Two Cases of Infertility

The care with which the repository is designed for its placement – or more especially here, the care of the account – has a helpful and calming influence on what might otherwise have erupted as an impulse to reject from the outset the term Digital Hybridity. We have felt it to be suspect – too forceful in its positivist persuasiveness. The ‘Digital’ in itself – in its brevity – comes in advance of ascribed value, or relatively so. It can be treated more safely as a simple fact. To signal its hybridization on the other hand is a deceptively complex move. One added word doubles the phrases extension but the implications increase many-fold. The Digital on its own, as a bare fact of the modern world, is not yet ours. We can thus defer the judgment of value. When it is made hybrid it is brought into familiar proximity, brought near to our untidy but pragmatically proven ways of working. For sure to embrace the term is risky. The so-called simple fact of the digital no doubt hides a dominant power much in the way that common sense does. But being no longer enslaved to the old oppositional politics, the positivist voice seems to argue, no longer stuck with outmoded practices of dissent, what’s risked is nothing more serious than to be ascribed, for a moment, the appearance of self-serving collaboration with an invading authority. All the while the Digital’s resources can be tapped for other purposes, siphoned for their lifeblood, the spoils shared. The question remains as to whether the Hybrid is anything more than an ornamental feature. ‘About the project’ is circumspect in its description of a programme, speaking of ‘collective exploration’ and examination of the ‘effects’. It pulls back from any simple advocating of what the project title names, but its own doubts about the Hybrid’s usefulness as a paradigm for the work the project wishes to gather – and its efforts to breathe life into this (unnatural) phenomenon – is evidence of anxiety. Hybridity may not work – that is what the descriptor seems to fear – but as its meanings are expanded an escape route is provided also, hence it is ‘potentially volatile’, a ‘space of intersection’, a ‘blending’. In each case the metaphor is mixed differently. These are hybridisations in their own right. In their more contracted forms the turns of phrase we label mixed metaphors don’t synthesise – they don’t ‘blend’. The potentially volatile, the space of intersection, the blend: each comes with its guarantee of life not included.

Here the mule raises its shaggy head.

If the mule is infertile we embrace it now for precisely the same reason. It saves us from the scourge of blind optimism. If it has no future in the way species do, we are led all the more urgently to invest in this mule’s life. So ‘infertility’ itself diverges into kinds. One has anxiety’s double-speak as its cohesion and remains an identified infertility. The other reveals life in its cracks, a different kind of life, a life we had not expected.