Back in 1942, Ernst Cassirer already proposed that cultural studies should integrate technology and science; in 1937, Max Bense’s PhD dissertation was titled Quantenmechanik und Daseinsrelativität [Quantum Mechanics and Relativity of Being]; and in the early 1940s, Arnold Gehlen discussed the new status of humans confronted by nature that was now informed by technology, as did Günther Anders in his major study Die Antiquiertheit des Menschen. Über die Seele im Zeitalter der zweiten industriellen Revolution [The Obsolescence of Mankind: On the Soul in the Age of the Second Industrial Revolution] (1956). After the catastrophes of the Second World War – also perceived as aberrations of the rationale of technology – various concepts that originated in the early history of the university, known as Studium generale or fundamentale, were again put on the agenda at Europe’s major universities and institutes of technology.
Vilém Flusser’s particular proposal for dedicated education is to teach communication by teaching communication theory. For Flusser, education works as an objective method of transmission that aims at preserving the structure of the civil model and the specific values of Western paideia [Greek: education, learning]. This model and these values brought forth a polytechnical and instrumental education – a result of the Renaissance educational system of the uomo universale and of industrial specialists – which privileges reason over humankind’s political, ethical, and aesthetic dimensions. The main consequences are “on the one hand, the ‘value-free,’ empty, abstract universe of scientific theories, and, on the other hand, the ‘value-free’ transformation of the world by technology that is taking on ever more absurd dimensions” (“Für eine Schule der Zukunft,” in: Neue Zürcher Zeitung, November 18, 1982, p. 77; translated from the German).
As a response to this traditional model of education, Flusser suggested an education that would be capable of articulating the entirety of knowledge and would overcome the separation between science, politics, and arts. His proposal, which he developed in dialogue with Miguel Reale and which was initially referred to as Studium generale, is explained and summarized in the following texts: “Ensino” [Teaching] (in: Folha de São Paulo, February 19, 1972), “Ensino Superior” [UniversityTeaching] (in: Folha de São Paulo, February 22, 1972), “Para uma Escola do Futuro” [For a School of the Future] (in: Inter-Facies, 1983), and “Nossa Escola” [Our School] (in: Pós-História, 1983) / “Our School” (in: Post-History, 2013). The texts were published after Flusser had tried to put this proposal into practice in the planning of the Faculty of Communication and Human Sciences of the Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado (FAAP) in São Paulo.
Flusser’s concept of teaching communication was directed at replacing education based on a great deal of information and few rules with education based on little information and many rules; in other words, changing technocratic knowledge into dedicated knowledge. Communicology should enable students, equipped with a universal awareness, to participate in a variety of disciplines (games) and to process and summarize the different layers of meaning in any phenomenon experienced. To achieve this, teachers would reject preestablished models in order to sow the seeds of doubt, and would offer dialogues capable of “creating intellectual unrest” (Bodenlos, 1992, p. 222; translated from the German). This would prepare students to reformulate society’s communicological fabric.
Original article by Diogo Bornhausen