Vismann 2008

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Vismann, Cornelia. Files: Law and Media Technology. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2008.

“When files .or records are referred to in the plural, their content rarely seems to matter; it is buried underneath their materiality. And even when files are opened to reveal their contents, they are not simply read. Files are processed, just like stones and other such matter. “ (xi)

“This book focuses on the media-technological conditions of files and recording devices with a view to their largest area of application, the law. More precisely, it will investigate how files control the formalization and differentiation of the law. “ (xii)

“Files cannot be defined. & variables in the universe of writirlg they elude any general, context-free determination. Beyond their varying his- torical concretions, they can only be defined in formal fashion as that which generates a certain type of law. “ (xii)

“law and files mutually determine each other. A given recording technology entails specific forms and in- stances of the law. A new way of binding or of writing things down, a change in the way data are collected, affects the legal framework. t is only in such a diachronic description that the discourse of the law assumes its specific appearances. Only then, by turning into parchment codices, string-tied convolutes, or standardized chrome folders, do files acquire face, form, and format.” (xiii)

chapter 1

Levi-Strauss and Derrida interpreting asemic writing

“A different histoty of the law emerges, one whose point of origin is not an oral culture. Rather, it has as its point of departure administrative records. The inquiry into the origin ofthe law leads not to a state ofpure orality or to forms ofwriting that are more closely linked to an orally performed legal culrure,'but to administrative record keeping.” (4)

lists as “temporary storage device” in administration

“The scarcity of signs in nonsyntacticallists, however, is indebted to the spatial logic ofplace value systems. With items that can be referred to each other, a topological economy of signs begins. Hence the informarion to be found on Mesopotamian lists is already contained in their "format." (7)

item determined by placement on list — “The position alone encodes the values of an entry” (7)

what is said about lists can be said of files

files close to speech, close to events, record of processes — line running from literacy to orality, from law to execution (9)

“The unlimited capacity for addition and circulation turns files into a medium ofpresence. It endows them with the same characteristics as speech, with the result that they appear to be up-to-date, live, ever-changing, acting, and inexhaustible. Files take on ontological qualities.” (10)