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Flussers In the Universe of Technical Images was published in 1985, and was part of a surge of speculative, science-fiction like books and films about the information age that was slowly but surely emerging. Related titles include William Gibsons Neuromancer (1984), Jean Baudrillards Fatal Strategies (1983), Paul Virilio’s Negative Horizon (1984), and James Camerons The Terminator (1984). In the book Flusser tries to speculatively come up with a set of concepts that would allow him to enter into the Universe of technical images that is slowly but surely coming about in the 1980’s. In Chapter 11 he makes a fundamental shift in his writing strategy, and decides to go beyond the philosophical project of inventing new concepts for new situations, and actually enter the Universe of Technical Images in order to become the future ‘telematic man’. The next 10 chapters are among the best ever written by Flusser and describe what he sees and experiences as telematic philosopher in UTI. He makes a distinction between traditional or handmade images, technical or machinic images and dialogical, digital images. This last category is interactive, democratic, open, divine, as is the corresponding telematic man.

Meaning and Agency in the Universe of Technical Images

This presentation is about the differences between traditional or handmade images, technical images made by apparatuses, and dialogical, interactive images. What Flusser called technical images we call analogue images. Digital images are understood by Flusser under the name of dialogical or interactive images. Flusser wasn’t yet able to make this clear distinction in 1985 when writing Into the Universe of Technical Images, but this is how both types of images developed since then.

Meaning and Agency (PDF 1.32 MB)

To Save Philosophy in a Universe of Technical Images

Philosophy, origin and apotheosis of the Humanist project, seems to have been surpassed in a world of extreme and ubiquitous automated processes. Automation threatens to truly “taken control”, and subordinate all human activity to the functions inscribed in the machine. The kaleidoscopticon of contemporary culture seems to indicate a return to pre-literate “magical thinking” but it is in fact a product of highly literate scientific, technical literacy. Flusser urges us to encounter the persistent importance of causal, textual thinking at work inside every apparatus to help steer the transformations, which are taking place in ourselves and in our world. Flusser makes this plea alongside a contention that linear, causal, conventional textual practices are no longer adequate to convey our ideas and experience highly in-formed by the new technologies. He exhorts us to use “technical images”. It becomes evident that Flusser’s project is to save philosophy, or restate the importance of philosophical practices, in an age where literacy has gone sub rosa. Using examples from Flusser’s experimental collaborations with artists Louis Bec and Fred Forest, this short essay will attempt to elaborate what Flusser means with philosophical practice, which uses technical images.

To Save Philosophy (PDF 217.35 KB)

Da soggetti a progetti. L'abbandono dell'Humanismus in Vilém Flusser

By focusing on two of Flusser’s last writings, this essay tries to address the question of the relationship between Flusserian thought and the tradition of humanism. Moving towards a form of intersubjectivity based on dialogue and mutual responsibility, Flusser succeeded in breaking the bonds that bind the contemporary subject to modernity’s unbearable burden. He described the meaning of a contemporary becoming human in a very distinctive way. Indeed, the trajectory drawn by Flusser is not entirely superimposable on the actual vernacular of post-humanism and I believe that its deepening could open us up to more responsible ways to deal with technological development and “post-humanist technologies”.

Da soggetti a progetti (PDF 210.21 KB)

O místico e o feiticeiro. Contrapontos entre imagem técnica e narrativa seqüencial em Alan Moore e Vilém Flusser

By using an analogy from the Kabbalah, this paper compares Flusser’s thought-design with ideas from the graphic-writer Alan Moore, in order to show their unique similarities, their differences of perspective, and especially the involuntary complementarity of their notions of “narrative” and “image” — for us, twin foundations for the theoretical definition of “Sequential Art.”

O místico (PDF 260.3 KB)

Das Ding im Werk von Vilém Flusser und Eudoro de Souza

The question about the thing is one of the main topics in the work of Vilém Flusser. It seeks to reconsider not only the phenomenology of the things and the problem between the natural and the cultural objects but, importantly, a focus on the “thing” forefronts his theory about human evolution from the manipulation of things towards the digitization of the so called non-things. The connection between Eudoro de Sousa and Vilém Flusser, both friends of the Brazilian Philosopher Vicente Ferreira da Silva in the 1950s in São Paulo, goes also back to the History of the Devil, in which Flusser reinterpreted the Devil as a) the lord of the things and b) the time and the seven sins as the inner mechanism of western civilization. In the 1980s, Eudoro de Sousa, wrote his Mythology, in which he also considers the diabolic force of instrumental reason and the necessity of recovering the symbolic possibility and the reintegration of all things in some kind of final harmony. Both philosophers where influenced by the work of Martin Heidegger, and the present essay tries to show their adaptation of Heidegger’s thinking as well as the parallels between Eudoro de Sousa’s and Vilém Flusser’s vision of overcoming the “diabolic” crisis of Western industrialized civilization.

Das Ding (PDF 284.13 KB)

Flusser and the Polish (Photography) Novels

Reading Polish photographic novels through Flusser presents an expression that metaphorically depicts the principal aim of this essay. Vilém Flusser’s Towards a philosophy of photography is one of the crucial theoretical texts for current work in the field of comparative literature. Flusser’s theories are key for understanding the phenomenon of intermediality, which consists of the relations between photography and literature. This essay explains why, how, and in which type of novels Flusser’s theory is sustainable and relevant for intermedial analysis. Two Polish novels were chosen for this interpretation: “Pamiętnik diabła” by Irek Grin and “Fototerapia” by Katarzyna Sowula. The novels reflect on Flusser’s concepts in several ways, as well as on the analysis of the problems of photographic ethics and aesthetics involved in their narration. In the essay, Markowska focuses on the following issues present in the narratives of the novels: a photographer as literary character, ethical responsibilities of documentary photography, the book as a new medium, that is, the textual and visual reproduction of images within the literary art work. The analytical part is preceded by a theoretical introduction explaining Flusser’s photographic theory and the philosopher’s dialogue with ideas by Walter Benjamin, Susan Sontag and Roland Barthes.

Polish Novels (PDF 317.86 KB)

Technický obraz a logická stavba (Bau): Flusser a Wittgenstein / Das technische Bild und der logische Bau: Flusser und Wittgenstein

Both Wittgenstein and Flusser tried to find an answer to the question: how are media possible? Although Wittgenstein does not ask this question explicitly it can be detected in his Tractatus. Because of this fundamental similarity between both thinkers, it is possible to read Wittgenstein's theory of logical form from the point of view of Flusser's concept of techno-image and to interpret Flusser's notion of medium from the point of view articulated in Wittgenstein's Tractatus. At the same time, it is necessary to focus on their differences. Wittgenstein deals with the problem of the form of a significant world, while Flusser
focuses on the problem of specific artifacts, that is, technical images. For Wittgenstein a medium is generally one object placed among other objects. Flusser, on the other hand, is interested in a specific medium situated among other artifacts.

Technický obraz (PDF 140.61 KB)
Das technische Bild (PDF 124.98 KB)

Deception and the “Magic” of “Technical Images” According to Flusser

Flusser’s theory of communication addresses the modern images – “technical images” – in the context of a general theory of deception generated by the different communication codes. “Technical images,” as the dominant communication code, imply, according to Flusser, a retrieval of magical forms of consciousness. Such a retrieval seems to be necessary as a result of that what McLuhan would term the overheating of the alphabet technology: lineal codes in their most salient form, namely scientific texts, do not offer any existential meaning, requiring a reversal to magical consciousness fostered by images.

Deception (PDF 171.43 KB)