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<nettime> English summary of PhD on Vilem Flusser by Andreas Ströhl
Geert Lovink on Mon, 19 Jul 2010 16:32:40 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> English summary of PhD on Vilem Flusser by Andreas Ströhl

(For those who read German, or soon will, this is a great read, in  
particular the last part on his 'dialogical life'. Becoming media  
theorist as a fate. Such a Schicksal?! /Geert)


English summary of PhD on Vilem Flusser by  Andreas Ströhl:

Vilém Flusser worked as a philosopher, author and university teacher  
in four countries. A native Czech, born in Prague in 1920, he died as  
a Brazilian citizen in a car accident in 1991 near Bor u Tachova,  
Czechoslovakia. Flusser experienced his last-minute escape from Nazi- 
occupied Prague in 1940 and the loss of almost all his family through  
deportations into death camps as a permanent crisis of an existential  
“bottomlessness“. In Brazil, he engaged himself in the creation of a  
new society, progressive and utopian at the same time. As a reaction  
to the dooming failure of that project he moved to France in 1973,  
after three decades in São Paulo. His oeuvre is scattered over four  
languages and many publishing houses, who have marketed Flusser as a  
media theorist in rather unbalanced and biased ways. Consequently, the  
reception of Flusser as a phenomenologically oriented theorist and  
critic of culture has remained marginal. However, 18 years after his  
untimely death, Flusser’s reputation as an original philosopher in his  
own right is growing – especially in Brazil, Central Europe and most  
recently also in the English-speaking world.

In his texts, Vilém Flusser focused on the epochal paradigm shift from  
a culture of “linear thinking“ towards new ways of communication with  
technical images and digital codes. Flusser conjures up the hope that  
the implementation of the new technologies of communication enable a  
“telematic“ society that allows for the recognition of the Other in  
dialogues. The dissertation aims at a critical overall view of  
Flusser’s thinking in its entirety – the first endeavour of this kind.  
Its explicit objective is to reposition Flusser as a communications  
phenomenologist whose intention is to affect society and its further  
development. A biographical introduction to Flusser is followed by a  
study of various terms and aspects central to his thinking. Critiques  
of Flusser are evaluated in depth as well as the history of his  
reception. The thematic complexes of medial codes, of dialogues and of  
the apparatus as well as Flusser’s specific concept of “humanisation“  
are dealt with in detail. In this approach the phenomenology of media,  
the philosophy of communications and questions of cultural  
anthropology are put in the context of an analysis of the Czech-German  
and Jewish Habsburg-Austrian environment that proved to be fertile  
ground for the development of Flusser’s interests and theses. 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 put to a sudden halt by the German invasion into  
Prague in 1939.

Taking into account the massive impact these cultural traditions of  
Old Central Europe had on Flusser, the text argues that in the  
development of Flusser’s thinking a projection of the Prague past onto  
the Brazilian future can be recognized. The source of this projection  
also sheds light on the consequences Flusser drew from the failure of  
the “Brazil Project“ in the early 1970s. Flusser’s thinking in his  
late period aims at the development of a theory of technical images as  
the centerpiece of a more comprehensive theory of culture. The theory  
of techno-images thus becomes a critique of the “general apparatus of  
culture and the position of human beings in it“, because the “present  
cultural revolution is not ideological but technical“. In the course  
of his life Flusser changed from a political cultural activist into a  
phenomenological cultural theorist reformulating traditional  
philosophy under medial conditions as a philosophy of communications.  
The purpose of this endeavour was to develop a description of the  
creation of meaning not only in individual processes but also within a  
wider social context. The latter was to a large extent based on Martin  
Buber’s concept of “dialogical life“, substantially refined and de- 
theologized by Flusser. From this perspective, the creation and  
circulation of new information in society is a cultural necessity, and  
it can only be achieved through dialogue.

Due to the situation Flusser found himself in, in the face of a post- 
historical society threatened by a process of massification through  
discourses, the philosopher of culture was forced to act as a  
communicologist. However, he had to be more than a mere theorist of  
the media: both a theorist of culture and a philosopher. The  
connection between the creation of meaning for individuals through  
dialogue on the one hand and the functioning of society on the other  
is to be considered the paramount contribution of Flusser’s thinking.  
Flusser strove for a theoretical foundation for the organisation of  
present and future culture and for the preservation of its potential  
to further develop under the condition of structures of communication  
dominated by apparatus.

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