An Improbable Science Fiction
The essay explores Flusser’s thoughts on both the literary genre of science fiction, as understood by Suvin and Jameson, and the employment of fiction in science, an idea that can be traced back to Vaihinger’s scientific fictions. Texts such as The History of the Devil, “O bicho de sete cabeças” [The seven-headed beast], and “Science Fiction” are analyzed and compared, attentive to the philosophic and scientific insights informing them. Flusser believed most science fiction is banal (The History of the Devil) and, following information theory, proposed the genre should turn towards the possible, yet unlikely. He believed science fiction could be more than a mere empty diversion, a “turning aside from the original course”, and could actually become a window for us to see our future (“O bicho de sete cabeças”). In “Science Fiction”, he frames his topic more as a gray zone between science and imagination than as a literary genre. Fiction as epistemology. In this understanding of the term, the philosopher also links science fiction with the question of technical images, for he believes we are more likely to find it in synthetic images and computer algorithms than in texts. The present essay goes on to throw some light on the relationship between science fiction and real science, as well as between science fiction and the future. The impossibility of predicting the future is identified as a question pertinent to both science fiction and philosophy of science, and is explored through works of Hume, Meillassoux, Taleb, Bergson, and Berardi.
Pour un design radicalement circulaire. À propos des « Considérations écologiques » de Vilém Flusser
In his “Ecological Considerations”, an unpublished article written in French in 1984-1985, Vilém Flusser shows the limitations of a sharp opposition between nature and culture, and supports the provocative hypothesis of a naturalization of technology, which takes the form of a circular production. The notions of object and waste become the poles of a critique of consumption, which Flusser links to the development of digital programs and information theories. Examining this text, at a distance of nearly forty years, allows us to take a step back from the debates and controversies relating to the field of eco-design. It shows that a radically circular design would not change production and not even consumption, but the very definition of design.
Reversing the vectors of meaning. The diagrammatic language of Vilém Flusser
According to his own cultural analysis, Flusser was a man of yesterday. He, who wrote nearly every day of his life, was himself subject to the “textolatry” of modernity. A modernity, though, which would soon shift into a new epoch which Flusser and others had given similar names: post-histoire, post- modernity, information or telematic society. In this new situation, according to Flusser, written text would become a marginal code, soon to be superseded by the “technical image” as universal means of communication and information storage. Thus, Flusser described authors like himself, which would stay engaged with text, as “the new illiterates” of the upcoming age. But although Flusser was a man of the written word, I will argue that there was at least one type of sign system with which he also operated frequently and which can be linked to his image heuristics: the diagram. Scattered over his manuscripts, letters and notes, over 160 diagrammatic sketches can be found in the Vilém Flusser Archive. Compared to the thousands of documents in the archive, this seems to be a small number. But his diagrammatic sketches are not only interesting considering the nearly exclusively textual character of Flusser’s legacy; they can also be described as Flusserian technical images. According to the semiotic definition of the diagram by Charles S. Peirce, diagrammatic signs constitute a specific subclass of the icon: A diagram resembles its object not by visual but structural similarity. By drawing a diagram, one proposes a hypothesis about the structure of its object, thus manifesting an abstract concept as a concrete sign. Here we come close to Flusser’s notion of technical images as projections of abstract models. Following up on this comparison, the paper pleas for a non-trivial relation between Flusser’s heuristic of the technical image and his diagrammatic practice.