Monday, 2 September 2013

black box // last words

 the black box functions as a perfect synecdoche: one surviving part that at a human and material level, can reassemble the disintegrated whole

Eric Partridge suggests that it is in use from 1945 in RAF slang to signify any mysterious, clever piece of equipment on board a plane (interestingly, he says it was first applied to a device that allowed bomb aimers to see through clouds or darkness). Presumably the term gets transferred to one specific device, the flight recorder, not because the insides of such a thing are particularly intricate or mysterious (it’s just a sound recorder), but because they are made to be inaccessible. But, in either case, the ‘black box’ seems to point to a new phase of machinery, one in which machines, traditionally things which can be made fully explicit, and opened up to show their workings, start to have the same magical inaccessibility as selves, persons or souls.

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