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Postliterate Machineries

Stephen Petrina

One might just as well be machinic rather than literate, in the way one would “rather be a cyborg than a goddess.” Literacies are certainly “legion” but reach semantic saturation or exaggeration against an analog of mediation and machination.1 The sheen of the “new” is worn and tarnished, yet literacies are wont to saturate, while exhaustion sets in against a failure to reduce or subject everything to literal experience. Of course, the saturation of half of the thesis is well explored and exploited, but the machinic counterpart to the literate is entirely underplayed. Whether preliterate, aliterate, literate, or postliterate, the technological is characterized by machineries. Technologies and literacies are inseparable, subjected to the service of one another, but “machineries” productively generate a wide range of pre-and postliterate practices. To simplify, literacies signify reading and writing, while machineries signify processing and designing; literacies signify acquisition and gatherings, while machineries signify diffusion and assemblages. Both have realized significant semantic expansion and basically signify the creation of meaning, although for the latter, it is more a process of machining. With no intention of negating the literate, the goal is to recognize generations and significations of machineries over time. Documenting the exhaustion of literacies, this chapter informs and elaborates our conversation about what we have, know, or can acquire with what we became or what is becoming of human-machine assemblages, diffusion, and cyborgenic machinations. Henceforth and once again, claims staked on dimensions of natural, cultural, and artificial experience are contested: is it literacies or machineries at work and play?

Given the ancient ars memorativa and technologies, medieval mnemotech- nics, or the rise of memoria technica, data, and information in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it may have appeared that literacies evolve from and rest on machineries. Historically or archetypically, this is often portrayed as

J.R. Dakers (ed.), New Frontiers in Technological Literacy © John R. Dakers 2014

the light of literacies overcoming the dark of machineries, or as the cultured mind of literacies triumphing over the cunning hand of machineries. However, a less humanistic narrative obtains: literacies and machineries are at the least conflated or analogical and cooperational. Machineries generate practices that cannot be reduced to or subjugated and subdued by the literate, providing robust clues to machinic properties of human beings.2 This trick, a reversal of power characteristic of machineries, can lead to a rediscovery of aliterate technicalities, instrumentalities, and monstrosities.

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