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With a little twist of Heidegger

I’m giving a talk in Berlin in a week. My hosts want me to talk about the evolution of media, but suggested that I might want to weave some Heidegger in, which is not a request you often get. It’s a brief talk, but what I’ve written talks about four pairs, all based on Shannon’s original drawing of signal moving through a channel. 1. The medium and bits as idealized abstractions. 2. The medium and messages: How McLuhan reacts against information theory’s idea of a medium, and the sense in which on the Internet we are the medium. 3. Medium and communication: Why we think of communication as something that occurs through a medium, rather than as a way in which we share the world. 4. Medium and noise: Why the world appears, in its most brutal facticity, in Shannon’s diagram as noise, and how the richness of the Web (which consists of connections intentionally made) is in fact signal that taken together can be noise. (I know I am not using these terms rigorously.)

At the end, I’ll summarize the four contrasts:

Bits without character vs. A world that always shows itself as something

The medium as a vacuum vs. We are the medium that moves messages because we care about them

Communication as the reproduction of a representation in the listener’s head vs. Turning to a shared world together

World as noise vs. Links as a context of connection

Not by coincidence, each of these is a major Heideggerian theme: Being-as or meaning, care, truth. and world.

And if it’s not obvious, I do not think that Heidegger’s writings on technology have anything much to do with the Internet. He was criticizing the technology of the 1950s that scared him: mainframes and broadcast. He probably would have hated the Net also, but he was a snobby little fascist prick.

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7 Responses to “With a little twist of Heidegger”

  1. Fine ending of the post: “… was a snobby little fascist prick” :-)

    It is still difficult and mysterious to comprehend Heidegger place in human thinking – obviously one of greatest thinkers, who was deliberately a very active supporter of the most hideous tribe (I mean Nazis) the earth ever bore.

    Pitty I will be in Paris till the end of the week – Berlin is not that far from me :-)

    Where/When precisely is the talk ?

  2. I think it is quite interesting that you have moved from Philosophy to the Internet and now it is the Internet that is moving you back toward philosophy. Although it seems to me (a mere outsider) that you have been a Philosopher of the Internet all along. Will this lecture be available for us commoners to read? Also I am picking up the CD of the Rock Opera today!

  3. The talk is on Sep. 19. I’m not 100% sure exactly where yet. I also don’t know if they’ll be webcasting it or posting it.

  4. Thought you would enjoy this. A stunning collaboration between the human spirit and the Internet.

  5. Wonderful! I’ve been looking for something just like this for a while

  6. high quality and dizzying array of colors and patterns

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