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Does Writing Have a Future?

2011
Author:

Vilém Flusser
Translated by Nancy Ann Roth
Introduction by Mark Poster

Does Writing Have a Future?

A prescient exploration of the fate of the book in the digital age

In Does Writing Have a Future?, Vilém Flusser asks what will happen to thought and communication as written communication gives way, inevitably, to digital expression. In his introduction, Flusser proposes that writing does not, in fact, have a future because everything that is now conveyed in writing—and much that cannot be—can be recorded and transmitted by other means.

Vilém Flusser’s flashes of brilliant insight, his intuitions about the psychology of gadgets and convergences, his deeply well-read and philosophically grounded investigations of wide-ranging consequences of a new literacy, are widely admired and deserve an Anglophone audience. Into the Universe of Technical Images and Does Writing Have a Future? are of the first rank in the canon of new media studies and digital culture.

Peter Krapp, author of Déjà Vu: Aberrations of Cultural Memory

In Does Writing Have a Future?, a remarkably perceptive work first published in German in 1987, Vilém Flusser asks what will happen to thought and communication as written communication gives way, inevitably, to digital expression. In his introduction, Flusser proposes that writing does not, in fact, have a future because everything that is now conveyed in writing—and much that cannot be—can be recorded and transmitted by other means.

Confirming Flusser’s status as a theorist of new media in the same rank as Marshall McLuhan, Jean Baudrillard, Paul Virilio, and Friedrich Kittler, the balance of this book teases out the nuances of these developments. To find a common denominator among texts and practices that span millennia, Flusser looks back to the earliest forms of writing and forward to the digitization of texts now under way. For Flusser, writing—despite its limitations when compared to digital media—underpins historical consciousness, the concept of progress, and the nature of critical inquiry. While the text as a cultural form may ultimately become superfluous, he argues, the art of writing will not so much disappear but rather evolve into new kinds of thought and expression.

Does Writing Have a Future?

Vilém Flusser (1920–1991) was born in Prague; emigrated to Brazil, where he taught philosophy and wrote a daily newspaper colum; and later moved to France. Among his many books that have been translated into English are The Shape of Things, Towards a Philosophy of Photography, The Freedom of the Migrant, and Writings (Minnesota, 2004).

Nancy Ann Roth is an arts writer and critic based in the United Kingdom.

Mark Poster is professor of history at University of California, Irvine.

Does Writing Have a Future?

Vilém Flusser’s flashes of brilliant insight, his intuitions about the psychology of gadgets and convergences, his deeply well-read and philosophically grounded investigations of wide-ranging consequences of a new literacy, are widely admired and deserve an Anglophone audience. Into the Universe of Technical Images and Does Writing Have a Future? are of the first rank in the canon of new media studies and digital culture.

Peter Krapp, author of Déjà Vu: Aberrations of Cultural Memory

His media trilogy deserves close reading and discussion within and beyond graduate seminars.

International Journal of Communication

The series of Flusser volumes...provides an unparalled opportunity to jump into the middle of Flusser’s thought as his assembled essays contemplate the unfolding of codes, programs, and reflections in networks of images moving past the sequential trails of history.

Afterimage

Does Writing Have a Future?... is a welcome addition to this author’s deserved emergence.

Media International Australia

Despite being a book about the end of traditional forms of media, Does Writing Have a Future? is most interesting precisely when dwelling upon such media—and in this sense it also serves as forerunner of more recent scholarship on media archaeologies.

Digital Culture and Education

Does Writing Have a Future?

An Introduction to Vilém Flusser’s Into the Universe of Technical Images and Does Writing Have a Future?
Mark Poster
Does Writing Have a Future?
Introduction
Superscript
Inscriptions
Notation
Letters of the Alphabet
Texts
Print
Instructions
Spoken Languages
Poetry
Ways of Reading
Deciphering
Books
Letters
Newspapers
Stationeries
Desks
Scripts
The Digital
Recoding
Subscript
Afterword to the Second Edition
Translator’s Afterword and Acknowledgments
Nancy Roth
Translator’s Notes
Index

Does Writing Have a Future?

UMP blog - New media and old philosophy: What would Vilém Flusser think about e-books?

In an essay titled “The New Imagination” (1990), Vilém Flusser emphasizes the need for a “critique of image criticism” – and he considered letters to be images as well. He writes: “The linear gesture of writing tears the pixels from the image surface, but it then threads these selected points (bits) torn from the images into lines. This threading phase of the linear gesture negates its critical intention, in that it accepts the linear structure uncritically. … If one wants a radical critique of images, one must analyze them.” Images, he insists, must be calculated and explained, not threaded into linearity.

Read the full article.