Flusser’s Demon.Writing Under the Eye of an Automatic Critic
In our word-processors and our social networks, algorithms read and judge our writing in increasingly sophisticated (and invasive) ways. This paper positions Flusser as a key theorist in the conceptualization of computer-mediated writing. In Into the Universe of Technical Images, Flusser glimpses the potential for “automatic critics” to filter and censor writing at a mass scale, not merely correcting infelicities but stringently enforcing all sorts of aesthetic virtues. For him, such a critic would be a “demon” that, in the style of the demon described by James Clerk Maxwell’s famous thermodynamic thought-experiment, would impact language at the level of its entropy. After considering the (slippery, conflicting, and provocative) ways that Flusser uses thermodynamic principles and information theory to imagine an automatic critic that encourages (a statistically-determinable kind of) creativity, I then consider my own example of a “Flusser’s demon.” StyleVise is an automatic critic that I designed to force me to use more complicated syntactic structures. I describe the workings of this system and think through what our linguistic universe would look like if such automatic critics were widespread. While Flusser foresees a future in which human judgment has been almost totally outsourced to machines, I worry about a different future, a “demonic arms race” in which we competitively scramble to acquire the most sophisticated artificially-intelligent writing assistants. Despite or because of this worry, I call for practitioners of “electronic literature” to turn towards the important task of designing demons that mediate our minds in ways that are beneficial not just to the individual but also to the public.
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.
The Free Will Impasse
This essay discusses the concepts of entropy and negentropy used by Vilém Flusser in his philosophy of photography to delineate connections between science and art. If the act of finding order within chaos has always been a quality specific to human beings, the overwhelming role machines hold in our society casts shadows on human agency. Since the Enlightenment, humankind has carried on a regimentation of nature with the goal of finding a way of theorizing everything within it. In the same way, empirical sciences have studied and portrayed the world of phenomena according to the laws of the moment. Shifting from prejudice to prejudice, however, they have never succeeded in finding an all-inclusive theory. Their way of systematization was adapted to all other areas of life, imposing itself through the norms of capitalism and production, leaving little space for human beings. In this scenario, human beings become puppets or tools. In this context, the arts are called upon to develop viable strategies to counteract the overwhelming power of social and technological control.
Drafting the Techno-Imagination: A Future for Literary Writing?
Vilém Flusser paints a dire picture for the future of literary writing. He contests that it is doomed to be replaced by automated language games. In that sense, one can see literature and the image-culture as antagonistic forces. Drawing on examples from contemporary German literature, however, I show in which ways the literary imagination may contribute to the formation of the techno-imagination. The authors Ulrike Draesner and Thomas Lehr scrutinize the impact that visual media has on conceptual thinking and identity. Core ideas from Flusser’s media theory, such as the photographer as homo ludens, communication as resistance to natural entropy, and the re-conceptualization of space and time, feature prominently in the two 2005 novels Spiele (Games) and 42. In these texts, the imaginative capacity of fictional literature provides a conceptual space in which a new awareness towards technical images is drafted, tested, and reviewed.
A natureza de Vilém Flusser: experiências limites
In the book O mundo codificado, Vilém Flusser claims that the purpose of life is to make us forget the lack of sense in life, which constantly moves us towards death. We are subjected to it in nature's domain. According to Flusser, human communication is unnatural given that its goal was once to organize and store information. However, we ask, is it really possible to oppose culture and nature as entropy and negentropy, the given and the constructed? This article discusses the concept of nature proposed by Vilém Flusser in relation to the representations of nature in the works of the writer Guimarães Rosa and of the botanist C.F.P. Von Martius.
Las Matemáticas en el Pensamiento de Vilém Flusser
This paper aims to establish the importance of mathematical thinking in the work of Vilém Flusser. For this purpose it highlights the concept of the staircase of abstraction with which the Czech German philosopher finishes by reversing the top of the traditional pyramid of knowledge, we know from Plato and Aristotle. It also assumes an implicit cultural revolution in the refinement of the numerical element in a process of gradual abandonment of the purely alphabetic code, highlighting the new key code within the technological and telematic culture and uses the concepts of game theory, of probability theory and computing to analyze society and culture. Of particular importance is the affirmation of a new kind of imagination, a projective one. Today’s society and culture cannot be understood without resorting to the concepts and results coined and made in the course of developing a type of thinking entirely dominated by the mathematics.
Cartas Flusserianas: diagnóstico sobre correspondência com Sérgio Paulo Rouanet
The purpose of this essay is to comment on the reading of a set of letters exchanged by Vilém Flusser (1920 - 1991) and Sérgio Paulo Rouanet (1934). The exchang e comprising 56 letters altogether – 30 by Flusser himself – took place between 1980 and 1991. It focuse d on some of Flusser’s most important concepts: the relationship of discourse and dialogue, the idea of ‘Apparat’, the existential dimension of writing, as well as the meaning of death and entropy for a theory of communication. Rouanet’s pertinent criticism reveals also some unexpected sides of Flusser’s theoretical assumptions.