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Digital Exposure : Postmodern Postcapitalism by Raphael Sassower (2013, Hardcover)

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Digital Exposure : Postmodern Postcapitalism. Description This book adopts an explicitly postmodernist perspective of the digital revolution. While exploring issues relating to the re-creation of social life in the digital world, its main focus is on the political economy and in particular the extent to which the paradigms of capitalism and socialism can be mapped as postcapitalism onto this new world.

Product details Format Hardback 81 pages Dimensions x x 9. Illustrations note XII, 81 p. Do we find common ground when dreaming of world peace?

Is our singular national goal greater prosperity? Is that prosperity circumscribed by digital innovations? And will it be spread fairly across all socioeconomic classes? One proposal for bridging the so-called divide between the sciences and the humanities, according to Friedrich Kittler, claims that there really isnt a divide at all so no bridge is necessary : everything worth studying must be measured, counted, and be given proportions. All areas are reducible into one nexus. In his words: the only things that can be known about the soul or the human are the technical gadgets with which they have been historically measured at any given time Kittler , In light of this view that bridges the humanities and the sciences, there is a historical development, following Vilem Flusser, that allows Kittler to show how we have moved from the four-dimensionality of space and time to the three dimensions of obelisks, then to two dimensions of gravestones, to the one-dimensionality of text or print, all the way to the zero-dimensionality of numbers and bits in computers so as to avoid any danger of concealment whatsoever Ibid.

What this process reveals is a deep commitment to reductionism the view that multiple effects or events can be retrospectively reduced to a single antecedent or cause as a way to make sense of the linear progression of technoscientific developments and the cognitive reflection that attends them. Unlike Snow, Kittler identifies only one culture. In Kittlers words: When seen from this perspective, computers represent the successful reduction of all dimensions to zero. This is also the reason why their input and output consisted of stark columns of numbers for the first ten years after Operating systems like UNIX introduced the first one-dimensional command lines in the sixties, which were then replaced by a graphic or two-dimensional user interface in the seventies, beginning with the Apple Macintosh.

The reason for this dimensional growth was not the search for visual realism, but rather its purpose was to open up the total programmability of Turing machines at least partially to users, which demands as many dimensions as possible due to the inconceivable number of programming possibilities Ibid.

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For him, the transformation into fewer dimensions that then reverses into more dimensions is linked to human agency with specific needs for representation and control as means for comprehension and empowerment. He continues: The transition to three-dimensional user interfaces or even four-dimensional ones if time is included as a parameter , which today goes by the phrase virtual reality, can of course also be understood as an expansion of the operational possibilities. Virtual realities allow for the literal immersion of at least two distant senses, the eye and the ear, and at some point they will also enable the immersion of all five senses.

Historically, however, they did not originate from the immanence of the development of the computer, but rather from film and television Ibid. As illuminating as this rendition of the underlying similarity between the humanities and the sciences, there is also another layer of exposition that guides this historical narrative and that is warfare see a fascinating parallel discussion of the development of computers Turing machines in the US in the hands of those developing the atomic and hydrogen bombs during World War II, Dyson Kittler is committed, ideologically and intellectually, to reducing and classifying all historical stages in warfare terms so that warfare as a motive and goal overshadows any sense of curiosity or play that lead to technoscientific discoveries.

For him, this bombardment of the senses is associated with warfare and more specifically with bomber pilot trainees Kittler , Whether or not warfare is the underlying guide to bridging the purported cultural division Snow and Rabi worried about in the previous century, in this genealogy Kittler sets the tone for the dread and euphoria associated with contemporary digital technologies. Despite the great diversity in contemporary culture, a diversity that probably could be detected in previous generations if the investigatory net were cast widely and deeply enough, there might be something that could inadvertently bring almost all of us together: digital technologies.

Astrophysicists and grounds-keepers alike enjoy the use of cell phones and Global Positioning Systems as well as other gadgets provided by banks and fast-food franchisers even though their understanding of the internal workings of these instruments might radically differ. The Digital Age in this respect binds our culture in ways that would have been inconceivable a century ago. This is not to say that the differences among the different sub-cultures have been therefore erased or bridged; only to say that perhaps digital technologies could provide the means by which such erasure or bridging may come about without resorting to Kittlers reductionism.

According to David Berry, contemporary culture is a computational knowledge society, , 3, emphasis in original , one whose uniqueness is actualized in its materiality real storage units that emit heat and need to be cooled off rather than some sense of its amorphous immateriality of the so-called cloud where data are stored or where computational activities take place.

Following Martin Heidegger and Steve Fuller, he insists on the concrete thing-in-the world-ness of our computational culture Ibid. Overcoming the dichotomy between modernity and postmodernity, Berry suggests a difference between instrumental rationality and computation, so that computational rationality is a form of reasoning that takes place through other nonhuman objects, but these objects are themselves able to exert agential features, either by making calculations and decisions themselves, or by providing communicative support for the user Ibid.

He calls this process without an end an agonistic form of communicative action where devices are in a constant stream of data flow and decision-making which may only occasionally feedback to the human user Ibid. Berry also emphasizes the importance of digital intellect rather than digital intelligence so as to add the critical dimension of the digital use with an eye on evaluating meanings rather than simply data in the context of digital literacy, hence moving the discussion way beyond the binary oppositions listed above to a new terrain that characterizes the twenty-first century Ibid.

What the written word and eventually the printing press were supposed to accomplish for modernity, digital technologies might accomplish for postmodernity: tools for enlightenment and greater happiness.

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Digital Exposure: Postmodern Postcapitalism

This is the story of technophiles, the lovers of all things technical, who believe in the emancipatory power of technoscience. Perhaps they are simply echoing the belief in reason, a reasonable belief, since its claim for universality bridges all gaps of tradition, ethnicity, religion, and socioeconomic stratification. If an argument is valid, Aristotle already offered centuries ago, then no personal bias comes into play.

If technoscience teaches us that a fact is true gravity or the relation between energy, mass, and the speed of light then its true for all of us, whether we are educated at Oxford or herd sheep in the hills of Afghanistan.


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This amazing revelation has carried the torch of enlightenment since the great scientific revolutions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Its because of this single attribute of technoscience that the great humanists, as Snow called them, had to find a way to address the entire human enterprise, rather than worrying, as the British have for centuries, about their particular class distinction, or the Germans about their own unification after the fall of the Berlin Wall in But just as digitized technoscience has its promise, so do the humanists share a concern for life and its meaning, as articulated by the existentialists for two centuries, as well as with human relations, such as friendship and love.

Members of the Frankfurt School, from Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno to Max Horkheimer and Herbert Marcuse, all the way to Jrgen Habermas, agree that a neo-Marxist critique of the advancement of technoscience in its capitalist trappings is essential in order to rescue civilization from its own abyss. Its easy to confuse the critique with a strong sense of technophobia a deep distrust of technoscience and digital technologies, almost a fear that they will push humanity beyond any potential redemption.

But only if this critique is read as a Messianic protest will it be understood negatively. From Benjamins concern with the mechanical reproduction of works of art to Marcuses concern with the one-dimensionality of humanity , it becomes clear that the critique is in fact a manifesto for salvation: humanity can find its soul again. This, perhaps, is the spirit of Heidegger who worried that the advent of technology would doom us to the machinery of our surroundings instead of the pristine comfort and authenticity of the Black Forest of his youth A contemporary critique, such as Kittlers, is less romantic and more devastating, especially as he intertwines the onward march of mechanization and computation with warfare.

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For example, DOI: Once storage media can accommodate optical and acoustic data, human memory capacity is bound to dwindle. Its liberation is its end Kittler , Or, put in another way: Mechanization relieves people of their memories and permits a linguistic hodgepodge hitherto stifled by the monopoly of writingThe epoch of nonsense, our epoch, can begin Ibid.

Or, even more critically: The age of media not just since Turings game of imitation renders indistinguishable what is human and what is machine, who is mad and who is faking it Ibid. Unlike the Frankfurt School, Kittlers reactionary modernism is almost postmodern in its liberal juxtapositions: The history of the movie camera thus coincides with the history of automatic weapons.

The transport of pictures only repeats the transport of bulletsNothing, therefore, prevented the weapons-system movie camera from aiming at humans as well. On the three fronts of war, disease, and criminality the major lines of combat of every invasion by media serial photography entered into everyday life in order to bring about a new body Ibid. The typewriter became a discursive machine-gun.