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Information Viruses

Nov 10, 1996 05:40 AM
by Art House

A Good Day Everyone!

On Theos-L Digest 690, Keith Price wrote:
>I have become obsessed again with the power of images to connect and relate various levels of spirit into matter. <Big Snip>>

Which brought my mind to an interesting article on William Burroughs (of
the Beatnik movement), in Art in America, November 1996, Burroughs's
Virology by David Joselit.

*In 1973, Burroughs wrote:  **I advance the theory that in the
electronic revolution a virus is a very small unit of word and image.**
Genetic science has since borne out Burroughs's trope:  viruses are
information.  But his use of the term is more complex than a simple
application of information theory to medicine.  For him, the virus is
both a form of imposing control-the viral intruder takes over the
biological systems of its host-as well as, ultimately, an agent of
chaotic loss of control:  the success of the virus may lead to its own
failure if the imperative to reproduce causes the death of the organism
it invades.

It is precisely such a dynamic of excess and implosion, of plenitude and
apocalytic collapse, which underlies Burroughs's practice of
photography.  He operates on the assumption that once an image is put
into circulation it is impossible to anticipate or control its path:
the image may be cropped, reproduced or reframed at will in order to
substantiate any number of textual claims.*

This brings up a topic that I'd like some input on:   The problems and
advantages of the usage and spreading of information in society today
(especially with the creation of more and more powerful methods of
communication) because I do believe that information is like a virus
that replicates logarhithmically.  Depending on the type of virus, the
organism (society) can die.  In the second paragraph, it's also
interesting that Burroughs used the metaphor of having no control of an
image once it's been put into circulation (like some Theosophical

If no one can think of anything to say, I just thought this was an
interesting statement to share.  Thanks.


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