The Digital and the Analog

June 23-25, 2020
2.00 - 4.00 pm

Digital and analog, what do these terms mean today? One common response to the question of the digital is to make reference to things like software, hardware, or computers in general. Here one might be correct, but only coincidentally, for the basic order of digitality (if you will, the digitality of digitality) has not yet been demonstrated through mere denotation. Indeed the definition of “digital” is too often eclipsed by a kind of fever-pitched industrial bonanza around the latest technologies and the latest commercial ventures. Like the digital, the analog also seems to go through various phases of popularity and disuse, its appeal pegged most frequently to nostalgic longings for non-technical or romantic modes of art and culture. The analog is difficult to define, with attempts at definition often consisting of mere denotations of things: sound waves, the phonograph needle, magnetic tape, a sundial. At least denotation itself is analogical. Ultimately digital and analog are not so much descriptions of media artifacts as they are modes of thinking and being, with the digital closely aligned with rationalism, logic, and politics, while the analog with empiricism, aesthetics, and ethics. In this seminar we will define the digital and the analog explicitly, not merely by reference to actually existing media technologies, but also, and perhaps more importantly, through encounters with a series of theorists and philosophers. By the end we will argue, perhaps counter-intuitively, that the golden age of digitality has already come and gone decades ago. And that, contrary to the many devices that surround us, today's dominant philosophy is distinctly analog in nature, as evidenced by a number of currents in contemporary arts and letters.

Alexander R. Galloway (born 1974) is an author and professor in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. He has a bachelor's degree in Modern Culture and Media from Brown University and earned a Ph.D. in Literature from Duke University in 2001. Galloway is known for his writings on philosophy, media theory, contemporary art, film, and video games.