To paraphrase Vilém Flusser in Towards a Philosophy of Photography (1984), media technologies do not transform the world, they transform the meaning of the world. They transform its symbolic dimension. We are no longer in the era of industry and production (of tools and machines). The imaging technology “apparatuses” do no work. The photographer – who is a metaphorical stand-in for all technology “programmers” – is not a proletarian. The structure of the gesture of photography is quantum. It is a gesture of doubt composed of point-like hesitations and point-like decisions. It is a typically postindustrial gesture. It is postideological and programmed. It takes information to be “real” in itself, not seeking to “decode” the alleged “meaning” of that information. Although it appears that the telematic society of the future will be divided into the two groups of those who write the computer programs and those who do not know how to write software code, the programmers will be indeed just as much the pawns of a system that will program their personalities on a micro-level through every keystroke that they type, in a society of programmers who are programmed.
Programming is the new name for what used to be called writing. Computer programming languages are structurally simple (they reduce to the digital binary code), but it is not simple to use them. They are structurally simple yet functionally complex. Programming, as it is presently constituted, leads to the automatic steering of human beings and society in a cybernetic system. Programming is the automation of the world. Yet programming can help us to move from an economy of scarcity to an economy of abundance where we would then be freed to create meaning in our lives. At times, Flusser seems to remain conceptually stuck within a binary opposition between productive and creative practices of notation. At other times, he seems to envision a way out of and beyond this aporia, a path towards meaningful expressivity emerging from the metamorphosis of programming codes. He anticipated this trend in computer art, in what today is called generative art.
Original article by Alan N. Shapiro