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Digital Apparition

“Digitaler Schein” (partially translated in 1996 as “Digital Apparition”) is an essay by Vilém Flusser from 1991 which is very characteristic of the debates of the time on the ontological status of computer-generated phenomena. By performing a kind of deconstruction of both concepts, Flusser tries to explain why we perceive digital images and sounds as “apparitions” rather than something “real.” He dismisses as “precipitous” the common answer given that the digital “alternative world” is an apparition because it consists entirely of “computed point elements.” For, from the perspective of the modern sciences as well, the “real” material world is also composed of the “point elements” of the mathematical and physical formalization of atoms, quarks, and so on. The “density of distribution” of these elements is the crucial difference, which in the future can be eliminated by technological progress: We will no longer be able to distinguish between the “givens” of nature and the “artificially produced.”

Since the development of “supercomputers,” science’s former “calculatory thought” has been replaced by “computing thought.” Life is not only analyzed – that is, described in the formal languages of mathematics, physics, or biology – but also synthesized, with the aid of digital computer technologies. For example, “artificial beings” are produced by means of genetic manipulations and new synthetic materials are produced. “Reality” itself is created from algorithms. Everything that is “mathematically conceivable” becomes “actually feasible.” For this reason, the original question has to be reformulated, and ask instead “whether everything, including ourselves, may have to be understood as a digital apparition” (“Digital Apparition,” in: Druckrey, Electronic Culture, 1996, p. 243).

Original article by Lioudmila Voropai in Flusseriana

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digital_apparition.txt · Last modified: 2021/11/05 17:47 by