A new form of imagination (Einbildungskraft) is a central concept for Vilém Flusser, for whom it describes the unique ability of humans to create images. In the history of philosophy, imagination is typically disparaged as a minor faculty in terms of its epistemological significance. Flusser turns this premise on its head, positing a profound shift from text culture to a new visual culture (from the one-dimensional linearity of historiography to the new concretization of number-based magic), and from industrial to postindustrial society, thus highlighting the active, generative aspect of the Kantian concept of Einbildungskraft. To Flusser, Einbildungskraft no longer simply means the ability to visualize what does not exist; on the contrary, his interpretation presumes that we can abstract from the things we comprehend, and then convert that knowledge into an image.
The nature of the technical image – from photography to computer graphics – is thus key to Flusser’s argumentation. He proceeds from the assumption that the technical image is no longer a representation of facts and circumstances, but rather an expression of calculations. It thus becomes a model, a projection. New media call for a new imagination that is different from traditional imagination. Flusser speaks of a “concretizing gesture” (“Eine neue Einbildungskraft,” in: Bohn, Bildlichkeit, 1990, p. 22; translated from the German). The linear character of digital codes is something he does not discuss. By mobilizing the new imagination, he hopes to overcome the crisis of linearity and impart cohesiveness to a much-divided world. In his last book, Angenommen [Suppose That] (1989), Flusser outlines an experimental philosophy that can be interpreted as a set of instructions for new synthetic images. At the very beginning of that book, he announces a “hunt” for people whose new imagination enables them to transcode into video imagery the concepts and ideas contained in the sequence of scenes he has sketched out.