Augmented Reality and the ‘Age of Serialized Objects’ – Brief Thoughts
Augmented Reality and the ‘Age of Serialized Objects’ – Brief Thoughts: With each day it becomes clearer that we have entered the Anthropocene, the point in Earth’s history where, as Nobel Prize winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen puts it, the behaviour of human beings constitutes a new geological era. Everything novel about the 21st century appears to be nested into this notion of new geological area caused by the will of human beings.
As we descend deeper into the 21st century, deeper into Late Capitalism, the world increasingly becomes saturated with standardized products. Nearly all the objects that we find around us in the new century will be instantiations of standardized three-dimensional (3D) models. Objects will have been designed by the manufacturer using 3D modeling software, and then, based on that model, constructed – or instantiated – in real life.
The objects around us, even though they seem to be only things, are increasingly becoming only data. That is, they are only instantiations of 3D models. I call this the Age of Serialized Objects for the reason that serialization refers to the process of “saving an object so that it can be re-created”, and that serial production refers to the production of large amounts of standardized products. The object is ‘saved’ as a .CAD file by Ikea, for example, and can be created and re-created – in large amounts – in times of demand. This is also, for those of you versed in philosophy, the age of a revived – albeit rejigged – Platonism. The Form of our objects exists in the realm of code; the Matter of our objects exists in the plastics and metals that instantiate it.
This means, I insist, that our sense of the world, our sense of our objects – is ripe for a gestalt shift. Objects have, hitherto, been somewhat of a mystery. Even more of a mystery had they been in the Age of Craft Objects, before the Industrial Revolution. Objects may have had agency – no one could probe into them. There was always the chance that a Lamp possessed a genii, a Sword was a sacred heirloom, or a green Rabbit Foot was really lucky. The Age of Serialized Objects removes this cloud from the world. The world is divested of its genii’s, its sacredness, its good luck charms. Isin’t that, after all, what we’ve been attempting since the Enlightenment? A desacralization: an end to anything traditional, anything non-rational? We are coming into the world we have worked so hard for.
And this we, importantly, is a human we. That is why, briefly, the novelty of the 21st century is nested into the notion of the Anthropocene. And symbolically, that into this specific time and place we find technologies designed to augment our reality.