Knockblock is an installation that asks for the kind for cultural narrative that is necessary for a magic of digital spaces. The knock block is a plexiglass box of dimensions 13x11x21cm in the middle of which sits a block of wood and a solenoid hammer connected to an Arduino. It tracks tweets and knocks on wood whenever a tweet contains a phrase that usually evokes a “knock-on-wood”-gesture. The corresponding, anonymized tweets are displayed on a wall next to the knockblock.


The installation thematises the ontological status of digital objects, its vantage point being the common intuition that writing “knock knock” or something similar in a tweet is not sufficient to achieve the apotropaic effect of deflecting harm. The underlying thesis to knockblock is that, since magic always invocates powers beyond human, in order to figure in societal rituals as credible material representations with magical powers, objects require transcendent qualities, an ontological independence. Physical objects gain this independence by not subsuming to the mere will of humans – rocks scratch, wood splinters, water drowns. It is the absence of this kind of recalcitrance to digital objects that disqualifies them from the viewpoint of superstition.

How can digital objects develop this kind of credible otherness in order to allow for a magic of digital spaces?  Or will we all end up renting our private knockblock, like our cloud space today, effectively outsourcing the physical aspect of our digital existence?

I wrote a longer post on these questions here and am glad to have been asked to publish the text also on the Vibrant Ecologies blog. The knock block itself I built using my sound carpet.





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