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The finger has had an impressive career in media theory, one foreseen by Vilém Flusser. In Gesten [Gestures] (1991), he discusses the basic finger-directed movement of pressing while writing, evidence of the transition from body to media inscription (Gesten, 1991, S. 35). Additionally, in Flusser’s phenomenology of media the finger, as an offshoot of the body part most important to the anthropotechnic transformation, the hand, is a functional element in the larger ensemble of seizing, grasping, and reaching. However, it was not until the advent of point plotting, computing, and digitization (from the Latin digitus, finger; digitulus, small finger) that the finger emerged into view. Flusser distinguishes between the finger and the fingertip: “The hand makes humankind the subject of the world, the eye makes it the surveyor of the world, fingers make it ruler of the world, and through the fingertips, humankind becomes what gives the world meaning.” (Into the Universe of Technical Images, 2011, pp. 28–29)

Fingers type. Yet the typewriter key, which is operated by the whole finger, is different from the keys on a computer keyboard, which are only touched by the fingertip. Writing on a computer is not compatible with hard, material gestures; it does not rely on convincing, one-upping, strong-arm discourse, but on the linking, dialogic imagination. Thus the movement of the fingertip, or rather the tip of the fingertip, has become the most important gesture for working with smartphone interfaces, while typing has given way to swiping – a media development anticipated by Flusser’s phenomenology.

Original article by Oliver Fahle

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