Like Swamps ?

Lingering carryover from ENGL6344, a discussion in class eight days ago when I listed 62 quotations onto slides, divvied us into groups, and went about crumb-pathing (what we called zurückverfolgen, or “trace back,” in homage to this set of readings before they were translated into English). Our zurückverfolgen had an emoji-tagging instruction built in, so each trio, in effect, copied-pasted a square next to a line they wished for us to witness together, and every team had five emoji-tags to place.

To demo the zurückverfolgen, I placed a ? next to a line from p. 58, in a section called “The Magic of Things” in Non-Things. It turned out like this: ? “Like swamps the world” (NT, 58). Who among social media users hasn’t waded into the like swamps until the high boot brims were breached?

Han extends like-swamping from Roland Barthes’ studium and what he called its “unary” quality; studium is that quickly reconcilable, in-common field of visual confirmation, sort of obvious in that sense that without too much back and forth, many viewers would nod, yep, I see that, too. Yep, I like that, too. And that. And that. The lukewarm-affirmation symbol, a tiny-handed thumbs-up rises almost to the status of a new letter of every alphabet, iconic, corporeal-ish, cross-culturally nimble, a phatic stamp that with each next usage more dully than before signals, “I was here.”

But likes are not flat, and their seeming flatness betrays conviviality. They withhold any affective topography, absent color-coding to ROYGBIV a many-hued heart. Wednesday’s ten FB likes are Thursday’s seven; Thursday’s three Insta hearts are Friday’s four. It’s that flat-stillness of the swamp that has held on, faintly haunting, perhaps because its only shoreline is behind us, back in 2007 before the muck zucked in, before we were so twitterpated with shiny devices. Without conclusion, it’s one lingering line, noted. But it’s a note with a smooth, small wishstone skipped bip-bip-bip-bip-bip implicitly for another shoreline, an elsewhere not so dully, predictably like swamped.