The desert is a significant node in a metaphorical network of concepts through which Vilém Flusser contemplates the potential ramifications of new technologies originating from the computer. His aim is to render imaginable the impending technological, social, and existential consequences. He uses the metaphor of the desert to consider not only alternative worlds projected by the computer and the status of reality, but also the radically different existential conditions by which these are accompanied. Some of the network’s other nodes are nomadism, tent, wind, cloud, sand, dune, scattering, gathering, and computing. It also includes the communications revolution and the zero-dimensional, dot-like, calculatory universe of numbers made possible by that revolution. The dot-based pixel worlds made up of bits which appear on computer screens are compared by Flusser to grains of sand that give rise to scatterings, which can then be condensed by a process of computational gathering. The desert wind whirls grains of sand through the air, swarms of zero-dimensional particles that accumulate in heaps, ceaselessly rearranging the sand in the wandering dunes.
Flusser also describes numbers as having emigrated from the alphanumeric code, thereby alluding to the Exodus of the Jewish people and their many years of wandering in the Sinai Desert. With the beginning of the communications revolution, we have broken free of sedentism and entered a new, second phase of nomadism, one characterized by open roaming. Those who make their homes in the desert live in a state of rootlessness (Bodenlosigkeit) – they do not live in a fixed, self-contained house with walls and a roof, but in movable tents. Solid, immobile masonry walls have given way to shifting tent walls, canvas screens that make everything seem less material. Tent walls are wind walls. Sails uttering in the breeze. The tent wall billowing in the wind collects and processes the information streaming in and transforms the tent into a nest of creativity.