In Muckerji’s article, “Me? A Digital Humanist?” discusses the different environments in which human identity is shaped by nonhuman materials but also affects power in the way we see use own free will and recall certain memories. She illustrates for the reader the different environments during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that as does the digital culture granted opportunity for its inhabitants to immerse themselves and survive through navigation in these mazes and labyrinths. Mukerji says, “Digital culture, as heir to this tradition, continues to use material means to restructure institutional forms of power, while also addressing the problems that material governance has posed for human agency and identity” (p. 43). She addresses the different aspects that this environment possesses while comparing the digital environment to the form of Versailles.
Muckerji first talks about Versailles being an immersive environment. This garden was created in honor of the Sun King or Louis XIV to portray the beauty of nature but also the power and complexity of the King and government. It was made up of complex paths and walkways were people would often get lost and unable to navigate their way out. Muckerji explained that like the digital culture we live in where we are dependent on understanding it and making our way through its technology the gardens of Versailles displayed, “…evidence of a fundamental order that lies partly outside human control –and sometimes even human understanding” (p. 44). While people would admire the complexity of the gardens and its beauty without realizing it they would go deeper in and get lost within its structured passageways without understanding of direction.
Muckerji also talks about Versailles being a memory palace that allows for individuals to dwell on certain spaces of the garden or at specific displays and use these at tools for creating new ideas. She mentions how professional speakers would often use these sites for inspiration and so that walking through these sites continuously it would help them remember what they were thinking on to develop their speech. As a result this gave individuals the opportunity to practice in creating new ideas, identities, and new constructs for their sense of self. She continues in comparing these memory palaces to different websites that house the opportunity for information access. She talks about the Roman figures that were placed in the gardens of Versailles because they were with the access of users becoming gateways for information recall according to memory. She also refers to these displays as components of software that help, “…enhance and construct performances of the self,” (Muckerji, 47). These technological and social constructs allow for people to become dependent upon them for sense of self and cultural participation.
Muckerji at last discusses the many labyrinths that were part of the gardens in Versailles. Like mazes they are structured passageways that are organized that keep people moving forward so that they will learn humility and obedience. But unlike mazes, labyrinths do no have a set single structure for its paths and labyrinths could for example only be one path but it also possesses some form of danger. People were often forced to follow rules of entering these labyrinths and act out tales that corresponded with the certain statutes. For example, Charles Perrault developed a certain labyrinth that directed and taught Aesop’s tales according to the figures. This allowed for the statues to rule in teaching the visitors certain things that stayed with them as they made their way through the labyrinth.
Two things I was sort of confused by in this article was the comparison of video games to the immersion of individuals to face nonhuman threats but still having the same affect. At least when comparing the soldier with PTSD being immersed into the Virtual Iraq to the immersion of people within digital culture and possessing a memory palace. Although for the humanist, I know this does not focus on individuals but humans as a whole this seemed to me a bit of a stretch. I believe there may be limits to this idea of comparison. Also, I was a bit confused of Riskin’s argument and how it played a role in this argument by Mukerji. Mostly I was unsure about her use of the term “automata” when discussing certain technology.