Lag.

I’ve just come back from DiGRA’s 2003 Conference, where I presented my article (which, once I figure out the Byzantine copyright requirements, I’ll post it here. It was a remarkable event, and I’ll give a full report, including notes on the incredible constitution of late-night Scandinavians (and Finns), but this is about travel. Actually, it’s about sliding glass doors. We are already understood to be data by the institutions which dominate our lives. Our credit records, our birth, marriage and death records, our licenses and passports, our representation in uncountable marketing databases and mailing lists all represent us as tuples of strings, values, and ID numbers. For the most powerful institutions, that is what we are. But that’s not how we usually experience ourselves, until we travel. Once we start moving, however, we are like packets on a network. Glass doors slide, we are shuttled as information from one city to another. Airports, hubs: routers moving us from the home system to the Munich system to the Helsinki system (which are, of course, the home systems of other packets, just like the San Francisco system is a target for others.) Doors slide again: turnstyles revolve, and we feel a pleasant, dynamic synchrony between our data homonculi and ourselves. We feel ourselves in the systems of motion, at the same time that we experience degrees of freedom from them. Passing through customs is like shaking off one frame for another, of making ourselves a new system’s problem for a bit. Jet lag feels like the sliding off of that synchrony, settling underneath the numbers and strings instead of riding on top of them, until they become invisible (or rather, untouchable – it’s more about touch than sight); like data written to storage, or tape, until the glass doors can slide open again and we can ride the network to a new system.

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