surroundings’ selective pressures (technological Darwinism is pitiless).

Every culture is an adaptive response to surroundings (Jacques Ruffie), and even if the “one species, one niche” principle does not apply mechanically in these more subtle matters, the technological niche of the videosphere proved fatal to a cultural tradition tending to put the (invisible) future before and above the (perceptible) present.

Before our very eyes there has occurred a slow disintegration of that grand European mosaic of the graphosphere. They had garaunteed the social viability of a bookbound culture within an ecosystem that was invisible because shared (with the internal ventilation of its pertinent oppositions).

How much thought does the myopic give to his glasses, except after misplacing them? (Can the fish discover water?)

Is it not by de-ideologizing ideologies that one can understand their appearance as well as disappearance?

The intended decentering crosses things and people, grasping relations of force incorporated into produced works that can in turn modify those relations further.

For the birth of the Artist, as someone practising a liberal profession and not just an artisanal or mechanical art, was as little spontaneous and universal an occurrence, and as intricately orchestrated, as was the birth of the Intellectual to public and symbolic prominence in the nineteenth century.

looking at the lookers, rather than the varnished veneer of canvases themselves.

In sum, at everything that is deployed to display and solemnize works of art. A careful study of this well-handled distraction, this periphery of cultural validation, puts us on the trail to a quite simple truth, which is not demystification but restoration of an aesthetic wholeness: art and the faith we put into it are one and the same.


Civilization, insisted the historian Charles Seignobos, is roads, ports and quays. It has become so natural to speak of culture, while forgetting civilization, that our elaborate normative displays hide from view the basic levers of interaction and negotiation with things both inert and living.

Cultivated culture stands like a column covered with glorious signatures; technological culture is the poor relation, reduced to anonymous familiarities. With cultivated culture, the proper names last longer than the works; with technological culture, the inventors are effaced behind their inventions. Fire, the wheel, and steel were and remain signature-less, like the sewing machine.

Within the notion of artifex we persist in dissociating the (mechanical) artisan from the (liberal) artist. We tend to see only the painter in the figure of Leonardo, while he saw himself as an engineer.

As we pass from the book as text to the book as object, the history of the book could risk erasing that of literature.

Overvaluing the code and undervaluing the channel was yesterday’s semiocratic indulgence. Stopping before getting to the referent, the mediocrat might succumb to the opposite realist fallacy: overestimating the channel at the code’s expense.


One needs to produce a complex schematic outline of flows that joins such media to the corresponding places and spheres of activity that diffuse them: the court, salons, marketplaces, cafes, public gardens, booksellers, and libraries. Oral transmission and written communication are relayed through these crossings, the first amplifying the second. So, the sphere of ideas has happily been broadened, but the entirety of the process is still conceived in terms of communication: the force of ideas lies in how widely they are spread.

Out of this came the capital formation, richer and thus less known than “the medium is the message”, that “method engenders doctrine”.

The observation can be extended to sites of sociability, the linchpins of that area of activity between the private sphere and the domain of the state that is today called “public sphere”.

The intermediary functions of images evolve at the crossroads of our belief systems and our mechanical outfittings.

Scouting out products, controlling technical operations, identifying consumer goods – all at a distance and often directed by the pressure of saving time (which dictate the semiotic efficiency of such things as logos, designer labels, brand names, and videos) – all of this falls within the regime of the visual when the production of an image of the world no longer corresponds to a lived experience of this world.

Hoe vinniger alles beweeg, hoe vinniger moet ‘n kultuur geskep word (‘n skynkultuur) deur beelde wat ‘n sekere item identifiseer en nie meer die item self nie, wat weer dinge aanjaag. ‘n Kultuur van al hoe vinniger beweeg en nie meer kan byhou nie en nou nuwe tegnologie skep om te probeer om by te hou maar in effek die gaping net groter maak.

A Disciplinary Proviso

The educated wager is that by tugging on the thread of the how, a good portion of the why can also by unravelled.

Permit me for an instant to suspend my judgement, bracket your message and ends, your perfections and truths, your salvational values, so that I my consider simply your comings and goings, your vectors and vehicles, the living stuff that conferred on you living from and without which you would never have arrived here among us.

Against the Stream

Knowledge was reduced to plays of language; history to a sequence of grand narratives; philosophy to a hermeneutics; and our most humble practices all became languages or grammars. Human action itself was labelled “communicational”.


Dit was dan Hoofstuk 7 – Ways of Doing


Transmitting Culture: 5.


Hoofstuk 5 – Tool Lines


Ethnos (Nasie) contra Technics (Tegnologie)

The palaeontologist and material anthropologist Andre Leroi-Gourhan notes that cultural diversification has been the principal regulator of evolution at the level of Homo sapiens.

Anthropology conceptualizes it under culture, and it is obviously based in a language, the most tenacious of all group memories. All human beings have the same emotions but do not express them with their body in the same ways: their code is cultural (or ethnic). It would not be absurd to maintain, in opposition to the clichés, that culture is what splits apart the human species while technology unites them.

A cultural system suggests a fanning outward of places. A technological system evokes a combination of tracks.

…we replace the pair technology/culture with the opposition technological-convergence/ethnic-divergence, which would be its translation further developed.

In this sense, the technological structuring of the world, taking us from wheel to airplane, also carries with it the very real potential to culturally de-structure the world.

Likewise do we now witness the digital encoding of all information so as to make all channels in the end converge through the phone line, integrating telecommunications, nationwide computer terminals, TV, movies, CDS, and pixellated photographs into unimedia (multimedia is a misnomer, the world having become techno-uniform).

The planet toward which we are heading, in other words, will be one complete, interconnected – or intraconnected – whole, in which the interdependence of the elements will prevail over and soon frustrate any remaining values of originality.

We knew this goal as national in the last century, know it now as global, and will be known as intergalactic one day.

…imprisoning the globe in order to liberate men.

Taking into account Francois Dagognet’s formulation that matter travels faster than mind, one could understand this discrepancy as a de-synchronization of, or difference in, rates, the simple effect of inertia from culture’s relative slowness of change.

This latter is a tough fishbone to swallow and consists of a negative retroactive effect of technology on culture.

Hier word gemeen dat tegnologie en kultuur eintlik twee itenteite is wat twee teenoorgestelde funksies het. Tegnologie poog om te verenig terwyl kultuur poog of eerder inherent verdeel. Daarom deur ‘n universele voor te stel word die gevaar daar gestel dat daar geen moontlikheid gelaat word nie vir enige innoverende denke nie en so alle vordering insigself inhibeer wat weer tegnologie laat inval op ditself.

Agteruit Vordering

…ever since urbanites no longer walk they have ended up…running. And with fanatic devotion. In parks or, lacking that, in the living room, on treadmills.

Die draf effek in die argiewe

In our day of delocalized on-line access and long-distance digital consultation, electronic circulation should for all intents and purposes render the concentration of materials in physical sites useless.

The less there is of collective coherence, the greater the number of communitarian symbols, that is, ostensible mediations that knit the individual to a collective heritage whose stability and visibility are reassuring.

Rather than erasing sites of memory and commemoration, digital delocalization and audiovisual amnesia generate them in profusion.

Die teenoorgestelde van dit wat verwag word vind egter plaas as iets uitgelaat word. Die tegnologiese era met alles wat digitaal gestoor word word daar verwag dat fisiese plekke van herinnering sal verminder maar die teenoorgestelde word waar omdat hoe meer die data op digitale manier gestoor word hoe meer is daar ‘n interne drang in die mens om homself te stabiliseer deur vergestalt te gee aan die fisiese aspek van geheue.

Die draf effek in die ruimte

Telecommunications have contributed to making tourism the largest industry in the world. The real surprise is that, as we shrink distances, we are all the more compelled to explore the periphery.

What the land loses in functional value, it can soon recoup in affective flavour.

Since going to the moon, we have been relearning a certain love of the land.

The more vast distances are domesticated, the more small is beautiful.

Self in die spasie waarin ons leef is hierdie retro-aktiewe progressie teenwoordig, dat ons spreekwoordelik met elke tree wat ons vorentoe tree ook een wil terug gee.

Die drag effek in taal

We had expected that normalization by stereotype would transform all these living idioms into dead languages, confining them nobly to the literary registry or degrading them into provincial patois more or less in a state of vagrancy. Yet in the face of the new utilitarian medium, the language of choice becomes one’s native speech, territorial and useless. The vernacular is resupplying itself with mythic value, becoming a site of spiritual, religious, or magical references.

Culture is on the side of the vital principle, whose nature is to be multiple, disruptive, and proliferous – the opposite of technology, if you prefer.

Die draf effek in kleredrag

Dress too, as much as language, is a typical feature of ethnicity.


Why should the disappearance of nation traditions of cinema, or minority literatures, or languishing arts and crafts not stir up the same worry that has focused on the extermination of whales and seals?

Still, this bottom-line preservation of differences has its risks: returning to balance can itself become convulsive.

This is the case when the identity spasm, as a reflex against the utilitarian eradication of peripheral memories, pushes one to the point of fundamentalist insurrection.

It is precisely in those richest Western countries where urban centres, political parties, churches, television stations, buildings and roads, houses and stores, and tastes and odours are the most interchangeable (or the least identifiable) that cultural singularities are most insisted on and valued.

In the zones where tradition dictated life structured by faith, fundamentalism takes on the guise of a culture for those decultured by technology or a return to the soil for those uprooted from it.

It really seems, indeed, that history takes back with one hand what it grants with the other: openness here, closure there.

When communitarian drives reach paradoxical high tide in the age of interdependencies, do we not witness, within the parliaments and governments of the most self-regulating representational democracies, a replacement, in parliament and government, by ethnocultural interest groups of the old ideologically cemented, dominant formations (witness politics in Israel, India, Turkey, and [South Africa])?

A levelling of political differences may mean a renaissance in prepolitical identities – and, after deritualization, theocracy?

We would observe an alternation of phases of decentering and recentering, to correct one imbalance with another, however gropingly (South Africa?).


Dit wil lyk of hierdie hele boonste afdeling handel oor die ewewig wat die natuur altyd sal probeer handhaaf, inherent. Hoe ons egter tussen hierdie twee lyne beweeg is van groot belang. Die aarde sal altyd streef na balans, soos ek altyd sê, maar hoe die mens by daardie natuurlike strewe na balans aanpas/inpas is belangrik. 

Soos ons hier sien, vir elke tree wat tegnologie vorentoe gee, hetsy in spasie, taal, of kleredrag wil die mens inherent ‘n tree terug gee om iets van die verlore te laat behoue bly. Dit is ‘n vreemde verskynsel, maar dit is tog daar, en weerspieel hierdie innerlike soeke na balans in die mens. Daar kan nie net heeltyd na die eenkant van die wipplank geloop word nie, daar moet ook na die ander kant geloop word om te keer dat die plank nie die grond raak nie. Partymal sal die plank meer na die anderkant na die grond wees en ander kere die inverse. Wat wel waar is, en ook baie tragedies, is dat die een wanbalans homself soms sal moet uitbalanseer deur ‘n nuwe wanbalans te skep. Hier wil ek amper neig om Apartheid as voorbeeld te noem. Apartheid was ‘n wanbalans in die kulturele geskiedenis van Suid-Afrika en nou probeer die land homself deur demokrasie weer te balanseer, maar soos bogenoem, omdat die regende party nou in ‘n staat verkeer van relatiewe wanbalans gryp hulle terug na hulle fundamentalistiese wortels wat hulle geleer is in ‘n stadium van wanbalans en so implimenteer hulle daardie waardes heel onwetend en skep so weer ‘n wanbalans. Dis ‘n bose kringloop. Dalk is dit soos die Prediker sê dat daar niks nuuts onder die son is nie, dit verander net van vorm maar die inhoud bly dieselfde.

Die mens se behoorlike studie

Mediology examines what defines the human branch in its essence, by which means it can be distinguished from that of our simian cousins, that is, Homo sapiens’ aptitude for handing down acquired characters from one generation to the next, notwithstanding the most formal laws of molecular biology.

Here is to be found all the difference between natural life and historical life, the latter an internalizing duration: man is the only animal that can conserve a trace of his grandfather and be modified by it.

Yet what I am, what I believe, and choose, depends in large part on what their works and days made them. Heredity belongs to all living beings; inheritance belongs only to man.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau writes, on this difference between man and animal, there is another very specific quality that distinguishes them and about which there can be no dispute: the faculty of self-perfection, a faculty which, with the aid of circumstances, successfully develops all the others, and resides among us as much in the species as in the individual. By contrast an animal is at the end of a few months what it will be all its life; and its species is at the end of a thousand years what it was the first year of that thousand.

A legacy is made possible on what condition?

A naturalist was able to observe that we were the only species of animals able of influencing its own evolution.

Ek het besluit om hierdie hoofstuk nie verder te lees nie aangesien dit baie op die biologiese hammer en ‘n mindere fokus het op die kulturele en bloot in verskillende biologiese terme wil oorbring dat oordrag(transmission) wel moontlik is in die mens anders as by diere. Diere se eerste paar maande bepaal hulle lewe, waar ‘n mens lewenslank in staat is om homself te verander anders as ‘n dier. 


Dit was dan Hoofstuk 5 – Tool Lines


Transmitting Culture: 4.


Hoofstuk 4 – Fault Lines


Die Aardbewing Gebied

Isn’t the awkwardness of this position (the position of the mediologist), being in both places yet belonging fully to neither, typical of most people’s along the century’s continental divide?

The mediologist interprets our grand crisis of identity as the result of a confrontation between the technologic crust of the human species, its renewal ceaselessly accelerated, and the underground mantle of cultures, under violent compression as they meet despite the latter’s weakened elasticity.

The pace of our displacement intensifies the counterneed for placement. Cries of human protest are the understandable expression of those caught within the cultural equivalent of geologic uncorformities.

The human animal survives by consulting his dreams as much as his prosthetic devices.

Whoever refuses to grasp both ends of the thread carefully risks treating the problems by overlooking the problematics.

From the shrinking of distances he (McLuhan) deduced the happy amalgamation of cultural memories; this meant blurring the two orders of space (technology) and time (culture).

These still do not modify the basic anthropological need to believe, any more than the technologies of knowledge acquisition alter our competence and appetite for knowing.

It is a sure thing that one does not put on a new culture the way one changes software or cars. No less sure is the fact that each period’s cognitive systems are constructed as a function of the available enclosed within the individual’s brain (Pierre Levy).

Individuals are composed of layers, like a building of several floors (social class, language, nationality, religion, profession, region, sex, etc.).

For Tzvetan Todorov the intercultural is constitutive of the cultural.

Hierdie gedeelte is vir my moeiliker om te verstaan, maar dit lyk asof daar gese word dat met die versnelling van die spasie waarin ons beweeg (tegnologie) het ons al hoe minder tyd om ‘n goeie basis vir ‘n kultuur te formuleer wat weer lei tot die fragmentering van kultuur en eindelik tot ‘n moontlike gefragmenteerde wereldkultuur. 


Technology is freighted with positive or negative values, fitted into institutions or social networks (like the speed bump or the alarm clock).

The manufactured and even standardized machine-object (the auto-mobile) can also vehiculate dreams, style, values, and the self-image of an era. Thus can it also materially emblematize an era’s spirit in symbols, especially at a distance.

Recording, saving, archiving, and consulting: all imply know-how, sometimes personalized and sometimes, as so often today, delegated to machines.

Much as each organism selectively picks up from its environment pertinent information that blinks its signals only to it, a lineage of cultural evolution singles out, from a complex of available innovations, the ones most meaningful to it and that it alone can best optimize.

Need one truly choose between technicism and culturalism?

Without the quasi-chromosomal conjunction of cultural breeding ground with new technology, an innovation will not come forward and take over.

Hier is dit eenvoudig. Tegnologie en Kultuur het mekaar ewe nodig om voort te bestaan. Die een kan nie sonder die ander nie. Tegnologie kweek ‘n nuwe soort kultuur in die sin van hoe die boodskap oorgedra word wat daarmee saam die boodskap self beinvloed. En sonder ‘n nuwe soort kultuur wat voortleef op ‘n nuwe tegnologie kan tegnologie nie geproduseer word nie. So dit is ‘n konstante wisselwerking tussen die twee agente om ‘n bestaan te handhaaf.


A tractor will outperform a plow, period. These things are not open for discussion as tastes and colors are. A balance sheet of yield per acre speaks for itself. For the descriptive ethnologist, no one group of people is superior to the others; for the historian of technolo­gy, or the technologist, some tools are indeed superior to others. In the cul­tural realm, before and after count for nothing; chronology is never an argu­ment for or against.

Which things exactly, then, are technological, and which cultural? I sug­gest that technologic covers those devices or systems that, so to speak, carry a one-way ticket, and cultural those that are open to trips back in time at any moment in history. Once artillery was invented, no army sought to supply itself with crossbows. After the appearance of the railroad, no transportation authority made use of the stagecoach. After antibiotics, boiled decoctions changed their status. But in, say, art history, no irreversible ratcheting ever upward exists: Picasso can recycle art negre for his own purposes, and I am permitted the luxury of preferring Cimabue to Dubuffet. All periods and all schools are fair game; cultural history does not obey time’s arrow. And noth­ing warrants the supposition that Rawls is a more pertinent political philoso­pher than Rousseau just because he was born later or that the good Doctor Schweitzer had loftier ethics than Saint Vincent dc Paul because he had stored up three additional centuries of spiritual experiences. In the history of loans, norms, and values, the notion of an irreversible threshold or water­shed lacks pertinence. Yesterday’s technological object informs me about the one I had in my hands yesterday. Yesterday’s preserved painting or myth teaches me about what I am today and can become tomorrow.

industrial object that has fallen into disuse will be stored in all open-air museum of science and technology. The art object ends up in a museum tout court. No engineer will go off to the museum of technology maintained by the engineering institute in order to improve his present-day work, yet (.6zannc regularly looked at Poussins in the Louvre to learn how to paint bet­ter: paradoxically, the work removed from its context continues to function, whereas the desituated machine is kaput.

Let me put the same idea in other words. Culture is inherited; technology, received. Culture is transmitted by deliberate acts. It is a singular content of intimate concern to me, to my identity proper, for which I am personally responsible, it being incumbent on me to will it to those who will come after. Technology is transferred and disbursed spontaneously: I derive good from it but am not really needed by it; it stands in availability. (This points up the difference between conserved things and stocked items.) There are techno­logical lineages but only cultural legacies. For those things that differentiate me from others, that single me out as different, I feel a sense of responsibili­ty. Of those things by which we all resemble one another, I am a consumer, a user, a receiver, and a victim but not a designated recipient or beneficiary. For all its rendering possible and easy the act of messaging, technology is never itself a message. Only culture call be addressed to someone.

Hierdie gedeelte is net eenvoudig awesome! Lees die gedeelte bo. Dit verduidelik alles.