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Homelessness is coming to be the destiny of the world - The Transducer

Homelessness is coming to be the destiny of the world

In a recent mes­sage to the Human­ist list­serv, Willard McCar­ty directs our atten­tion to these remarks from Peter Slo­ter­dijk’s essay, “The Oper­a­ble Man: On the Eth­i­cal State of Gene Tech­nol­o­gy” (empha­sis mine)”

In the cur­rent state of the world, the sin­gle most strik­ing fea­ture of intel­lec­tu­al and tech­no­log­i­cal his­to­ry that is that tech­no­log­i­cal cul­ture is pro­duc­ing a new state of lan­guage and writ­ing. This new state has hard­ly any­thing in com­mon any­more with tra­di­tion­al inter­pre­ta­tions of lan­guage and writ­ing by reli­gion, meta­physics and human­ism. The old House of Being turns out to be some­thing where­in a res­i­dence in the sense of dwelling and of the bring­ing close of the dis­tant is hard­ly pos­si­ble any longer. Speak­ing and writ­ing in the age of dig­i­tal codes and genet­ic tran­scrip­tions no longer make any kind of famil­iar sense; the type­faces of tech­nol­o­gy are devel­op­ing apart from trans­mis­sion, and no longer evoke home­li­ness or the effects of befriend­ing the exter­nal. On the con­trary, they increase the scope of the exter­nal and that which can nev­er be assim­i­lat­ed. The province of lan­guage is shrink­ing, while the sec­tor of straight-for­ward text is grow­ing. Hei­deg­ger, in his let­ter “On Human­ism,” expressed these prob­lems in an old-fash­ioned, yet fac­tu­al­ly cor­rect man­ner, when he called home­less­ness the out­stand­ing onto­log­i­cal fea­ture of man’s con­tem­po­rary modus essendi.

Home­less­ness is com­ing to be the des­tiny of the world. Hence it is nec­es­sary to think that des­tiny in terms of the his­to­ry of Being … Tech­nol­o­gy is in its essence a des­tiny with­in the his­to­ry of Being … As a form of truth tech­nol­o­gy is ground­ed in the his­to­ry of metaphysics.”

This makes a great deal of sense to me.  The idea of home­less­ness (alien­ation, real­ly) describes the com­bined effects of the non-lin­ear­i­ty of the data­base as sym­bol­ic form (Manovich) on cog­ni­tion and the translo­cat­ed­ness intro­duced by life in the cloud on social­i­ty.  The two forces rein­force each oth­er: as the web/cloud becomes more per­va­sive and inva­sive by the mul­ti­pli­ca­tion and minia­tur­iza­tion of innu­mer­able per­son­al devices, the form of the data­base is increas­ing­ly priv­i­leged as the dom­i­nant medi­um of knowl­edge for­ma­tion and acqui­si­tion.  Indeed, we, as mem­bers of the cloud (Wesch’s machine), actu­al­ly become mem­bers of an actu­al, mas­sive data­base — the social graph that con­nects us all in the web, and which Nick Carr right­ly calls one big brain.

The role of the bio­log­i­cal is also worth not­ing: in the form of genet­ics, bio­log­i­cal images have served since the begin­ning of the cyber­net­ic era (1950s) the role of nat­u­ral­iz­ing core sym­bol, legit­i­mat­ing the cat­e­go­ry of Infor­ma­tion by both express­ing and rein­forc­ing the idea that knowl­edge con­sists essen­tial­ly in strings of bits (like a tick­er tape), with entropy serv­ing as the core codec for how organ­isms com­mu­ni­cate.  This rela­tion­ship has only got­ten stronger with the rise of the web and the suc­cess of bio­log­i­cal sci­ence and nan­otech­nol­o­gy.  (For more on the ide­o­log­i­cal con­nec­tion between biol­o­gy and infor­ma­tion, see Kay’s Cyber­net­ics, Infor­ma­tion, Life: The Emer­gence of Scrip­tur­al Rep­re­sen­ta­tions of Hered­i­ty for a crit­i­cal geneal­o­gy, and Mey­er and Davis’ It’s Alive! The Com­ing Con­ver­gence of Infor­ma­tion, Biol­o­gy, and Busi­ness for an unabashed attempt to mon­e­tize it.)

Ulti­mate­ly, this tech­no­log­i­cal­ly-dri­ven Hei­deg­ger­ian home­less­ness rais­es ques­tions about the valid­i­ty of notions about com­mu­ni­ty and social­i­ty raised by Web 2.0 enthu­si­asts, espe­cial­ly those in the instruc­tion­al tech­nol­o­gy sec­tor.  Is vir­tu­al com­mu­ni­ty real­ly com­mu­ni­ty?  Does it share, for exam­ple, any of the traits described by Tön­nies’ notion of com­mu­ni­ty (gemein­schaft)?  Or is it com­mu­ni­ty in the sense of Bene­dict Ander­son­’s “imag­ined com­mu­ni­ty”?  Not that the two are entire­ly anti­thet­i­cal — Ander­son­’s notion of nation­al com­mu­ni­ty is an inter­est­ing syn­the­sis of the com­mu­ni­ty and soci­ety set up by Tön­nies.  But if vir­tu­al com­mu­ni­ty is the ide­o­log­i­cal inher­i­tor of the imag­ined nation­al com­mu­ni­ty, what form of social and polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion does it rel­fect and rein­force?  What is the habi­tat for this new habi­tus?  What­ev­er it is, it has a lot to do with Google, it’s off-shore cities of data, and globalization.


6 responses to “Homelessness is coming to be the destiny of the world”

  1. The home­less­less idea was of par­tic­u­lar concern/interest to mid-twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry Ger­man exiles such as Horkheimer and Arendt. Todor­ov (in ‘The Con­quest of Amer­i­ca’) remarks upon the exile as the per­fect mod­ern human self: “a being who has lost his coun­try with­out there­by acquir­ing anoth­er, who lives in dou­ble exte­ri­or­i­ty.” I think we have been becom­ing home­less for some time.

    These issues (and more) are being debat­ed, dis­sect­ed, and per­formed in the Con­nec­tiv­i­ty and Con­nec­tive Knowl­edge Course out of Uni­ver­si­ty of Man­i­to­ba (2000+ par­tic­i­pants!). In par­tic­u­lar, last week’s top­ic (Net­works) has pro­duced much mus­ing on the sub­ject of the rela­tion­ships between com­mu­ni­ty and con­nec­tivist con­cepts such as net­works and clus­ters. Start here: http://ltc.umanitoba.ca:83/moodle/mod/forum/view.php?id=176

  2. The course looks inter­est­ing. Regard­ing the his­to­ry of this sort of home­less­ness, yes, it cer­tain­ly pre­cedes the cur­rent era. I tend to think of Gabriel Marcel’s *Man Against Mass Soci­ety* and of course Orte­ga y Gas­set’s *Revolt of the Mass­es*. What is inter­est­ing about the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion is how vir­tu­al com­mu­ni­ty feeds off and repro­duces this long trend, although not with­out its own unpre­dictable effects. I am inter­est­ed to know what sort of polit­i­cal-eco­nom­ic for­ma­tion the polit­i­cal imag­i­nary it gen­er­ates will sustain.

  3. The present finan­cial cri­sis and its atten­dant social ills my pro­vide the oppor­tu­ni­ty for us to find out. Per­son­al­ly, I’m shift­ing all my invest­ments into goats.

  4. Slo­ter­dijk both points at this sit­u­a­tion- Home­less­ness is com­ing to be the des­tiny of the World — and is the philoso­pher who gives us a new descrip­tion of humans and being in the world. In the Spheres tril­o­gy he shows how humans are always dwelling in envi­ron­ments & atmos­pheres and this aware­ness hope­ful­ly would lead us to build comu­ni­ties , pub­lic spaces with a big­ger con­text in mind: to cre­ate bet­ter atmos­pheres and a sense of being at home in the world. This is a link to Bruno Latour´s web­site . There is an inter­est­ing arti­cle in which he con­sid­ers Slo­ter­dijk the philoso­pher of design ‑of envi­ron­ments , things etc . Rel­e­vant in my opin­ion to this topic.


    Anoth­er resource is the book Com­mu­ni­ty by Peter Block

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