What is man? To this traditionally phrased question, which views human nature in the singular, Vilém Flusser interjects: The search for a definitive human essence is, like the search for the origins of matter, tied to the rational paradigm of scientific and technological appropriation of the world; therefore, “individual” and “atom” are synonymous (“Automation und künstlerische Kompetenz,” in: Dencker, Interface 1, 1992, p. 156). But instead of arriving, through ever finer applications of reason, at indivisible elements, the modern era’s calculatory mode of thinking has resolved both subjects and objects into swarms of bits of information, foregrounding them as “fleeting abstractions” (Vom Subjekt zum Projekt, 1994, pp. 126, 11). This loss of confidence in the solidity of subjects and of things, this growing critical awareness of the conditionality and boundaries of causal science, says Flusser, points to the current crisis, but also to the potential within the inevitable cultural upheaval.
Whereas Western civilization’s image of the self and the world has been founded on the ideological dichotomy between subjectivity and objectivity, between individual and society, Flusser now calls for an anthropology that views humans as an extrapolation from concrete relational fields: when the self-contained “I” becomes so absorbed as to recognize itself in the “you” of another, in the context of a concrete “we,” then the culture of the future can be shaped by creative dialogue in interpersonal relationships (“Gedächtnisse,” in: Philosophien der neuen Technologie, 1989, pp. 52–54). In making this appeal, Flusser is pinning his hopes on new technological conditions – which, however, require a two-way connection rather than “bundled” communication. Only the structure of an intersubjective network can allow the mutual realization of those close to one another in the machine-aided ow of information, of statement and response (Medienkultur, 1997, pp. 146–147).
Original article by Steffi Winkler in Flusseriana