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Public/ Private Space

Vilém Flusser uses the distinction between private and public spaces throughout his work (“Private und öffentliche Räume,” lecture, 1979, in: Haarmann, Hanke, and Winkler, Play it again, Vilém!, 2015): from the Greek polis, that exterior res publica (public concern; republic) that forms the counterpart to the interior res privata (Kommunikologie weiter denken, 2009, p. 60), to the traditional city structured on the northern Italian model, to the urban spaces of modernity. With a reference to Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s frequently cited unhappy consciousness – when people go out into the world to experience it, they lose themselves in it; when they come home to find themselves, they lose the world (Bodenlos, 1992, p. 261; Kommunikologie weiter denken, p. 61) – Flusser underscores the necessary dialectic of oscillating between two poles, each of which functions in a way that presupposes the existence of the other.

However, the “informatic revolution” (Does Writing Have a Future?, 2011, p. 52) eliminates the private sphere, and with it the dichotomy: The private becomes public and is occupied by the omnipresence of the media that invade it via material and immaterial cables. The communications revolution sparked by electronic media “tears down the city walls, its channels perforating the roofs, its cables covering over the public spaces and causing them to disappear” (“Raum und Zeit aus städtischer Sicht,” in: Stadt-Räume, 1991, p. 22; translated from the German); the “home-as-one’s-castle” with “as many holes in it as a Swiss cheese […] has become a ruin with the wind of communication blowing through the cracks” (“With as Many Holes as a Swiss Cheese,” in: The Shape of Things, 1999, p. 83; translated from the German).

With the end of the oscillation (“Spaces,” 1991), private space, as a place where one stays and loses the world, no longer exists; nor does the republic, since it is now blanketed by cables (Kommunikologie weiter denken, p. 72); nor does public space, “now that politicians have pushed their way uninvited into the kitchen to give their speeches there, and the kitchen itself is no longer a private space, having been swept away by the media hurricane instead” (“Vom Tod der Politik,” in: Nachgeschichte, 1993, p. 207; translated from the German). 1) We are thus “witness to the demise of political consciousness” (Zwiegespräche, 1996, p. 217; translated from the German), which has been replaced by the new intersubjectivity of a networked structure.

Original article by Michael Hanke

Editorial note: This passage does not exist in the English edition.
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public_private_space.txt · Last modified: 2021/11/05 17:47 by