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Jan Ekenberg

"This is a map that will take you somewhere, but when you get there you won't really know where you are."
-Robert Smithson

In current C5 research, datum appears as a crucial concept for the understanding of information objects as a carrier of meaning in a data flow. The denotative properties of the datum, i.e. its ability to relate, reference, replace, retrieve, link, list and index information positions the datum ontologically within families of linguistic agencies and can therefore be examined and understood with analysis of syntagm, rhythm, tropes etc. Despite the datum's obvious similarities to the sign, it should not entirely be thought of as such. One important distinction is the datum's ability to write itself, which relate it to the concept of "unlimited semiosis" in which the Peircean interpretant, in the mind of the interpreter, repeatedly becomes a sign. The animate character of the datum also distinguishes it from the sign in the less animate, classical writing with its connection/association to death, as a Derriderian and/or classical idea i.e. sema over soma (Greek: sign/body).

Although conceptually complex, it is interesting to notice the 16 sessions' engagement with the process of translation or transformation, which occurs on several levels in the project: data from To Not See A Thing systematized within a system, "sessions" creating a map. Translation is always, as often pointed out, an act of distortion or displacement, but when language is made passive, during such an act, the datum has the ability to rewrite itself during the process and escape the handling intact.

One way of studying the datum is to analyze it in specific topographies of agencies and attributes; agencies and attributes as a proposed system to "capture" the denotative power of the datum. The before so slippery and erratic data units suddenly become tangible, comparable.

One problem occurs, however. The Datum is contextual and a framework, scale or environment need to be specified for the datum to take on meaning. Without association to an environment, the linguistic structural coupling has no meaning and the datum is free to assume roles within an alternative system.

This is one aspect of the datum, but the datum has dual qualities. As well as data in general, the datum has another uncommon, and uncanny, ability to manifest itself: both as a language-like bit, a linguistic agency, and a structural object; a thing with attributes, an object in the world.

This dual quality of the datum positions it in an interesting domain of unifiers. The datum's ability to be twofold: language and object, creates a possibility for the datum to somehow span the unbridgeable gap between language and objects. The concept thus helps us understand how the objects which someone perceives are transformed into language. As the objects are given linguistic form, they also become commands and prohibitions.


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