User:Luni/Into the Universe of Technical Images, Vilém Flusser, 1985

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- What becomes most salient for Flusser’s theory of media is the consequence of writing for temporality. Flusser makes a great deal of the fact that writing is linear—that in this medium, one thing inexorably comes after another. One cannot easily skip around in a written text (i.e., until hypertext emerged with the digitization of writing).

- Like McLuhan, Flusser repeatedly hailed the end of print and the onset of the age of images. He opens his book on writing, for example, with the following: “Writing, in the sense of placing letters and other marks one after another, appears to have little or no future.”3 Just as McLuhan pronounced the end of the “Gutenberg Galaxy,” so Flusser proclaimed the end of writing.

- Flusser contrasts culture based on writing with culture based on images. In contrast to Derrida, Flusser associates the institution of writing not so much with a change in the form of memory (as différance) but with resistance to images: “Greek philosophy and Jewish prophecy are battle cries against images on behalf of texts.”8

- There is a thickening, intensification, and increasing complexity to the use of information machines, technologies that are necessary in the production, reproduction, storage, and distribution of texts, images, and sounds—the constituent elements of culture. This phenomenon has been termed a “media ecology,”1 adding a new layer to the ecologies of animal, vegetable, and mineral. It behooves anyone engaged in critical discourse to take serious account of media. I argue that media offer a key to understanding the process of globalisation in relation to a new configuration of interaction between humans and machines.

4 rungs that lead from the concrete experience into the universe of technical images:

1st step. Human beings have hands that can hold the immediate world at bay, bring it to a stop (so that the environment is no longer relevant). With this designation, the lifeworld falls into two areas: the area of the fixed, understood object and the area of the “one who understands,” the human subject standing apart from objects, the area of objective conditions and that of the existence of human beings. Action abstracts the subject from the lifeworld, brackets the subject out, and what remains is the three-dimensional universe of graspable objects, the problem to be solved. This universe of objects can now be transformed, informed by the subject. The result is culture.

2nd step. Hands do not handle things blindly but are monitored by eyes. The coordination of hand and eye, doing and seeing, practice and theory is a fundamental principle of existence. Circumstances can be observed before they are dealt with. Eyes can see only the surfaces of objects to be grasped, yet eyes command a field that is more comprehensive than that which hands can grasp. It is about taking a deep measure of circumstances and producing from it a two-dimensional realm of images between the situation and the subject: the universe of traditional images.

3rd step. Images stand before things. Man must therefore reach through images to change things. Grasping and acting follow from representational images, and since images are two- dimensional, the representations in them form a circle, that is, one draws its meaning from the other, which in turn lends its meaning to the next. Grasping and changing the environment through images is magical action. The difficulty here is that images aren’t graspable. They have no depth; they are only visible. But their surfaces can be grasped with fingers, and fingers that lift representations out of the surface to grasp them can count them and account for them. Linear texts come into being as a result of this gesture called “grasping.” Grasping involves a translation from representations into concepts, an explanation of images, an unraveling of pictorial surfaces into lines. This gesture abstracts one dimension from pictorial surfaces, reducing the image to a linear one-dimensionality. The result is a conceptual universe of texts, calculations, narratives, and explanations, projections of an activity that is not magical.

4th step. Texts are concepts strung together like beads on an abacus, and the threads that order these concepts are rules, orthographic rules. The circumstances described in a text appear by way of these rules and are grasped and manipulated according to them, that is, the structure of the text impresses itself on the circumstances, just as the structure of the image did. Both text and image are “mediations.”

The difference between traditional and technical images, then, would be this: the first are observations of objects, the second computations of concepts. The first arise through depiction, the second through a peculiar hallucinatory power that has lost its faith in rules. Both text and image are “mediations.” For a long time, this was not easy to see because the orthographic rules (above all logic and mathematics) produce far more effective actions than the magic that had come before. And we have only recently begun to realize that we don’t discover these rules in the environment (e.g., in the form of natural laws); rather they come from our own scientific texts. This emerging universe, this dimensionless, imagined universe of technical images, is meant to render our circumstances conceivable, representable, and comprehensible.

"If we want to describe the world, it is not sufficient to describe it by words, it is necessary to calculate the world."

"Before the invention of writing, traditional images were used as maps of the world"

Functionally complex systems - you can use it in a complex way. Chess board - very simple system, but has a very complex functional manipulations. Those are a challenge to creative thought.

Structurally complex systems/ functionally simple systems are idiotic - elements maintain a complex relation to each other - TV - the system structure is complex, but the use is simple.

Images are articulations of thoughts, not representations of world.

Essayism is philosophising for itself while academic thought is philosophising for a value