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“The Lens is to Blame”: Three Remarks on Black Boxes, Digital Humanities, and The Necessities of Vilém Flusser’s “New Humanism”

This paper offers a brief exploration of Vilém Flusser’s proposed yet undeveloped concept of “new humanism” and argues for the centrality of the concept for a distinct ethical-political track that winds its way through all of his writings on communication, media, and technology, in addition to his explicit references to exile and nationalism. Because changing technologies circumscribe the field of possibility for human activity, the analysis of technology then becomes a matter of anthropology. By placing these questions at the center of his inquiries into communications and media, Flusser re-conceives the human subject itself, ensuring that his “new humanism” is not a return to any established version, but will reckon with the fact that technological development prompts changes in the definitions of the human itself. I also consider his demand for a new humanism an exemplary case for a relation to the master terms of the Enlightenment and humanistic investigation in the digital age, which persists after digitality even as they are recoded.

The Lens (PDF 288.12 KB)

Das handlungsfähige Projekt? oder: Die Frage nach der Subjekthaftigkeit des Projekts in der Menschwerdung. Zwischen Geste, Projektion und Verantwortung

In the thinking of Vilém Flusser, the question of subjectivity is linked to the question of being human (Mensch-Sein) or becoming human (Mensch-Werden). The human subject should be considered as dependent on media’s cultural and anthropological conditions. In this context, changes in media conditions lead to changes of the human subject. Flusser calls this process a media-cultureanthropological evolution. According to this thesis, the human being is no longer defined as a subject in relation to an object but rather as a “project in a (second) incarnation” (Menschwerdung). The human subject is progressively freed from its dependency on an objective world. Therefore, the dichotomy of subject and object disappears and our existential condition of being in the world (In-der-Welt-Sein) change. We give up the idea of a given and still standing world in favor of an inter-subjective construction, in which the “I”, “You,” and “It” turn out to be projections. The question is: are we still able to talk about the ability to act (Handlungsfähigkeit) in the context of a post-historical project? Isn’t acting a genuine gesture/expression of the understanding of the “subject of objects,” and of agency in the “objective world”?