Vilém Flusser defines human communication as the storing, processing, and passing on of acquired information (Kommunikologie weiter denken, 2009, pp. 27, 35). The concept of communication is central to Flusser’s work and thinking; according to the curricula vitae he wrote, he saw himself primarily as a theorist of communication. From 1965 onward, he argued his conviction that the theory of communication deserves “a position of priority” among the “new sciences” (Nach geschichte, 1993, p. 231; translated from the German; Writings, 2002, p. 204), which is why it deserves its own name: communicology (Kommunikologie weiter denken, p. 35).
According to Flusser, the three phases of the production, transmission, and storage of information were once called “broadcaster,” “channel,” and “receiver” (Nachgeschichte, pp. 231, 233; translated from the German); thus he explicitly connects to cybernetics and the classical model of communication from information theory. The “symbolic transmission of messages” (Kommunikologie, 1996, pp. 244, 245; translated from the German)* necessary for communication is based on “tools and instruments; namely, the codes of ordered symbols” (ibid., p. 9; translated from the German), produced especially for this purpose; they alone make the social dimension of the zoon politikon, capable of forming a society, possible in the first place. This social dimension creates its own world of culture, a world that contrasts with that of nature. The world of culture consists of art, science, philosophy, and religion, and we depend on it existentially. Because there are “countless methods” for ordering these systems of symbols, this “codified world” is opaque and complex. Flusser is interested in three types of codes – image, text, and technical image – because he regards them as crucial to the current revolution in communication (ibid., p. 106). The structures of communication are distinguished by type (ibid., pp. 21–34) and also described as discursive and dialogical media (ibid., pp. 270–299), which is why media studies is just as much a part of communication theory as semiotics, which studies symbols and codes (ibid., p. 77; Nachgeschichte, pp. 231, 233).
* Editorial note: This passage does not exist in the English edition.
Original article by Michael Hanke in Flusseriana