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Into the Universe of Technical Images

2011
Author:

Vilém Flusser
Translated by Nancy Ann Roth
Introduction by Mark Poster

Into the Universe of Technical Images

An examination of the promise and peril of digital communication technologies

Poised between hope and despair for a humanity facing an urgent communication crisis, this work by Vilém Flusser forecasts either the first truly human, infinitely creative society in history or a society of unbearable, oppressive sameness, locked in a pattern it cannot change. Into the Universe of Technical Images outlines the history of communication technology as a process of increasing abstraction.

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

Poised between hope and despair for a humanity facing an urgent communication crisis, this work by Vilém Flusser forecasts either the first truly human, infinitely creative society in history or a society of unbearable, oppressive sameness, locked in a pattern it cannot change. First published in German in 1985 and now available in English for the first time, Into the Universe of Technical Images outlines the history of communication technology as a process of increasing abstraction.

Flusser charts how communication evolved from direct interaction with the world to mediation through various technologies. The invention of writing marked one significant shift; the invention of photography marked another, heralding the current age of the technical image. The automation of the processing of technical images carries both promise and threat: the promise of freeing humans to play and invent and the threat for networks of automation to proceed independently of humans.

Into the Universe of Technical Images

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.

Into the Universe of Technical Images

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 deeply historical, richly philosophical, and sometimes prescient essays stand at the entrance to the postindustrial communication era.

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

A cursory reading of Into the Universe of Technical Images will assume that the author was aware of the internet, digital photography, mobile phones, CNN coverage of the Gulf War and Creative Commons, among other things that had not happened... [Flusser] dared to think outside the “black box.”

Design Issues

Into the Universe of Technical Images

An Introduction to Vilém Flusser’s Into the Universe of Technical Images and Does Writing Have a Future?
Mark Poster
Into the Universe of Technical Images
Warning
To Abstract
To Depict
To Make Concrete
To Touch
To Envision
To Signify
To Interact
To Scatter
To Instruct
To Discuss
To Play
To Create
To Prepare
To Decide
To Govern
To Shrink
To Suffer
To Celebrate
Chamber Music
Summary
Translator’s Afterword and Acknowledgments
Nancy Roth
Translator’s Notes
Index

Into the Universe of Technical Images

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.