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McKenzie Wark

Sample Coordinates [Sample]

3.55 PM EST

29th January 2001

North 40.71974°

West 073.95769°

Elevation 75'

23' Accuracy

The sun shines out of my ass. Or so it was once comforting to think. And so thought everybody. Man, the measure of all things. Or woman, as if that made much difference, up against the magnanimous spread of the world.

Consider the logistics of how things come to us; of how we come to things. Rocks and plants; flesh and steel. A world in which if there is some guiding light it is inhuman. It’s a mesh of data, telemetry of moving bodies, resources allocated and deployed.

The live feed is no longer my breakfast. I am its breakfast. This caloric load comes off inventory. Some small quanta of stuff will move through the world making good its consummation. Run the movie in reverse: from mouth to fork to plate to grill to fridge to truck to store to plant to farm to seed to earth and rain and the sun that marks its melanomas on my ass.

But there are still those who can draw a golden beam from their ass to the skies. They have not lost perspective. Theirs is a power always born again. Theirs is a world which they always array around their radiant centre.

Sun kings and sky gods: there is nothing they don’t see that matters, there is nothing they can’t do that matters. (Or so one might suppose). They camouflage their bodies, not their radiating souls.

Their ways become our ways, soon enough — their tools of command, control, communication. Soon enough these come to power pop up toasters. Speed and precision are the marks of rank. The digital divides all knowing from all known.

Leave it to these khaki lords of coordinates to turn the planet’s surface into an orbing football field. They grid it so they may gird it. Satellites orbit my ass. They free me from the need to know its disposition. They feed me with coordinates. No need to keep track of place or time when there exists in the world the Pentagon’s global positioning satellites and the portable global positioning device.

It arrived, much expected, in the mail today. Rubber buttons in black hole black on bright canary plastic, the lcd screen behind reassuring glass. The courier delivered it to the home address. Sign your name here, on another lcd screen. Tick off one more mission in the endless bitstream of delivery.

A home address is where one sleeps, is where one is when one isn’t. An apartment in Brooklyn, which would count as a good New York rental in this very tight market. The qualities of space are relative to demand.

That home address, that singular string of alphanumerics, is an abstract way of grasping space, but not as abstract as global positioning. Coordinates for anywhere, anytime, all over the astroturfed surface of the world. An address for anywhere at all with a hopeful view of the sky.

Take the yellow instrument for a walk from home to a favourite cafe. Track the vector between the two positions. The great outdoors becomes an addressable space, like any home or hard drive.

Noblesse Oblige: The camo kings provide the signal free to everyone, everywhere, with one of these devices. It listens for the satellite’s signals, their almanac of the seconds, and triangulates accordingly.

Aboard each satellite beats an atom heart, beating time into precise submission. That perfect time is broadcast to the world. A global rockfest for the age of punk machines. Point the yellow gizmo at the sky and it counts the delay with which the perfect time imperfectly arrives, and estimates its distance from four titanium stars.

But there is a margin of error, a random factor. This pen tip is at the precise coordinates above — give or take 23 feet. Sometimes, the circle widens, the location less precise. There’s always sand in the cogs somewhere, even if these days its the ionosphere, or the troposphere, where things get gritty.

We’re all soldiers now, and know exactly where our asses are. The luxury of accuracy — the fifth coordinate. Let X equal X. Your ass is where and what you think it is. No wonder they pronounce him Colon Powell.

The English ruled the seas with their chronometers; now Americans rule the skies. Hold this yellow ruler and hold with it the logic of empire. Digital sextant. Precision’s cutting edge. The perfect good for a perfect world. It arms me for that other struggle: to find what tiny wavering lines might steal away from all perfected surfaces. An art of digging digits that don’t add up.

The sampling of the world as it passes, percepts buzzing the sensoria, affects tingling the nerve net, concepts bouncing about the frontal lobes as they flit by on their way to other territories. But just for one moment, smudged in time and ink, they pass through the reticular error of this pen and into the cryptic bank of this page.

This new journal, bought especially, the paper ruled with latitudes. The book square, the pages an unraveling map, an airless crack between each leaf. Opened for the first time here at this table, close to the glass wall, but hiding from the light it breathes. This floor, bare and porous, was once treelike and now isn’t.

This instruction manual was also once living, living in the organic sense. Now it pauses between habitations. It holds in place the symbols by which one learns to point this yellow toy to the sun and get for this locution all the points the radio sky accommodates.

This zone, where this wood is floor, where this heat is coffee. This is what is here now, cooling in the darkening light. This skinny sun, this digital jazz, inhabiting the same air. This dissipating hangover, this cramp in the writer’s hand. Foyers of the virtual, the pencil moves to underline Deleuze.

To leak into the cracks in a perfect world and flee along them. That might be what home is now. A home that could be anywhere. Not elsewhere; anywhere. Life need not be elsewhere, always pressing nose to glass. Home can be here. But here is anywhere. This where, now: Homing.

Circular error probable: the hole in the zero within which a missile falls, arm outstretched to greet its coordinates.

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This issue of Jacket is a co-production with SALT magazine,
an international journal of poetry and poetics, edited by John Kinsella
PO Box 937, Great Wilbraham, Cambridge PDO, CB1 5JX United Kingdom

This material is copyright © McKenzie Wark
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