Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Vilém Flusser - post-historical and techno-images

There won't be too much of Flusser in my new book. This is not a judgment against Flusser, just a question of me not having enough time to really dig deep enough into his work, and figuring out where exactly he would sit comfortably in relation to "media archaeology". He has his place, which is evidenced by his writings popping up in media archaeological teaching curricula, through his relation to some of the variantology and Zielinski-direction writings, by the intensive work by such scholars as Erick Felinto and others. And now, several translations of his work are out (see the Electronic Mediations-series) - so we can expect an intensive interest, perhaps.

And indeed, we can find great ideas in Flusser. His essay on the typewriter ("Why do typewriters go 'click'") is one of my favourites, and similarly in this text on "Text and Image" Flusser's thoughts amount to a medium-specific understanding why technical media demands a different attitude to that of a focus on narrative and story-telling. In short, Flusser is saying that it is almost an ethical demand that we do not see technical media such as TV as story-telling...

Hence, his way of pointing towards a post-historical attitude is curious in relation to media archaeology as a possibly post-historical, mediatic way of understanding for instance perception, consciousness and time.

"The new post-historical existential climate which characterises the technoimage culture articulates itself in many ways, for instance in structuralism, cybernetics, scenario-based politology, or trans-ideologisation. It may be concretely observed in the programs impressed into the memories of computers, intelligent tools, and miniprocessors. However, it is as yet very far from having become entirely conscious. We live, all of us, as yet on the magico-mythical and on the historical level. We decipher, all of us, TV programmes as if they were traditional images or as if they were linear texts telling some story. Which means that we find ourselves in the same situation that illiterate Israelites found themselves in faced by the Sinai stone tablets. Instead of deciphering these programmes critically, we adore them. It is difficult for us to live and think on the level on which techno-images are made. This is why they tend to programme us, just as texts programmed the masses during their illiterate situation. Unless we learn how to decipher techno-images, unless we may achieve what may be called "conscious techno-imagination" , we are bound to become dominated by the apparatus-operator complex. Which seems to function objectively, but which in reality manipulates us from the subjective, although inhuman, point of view of the apparatus." (Flusser, in Variantology 4. On Deep Time Relations of Arts, Sciences and technologies in the Arabic-Islamic World and Beyond, edited by Siegfried Zielinski and Echard Fürlus. Walther König, Köln 2010: 115).¨

You can find echoes of such a relation to media competency in Zielinski too (Deep Time of the Media, for instance the final chapter), and it's relation to understanding digital image cultures is intriguing. The links to media archaeology are multiple, and probably we will soon more good work that explicates these links in more detail.

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