I Media-Induced Affect and Trauma
Traumatic memory from within technological media
In the context of well-known phenomenological analysis of human experience of presence, the media-archaeological approach focuses on micro-technologically induced (re-)presencing. Traumatic irritations of temporal experience arise from frictions, from the intrusion of real timing into the symbolical order of cultural time. Media-induced chrono-affects are time-critical, choque-like escalations of temporal sensation. They are equivalents to Marcel Proust’s notion of mémoire involontaire, which refers rather to what is known as transients in signal engineering than to narrative experience. The time-critical momentum as Leitmotiv in Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu looks contingent but can be identified to be indexical of a hidden chrono-sensation. A specific affect of temporality arises from the medium itself; against any anthropocentric fixation, this is its real technological message. While G. W. F. Hegel considers the process of digestive remembrance to be the mental interiorization of the past (Er-Innerung) which is supported by the symbolic order of historiographical narrative, Walter Benjamin concentrates on involuntary memory that makes the subjective sense of temporality implode and dislocates the orderly concept of history. In his well-known essay on The Work of Art in the Age of Reproduction (1936), he coined the term “physical shock” as subliminal perception of the cinematographical image.1 Different from the photographically fixed moment in time, the affective momentum in cinematographic image sequences is temporal movement – thus close to the phonographic voice. Whereas a single image can endure motionless, a recorded sound cannot.
“Presence” in its fleeting character has long proved resistant to being captured by scientific analysis. Faced with the impenetrable difficulty of recording ephemeral cultural articulations, humanities have largely focused on written texts, just like musicians have largely focused on notes instead of sound. With the emergence of signal recording media like photography, phonograph, cinematography, magnetic tape and finally digital recording, however, technical media allow for “archiving presence,” resulting in an unforeseen disposal of micro-temporalities both in experience and for analysis – time shiftings and time axis manipulations. There are specific media-induced ways of regenerating presence, of “re-presencing”2 which – while apparently having been smoothly integrated into everyday cultural practice – still result in perceptual shocks which the cultural unconscious has not yet fully digested.
Due to the formerly evanescent nature of its object, the study of presence has become inseparable from the study of its recording media...