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Diagram

Vilém Flusser’s manuscripts, with their densely filled typewritten pages, are only interrupted by small sketches in a very few places. They testify to special moments in his thinking when in friction with the text they break down concepts: the spatially thinking subject in a magical universe of images, the processual consciousness lined up under the impression of writing, dialogic structures that recall Paul Baran’s graphs in On Distributed Communications (1964). With a few exceptions, such as the synoptic diagram “Fisiologia da Língua” [Physiology of Language] in Língua e Realidade [Language and Reality] (1963), they are operative, diagrammatic sketches. They do not depict facts, but rather make it possible to imagine relationships.

This suggests that, methodologically, Flusser’s sketches could have been important for formulating the concepts of “image” and “technical image.” And despite the fact that Flusser distanced himself from semiotics, there are astonishing parallels between his concept of the image and the concepts of the diagram in Charles Sanders Peirce and Félix Guattari.

The gesture of making an image, as Flusser wrote in 1973/1974, is not a gesture of depicting; rather, it is supposed to make it possible to “imagine relationships between the objects of the world” (Kommunikologie, 1996, p. 115; translated from the German). This imaginative potential and the structural definition of the image resemble Peirce’s concept of the diagram, which enables experimentation with configurations of its object – a potential that Peirce wanted to work out in his “existential graphs.” We know from Flusser’s correspondence that he heard about Peirce’s graphs in 1973 (correspondence with Thyllis M. Williams, March 3, 1973).

Even before the criterion for technical images became their generation by apparatus in his later writings, in his work Kommunikologie [Communicology] Flusser had defined their meaning as crucial: they signify concepts. This criterion can also apply to images produced in the traditional way; he cites his sketches as an example. The technical images do not refer to objects, but instead fill the empty world of processual consciousness with meaning. This inversion of the signified–signifier relationship corresponds to Guattari’s definition of the diagram as no longer a sign, but rather a structural projection which actually produces its referent in the first place.

Original article by Daniel Irrgang in Flusseriana

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diagram.txt · Last modified: 2021/11/05 17:47 (external edit)