Sunday, June 21, 2009

"I am in here." Infinite Summer Post #1

I know virtually nothing more about holography than what Wikipedia tells me. (Yes, pun intended.) It comes up twice, though, within the first ten pages of Infinite Jest: once in the title of one of the "nine separate application essays, some of which of nearly monograph-length" ("The Implications of Post-Fourier Transformations1 for a Holographically Mimetic Cinema," p. 7) and once in reference to Dennis Gabor, the inventor of holography, whom Hal says he believes "may very well have been the Antichrist" (p. 12).

I think this paragraph from Wikipedia is the most relevant to what follows:
Though holography is often referred to as 3D photography, this is a misconception. A better analogy is sound recording where the sound field is encoded in such a way that it can later be reproduced. In holography, some of the light scattered from an object or a set of objects falls on the recording medium. A second light beam, known as the reference beam, also illuminates the recording medium, so that interference occurs between the two beams. The resulting light field is an apparently random pattern of varying intensity which is the hologram. It can be shown that if the hologram is illuminated by the original reference beam, a light field is diffracted by the reference beam which is identical to the light field which was scattered by the object or objects. Thus, someone looking into the hologram 'sees' the objects even though it may no longer be present. There are a variety of recording materials which can be used, including photographic film.
There are two other notable repetitions within this first section: Hal uses the word "lately" (intentionally homophonous to Gately, no doubt) on the very first page, and he asserts "I am in here" on both p. 3 and p. 13. Well, on p. 13, he says, "I'm in here."

I think what is being expressed is a certain fear of the mediation of existence, a feel of being antecedent to (and trapped behind) an after-image or reconstruction of the self. Hal feels that he is "no longer present" at or in the moment he is perceived, which is why "lately" is repeated and why he needs to assert that he is "in here"—he is in the hologram that the deans are seeing and interacting with.

I don't want to get ahead of myself here, but in some notable ways I think this fear is linked to the concerns Wallace expressed in his essay on television and U.S. culture, "E Unibus Pluram" [pdf]. In particular, I wonder if we can't think of irony itself as a sort of holographic image of culture, at least it is used in those manners which Wallace critiques.

This post is meant more as a sort of opening up of one line of thought I believe I'll be returning to over the course of my reading, rather than as a full exploration of this idea. Clearly, we're not very far into the novel, so doing more than remarking on a theme which may recur would be premature. GatelyErdedy's obsession over the cartridges of the Interlace viewer and his answering machine's message in the next section already return to a certain paranoia about the nature and consequences of recording. Obviously, there will be others.

What about you—first thoughts, anyone?

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1I'm pretty certain that should be "post-Fourier transforms," right? I mean, that's more common/more standard.

4 comments:

hedothepoliceman said...

I've certainly heard of "Fourier transformations," but I'm not sure whether one or the other (transforms or transformations, that is) is more common, or if they're interchangeable.

Nice post--I too just Wikipediad Gabor.

Andrew Seal said...

Yeah, I've seen "Fourier transformations" too, but I think it's less standard, and I was wondering if that was for a reason--is there a reason to say Fourier (or Laplace) transforms as opposed to Fourier or Laplace transformations?

Javier Moreno said...

The term "Post Fourier Transform" usually refers to "translations" of FT to discrete/finite contexts. The most popular being DFT, of course.

ericlindley said...

Hi andrew... I'm not sure you remember who I am, but, here's one maybe-related note to the post:

After looking up Kosinski (listed as one of the parodied in the endless filmography for james orin incandeza in the endnotes), I found out that his (Kosinski's) suicide note reads: "I am going to put myself to sleep now for a bit longer than usual. Call it Eternity", which has a nice, detachedly understated echo in Hal's "Call it something I ate", by which he (Hal) explains perhaps why his father—then disguised as a professional conversationalist—is unable to understand what his son is saying.

I'm pretty sure the riff is intentional: the wikipedia article on kosinski lists some fairly hyperbolic praise by Wallace for the polish writer, and Hal's metaphorical death-by-intellectuo-physical abjection has a kind of literal parallel in suicide.