Animated Animals and Metabolic Machines: Affect in Vilém Flusser’s Theory
This essay analyzes Flusser’s playful engagement with the nature/culture divide and its implications for Affect theory and posthumanism. For Flusser, affect is not a pre-processed human feeling, but a composite of moods, emotions, automated habits, and recursively activated reactions that come from outside – the apparatus of communication, conventions and algorithms that encode what counts as truth. Affect partakes of the same process that binds the “artificial” production of “truth” and the “customization” of life according to conventional knowledge. Similarly, the “natural” world dissected in Natural:Mind is subject to determinations by technology, culture, and habit; in fact, nature is produced by culture as part of the apparatus. Flusser’s version of affect theory destroys the fantasy of the human individual and indicates how humans do not exist in essence, but are themselves symptomatic expressions of the modern, programmatic society. Flusser’s twisted humanism invites a reflection on the cognitive and critical possibilities of aesthetics – as a secondary, reflective form of knowledge that provides models to grasp unhabitual and unusual phenomena even if it cannot account for their occurrence. Art in this sense functions like a Trojan horse used to storm the naturalist fortress sheltering humanist humanity.
“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.