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Bibliophagus convictus / Bibliophagus / Bibliophagus

In this satirical fable, Flusser mocks among other things the growing importance of recycling and the recycling of that which has already been recycled, of plagiarism, the lack of originality and true creativity in the production of books, and the tsunami like character of book publications typical of present-day culture. This phenomenon extends to all other areas of cultural production and consumption. The Bibliophagus is a hybrid insect that lives in hives like bees and feeds only on printed alphanumeric texts that it consumes in paragraphs. It chews them with the help of an acid called “criticasis” that turns into “informasis” when if fuses with the printing ink. This morsel passes through the mouths of all other Bibliophagi who each swallow a small bit of the morsel which is then carried by a “mediator” to all other hives. Soon everyone is duly informed, and the new information leads to a genetic mutation of the species. However, any redundancy in the chewed and swallowed text morsels leads to a cancerous growth that affects each single Bibliophagus and their species as a whole. For this reason, the species has an interest in the generation of texts that do not contain redundancies. In order to survive it must intervene in the process of generating texts. In the brain of a deceased writer, one discovers a Bibliophagus that is still alive. The writer who had the insect placed inside his brain via a trepanation had died of an overdose of “informasis”. The trepanation has already assumed an epidemic character and spread all over the world. The earlier longer Portuguese and English versions “Bibliophagus” are written from the subjective point of view of the writer narrating how he met the insect , whereas the much shorter German variant “Bibliophagus convictus” makes use of a more distanced third person point of view. A corresponding English version has already been published in Flusser Studies 13. The imaginary creature of the Bibliophagus convictus is foreshadowed in Flusser’s “Bichos Series (I-V)” that has also been published in this issue.

Bibliophagus English (PDF 282.21 KB)
Bibliophagus Portuguese (PDF 271.37 KB)

Flusser’s Belief

This text is the third chapter of David Levis Strauss’ Photography and Belief, an examination of past and present convictions about the reality, authenticity, trustworthiness of the photographic image. Following on from considerations of the subjectivity of a photograph as developed by Benjamin, Barthes, and Berger, the photograph’s status as a sign and the implications of its indexicality, this chapter positions photography in a far broader context.  For Flusser recognises the photograph as the onset of a shift in human communications as vast as the invention of writing, introducing visual codes that undermine those of alphabetic writing, and opening completely different means of generating and storing information. Although Flusser spoke little of belief as such, he did speak often of doubt.  If we accept that doubt is not the opposite of belief, but of certainty, his approach touches continually on questions of belief. For Flusser remains uncertain whether the new society based on technical images – the first being the photograph – will be the most creatively exciting, humane society the world has ever known, or its very opposite, a mindless network of functionaries.

Flusser’s Belief (PDF 316.09 KB)

Telematic Freedom and Information Paradox

The text discusses the relations between the notions of freedom and information in Vilém Flusser’s philosophy and aims at systematizing this complex problem. Flusser’s ideas on freedom in the ages of programs are deeply indebted to modern science, in particular to thermodynamics (Léon Brillouin), biochemistry (Jacques Monod), and information theory (Claude E. Shannon). In this article I present this indebtedness, contextualize it within a wider scope of Flusser’s oeuvre, and argue that the notion of information – borrowed from the hard sciences – does not provide firm grounds for his existentialism or his philosophy of communication. On the contrary, information (understood by Flusser in a twofold and contradictory way as entropy and negentropy) introduces foundational ambivalence and ambiguity to his philosophical project. I conclude that information – as defined by mathematicians and physicists – allows us to express freedom in the technoscientific era of programs in a non-reductionist fashion.

Telematic Freedom (PDF 342 KB)