For Vilém Flusser, the figure of the engineer is subliminally ambiguous. Engineers stand with one foot in the old mechanical-causal-historical view of the world and with the other in the new programmatic-modal-calculatory worldview. As homo faber, the engineer belongs to the bygone industrial era. At the same time, it is the engineers who advance the development of technology, especially of computers, and help to bring about the transition to post-history. Since Flusser is less interested in how this transition actually came about than in how one can best make oneself at home in the new world, he does not specifically address the role played by the engineer.
Homo faber represents comprehensible social relations; he is the one who builds the machines, the one to whose rhythms the factory workers must conform. He symbolizes the practical side of the Enlightenment. In the mechanical-causal worldview, his machines channel the forces of nature in accordance with our wishes. This intentional metabolic exchange with nature follows a precise construction plan, which is realized by the machines. In a special way, the engineer embodies the optimism of being able to shape the world according to one’s own desires without significant incident. If we contrast homo faber with the calculatory form of existence, he is revealed as someone who works with his hands, who is embroiled in the material, physical side of the world, quite unlike the figure of the symbol- manipulating “player” of post-history, who is represented by the type of the artist-computer scientist.
It is worth considering how much of the homo faber mythos Flusser allows to ow into his utopia of the telematic society. Are the post-historical projects in which alternative worlds are communally processed not variants of the nature-dominating homo faber, one step further idealized? But this time with an intersubjective orientation, and articulated in the register of communication rather than that of work.
Original article by Suzana Alpsancar in Flusseriana