Vilém Flusser identifies the possibility of establishing truly dialogic conditions in a reversal of the logic of apparatuses’ material wiring; that is, the transformation of the bundle of monodirectional cables in a network of reversible waves that would offer to any receiver the possibility to actively participate in production of images based on dialogue. He imagines a “telematic information society” in which all the interested persons would be connected in a constant dialogue with each other (“Bilderstatus,” in: Joachimides and Rosenthal, Metropolis, 1991, pp. 50–51). In this vision, which follows Bertolt Brecht’s famous radio theory of the late 1920s, telematics is the technique that made possible the transition from unidirectional media (radio, television, etc.) to multidirectional networks. Telematics is, therefore, the technology that would enable the concrete realization of a telematic society based on dialogism; that is, an “ideal society” in which dialogue (production of information) and discourse (transmission of information) are in balance (Into the Universe of Technical Images, 2011, p. 83).
The crucial challenge for Flusser is to understand that – despite the inherent technical construction that would predispose them to function in a dialogic way – telematic gadgets support discursive social structures because their users are programmed to use them “in this way and no other” (ibid., p. 85). “Users of gadgets,” he writes, “are programmed to distract themselves,” (ibid.) but telematics is not a means for recreation, instead it may be used for conversation. With the transposition of such an indication technical images will change character, they will become “surfaces where information is produced and through which people can enter into dialogue” (ibid.). A society in dialogue through images is to Flusser a society of homines ludentes in which dialogue would enable the rendering of unforeseen and unpredictable situations (that is, situations able to work against entropy) in images and the generation of new relationships. Above all, the central point about the Flusserian conception is that “a consensus would arise, allowing society to program the apparatuses by means of images” (ibid., p. 86).
Flusser’s utopia is ultimately that of a social fabric made up of individuals who program the apparatuses with the consciousness that such an attitude is the only way to avoid being programmed.
Original article by Vito Campanelli