This election call may be recorded

In these late days of the U.S. election campaign, Lev Manovich has been swirling around in my memory.

I met Manovich in print during my time in the University of Alberta's MACT (Master of Arts in Communication and Technology) program. I was intrigued by the way media made a generation ago, in my case, clips of the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street, were brought back to a kind of life. Loveable video and audio of Cookie had been mashed together with infamous video and audio of Stephen Duckett refusing to talk to news reporters, and, voila, I had my research project, courtesy those remix artists. 

Manovich, a new media theorist and computer science professor at City University of New York, made a point about the avant-garde aspect of digital media's moment. In the original avant garde movement of the 1920s, artists sought new forms and new ways to represent reality and see what is out there. 

"The new media avant garde is about new ways of accessing and manipulating information," said Manovich. "Its techniques are hypermedia, databases, search engines, data mining, image processing, visualization and simulation." 

New media, from Manovich's perspective, is about "accessing and using in new ways previously accumulated media."

The subtext of Republican candidate Donald Trump's campaign for president has been this affordance of the new media. 

Recorded between 2002 and 2013 and brought back to political life are Trump's interviews on Howard Stern's radio show in which he makes disparaging comments about women. Recorded in 2005 and brought back to life are Trump's lewd comments about women made on Billy Bush's Access Hollywood bus. Recorded in 1991 and brought back to life in the campaign are what many believe is Donald Trump himself posing as his own publicist in a phone call to People Magazine in which he talks about dumping Marla Maples for Carla Bruni. 

These are not archived weres and wases and has beens. They are ares and ises. (Okay, maybe has beens still works.) The point is recorded media do not die. They come back from the dead and are with us still.

Like father, like son. Tonight there is word from CNN that their miners have unearthed 2012 artifacts from Donald Trump, Jr., where the namesake makes radio-show jokes about the 2012 Aurora theatre shooting, expresses regret he can no longer mock obese people, uses Arab stereotypes, and on and on. 

There is no original reporting in any of this new age reportage, or, at least, not original in the traditional understanding of reporting. But it is all very much Manovich. 

And it is very much that other new media theorist, Socrates.

Socrates was no fan of the recorded media of his time: writing. He thought that it loosed all kinds of troubles into the world. He preferred face-to-face conversation. 

The haunted Trump might agree. 

(Of course, the face-to-face stuff is haunting him, too.)


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