Goethe Institut, Munich, Germany
Andreas Max Ströhl was born in Munich in 1962. With an MA in German Philology and experience as a journalist, he joined the Goethe-Institut in 1988. He met Vilém Flusser during the final days of his life and organized a series of annual Flusser symposia in Prague until 1997. He has lectured, published, and taught extensively about Flusser, and has taught Media Theory at the Pedagogical Faculty of Innsbruck University. In 2009, he earned a PhD. on Flusser. He was director of the Munich Filmfest before becoming director of the Cultural Department and Weimar Symposium of the Goethe-Institute, and then its Regional Director for North America in Washington, DC.
Articles of Andreas Ströhl
Flusser's Take on Media Pedagogy
There is no non-medial perception. However, the apparatus producing techno-images tends to make us believe in something like an immediate perception. It suggests that we do not have to learn to decipher the programs behind those images. There is no possible revolution against this mechanism within the world it has created. We need to learn how to analyze these programs and to use them ourselves. Therefore, we need a pedagogy that is also - but not only - media pedagogy and exceeds the conventional realm of media literacy. Can any kind of pedagogy afford to exclude an aspect of the world as central as mediality? Media pedagogy should not be an addition to pedagogy but rather one of its integral parts. It has to teach a critique of images. We have to learn to distrust our own eyes. And we have to realize the slumbering potential for dialogue in the communication structures. We all have to become programmers. Otherwise society will decompose into factions of producers and recipients. And all of this will have to take place in our schools that otherwise will become obsolete and leave our children without the tools of understanding, criticizing and changing the world. Then, democracy would be no longer tenable.
Mediengeschichtliche Strömungen: das vorgefundene Prag
The short section included in this issue of Flusser Studies is an excerpt from my dissertation. It is part of the first chapter, a biography of Flusser. The text attempts to sketch a few of the countless influences Prague and Central European cultural traditions have exerted on the young Vilém Flusser. It is preceded by a section on his Prague origins. The dissertation also includes a second, related, excursus titled “Currents of Media History II. – The Prague Flusser Left behind.” The dissertation was conceived as a general view on Flusser’s work and life that could also serve as an introduction to his thought. From my point of view, Flusser should be considered, above all, a phenomenologist of different forms of communication.
The dissertation begins with a biographical introduction followed by a study of various aspects central to his thinking: media, code, apparatus, and dialogue. Furthermore, the history of his reception is dealt with extensively. The phenomenology of media, the philosophy of communication, and questions of cultural anthropology are reinterpreted within a Czech-German and Jewish Habsburg-Austrian environment that proved to be a fertile ground for the development of Flusser’s interests. In fact, Flusser can be regarded as one of the last representatives of the short but amazingly rich intellectual blossoming of the Jewish-Czech-German culture that was abruptly truncated by the German invasion of Prague in the spring of 1939. Taking into account the massive impact these cultural traditions of Old Central Europe had on Flusser, I argue that, in the development of Flusser’s thinking, a projection of Prague’s past onto the Brazilian future is recognizable. The source of this projection also sheds light on the consequences Flusser drew from the failure of the “Brazil Project” in the early 1970s.
1. Flusser und der Dialog. Negentropische Klimmzüge über der Bodenlosigkeit
Flusser‘s concept of dialog cannot be comprehended from a media theoretical point of view only. A more fruitful approach emerges from within the context of Flusser’s own model of culture that forms an epicycle intended to lend meaning to human life by creating information. This approach also encompasses a consideration of the influence of Judaeo-Christian traditions. We need to understand the changes the concept of dialog has undergone on its way from Martin Buber, for example, to Vilém Flusser.
Life is absurd in the face of its bottomlessness. Therefore, strategies are developed to make it more livable. In celebration and play we tend to forget death as a menace. Most of all, however, human beings try to overcome the futility and loneliness of a life toward death by means of dialog with other human beings. Recognition of the other as a „Thou“ is both the condition of a dialog and its result. Flusser revives and secularizes the concept of relationships of mutual recognition, a motif at the core of Jewish-Christian thought. Buber allows two ways for the „I“ to realize itself, in experiencing the world or, alternatively, in relation to a „Thou“. Flusser, however, insists on the exclusivity of the creation of the „I“ in dialog. Another significant shift of the concept of dialog from Buber to Flusser is that Buber interprets dialogs among humans as merely metaphorical. To him, true meaning is only possible through a dialog with god. Flusser, however, rejects the necessity of a final transcendental rationale. Thus, he secularizes Jewish- Christian tradition: it becomes an immanent task to take over responsibility for other human beings by means of dialog.
Dialogs realize free relationships of recognition and appreciation. Today, we are threatened by discursive massification. Therefore, dialogs need to be technically and socially implemented. Discursive structures and their technical materialization ought to be changed into dialogical channels. Again, Flusser’s utopia proves to be profane: The only chance for survival and viability lies in the collective memory of culture set up by dialogical networks.