Publication Details

Ballard, S. "Information, noise and et al." M/C Journal 10 .5 (2007): 1-8.


At their most simplistic, there are two means for shifting information around - analogue and digital. Analogue movement depends on analogy to perform computations; it is continuous and the relationships between numbers are keyed as a continuous ordinal set. The digital set is discrete; moving one finger at a time results in a one-to-one correspondence. Nevertheless, analogue and digital are like the two companions in Serres' tale. Each suffers the relationship of noise to information as internal rupture and external interference. In their examination of historical constructions of information, Hobart and Schiffman locate the noise of the analogue within its physical materials; they write, "All analogue machines harbour a certain amount of vagueness, known technically as 'noise'. Which describes the disturbing influences of the machine's physical materials on its calculations" (208). These "certain amounts of vagueness" are essential to Claude Shannon's articulation of a theory for information transfer that forms the basis for this paper. In transforming the structures and materials through which it travels, information has left its traces in digital art installation. These traces are located in installation's systems, structures and materials. The usefulness of information theory as a tool to understand these relationships has until recently been overlooked by a tradition of media art history that has grouped artworks according to the properties of the artwork and/or tied them into the histories of representation and perception in art theory. Throughout this essay I use the productive dual positioning of noise and information to address

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Journal of Media & Culture