What did we gain and what did we lose with the digital age?
There is no moral of the story. They will say that the distances have gotten smaller since the phone was created, which is true.
But my line of thought was fed by subsidies that I borrowed from South Korean Byung-Chul Han, author of the book “In the Swarm” that I read during the trip. Byung-Chul is also the author of “The Burnout Society“, edited in 2015, to whom I have already referred in this space.
Just as in the book he launched three years ago, the 59-year-old South Korean philosopher and teacher who studied and lives in Germany does not waste too much time or extends too much wording.
On the 104 pages, it transmits the message directly. Its motto is digital media, it is the devices that make us at the same time close to people – networked – and physically away from contact.
Before telling you more about the book and the reflections that affected me, I mean that during my trip, although with some impatience for the delay in the journey, I was able to talk and help an 84-year-old lady who gave me a life lesson.
She walked alone, unaided, and was only a little confused when choosing the exit at the subway station. It was good prose. I considered again, which made me forget the bummer of the rest of the trip.
This is what Byung-Chul deals within the part of the book where he reflects on the isolation that characterizes homo digitalis:
“The digital inhabitant of the network does not meet. It lacks the interiority of the meeting that would produce a relationship knot. They are, above all, isolated to themselves, singled out, who just sit down before the screen. Electronic media, such as radio, bring people together, while digital media single them out,” he writes.
I would not have made contact with the lady who taught me some lessons if I gave up going to my destination physically for a “via messenger” conversation. Just like, I’m sure, my interview with Sandro would bring you much more wealth if I could be there.
What are we missing? What are we gaining from the digital age?
We gained a voice. But it is a solitary voice, “encompassed by a generalized disintegration of the common and the communal.
Solidarity disappears. Privatization advances to the soul. The erosion of the community makes a common action increasingly unlikely, “reflects the philosopher. We are no longer content to passively consume information, but we want to produce it, to communicate it. We won, so, the fake news.
“The de-mediatization of communication makes journalists, these old elitist representatives, these ‘opinion makers’ and even ‘opinion priests,’ look completely superficial and anachronistic,” Byung-Chul said.
The danger of this is the massification, when language and culture flatten and become vulgar, in the Korean’s view.
We are also living, therefore, the end of the politicians in the emphatic sense, and we saw this recently in Brazil when the candidate most voted for the presidency did not attend debates but made its campaign basically through the internet.
We lose the political strategy, which needs sovereignty over the production and distribution of information. Everything becomes instant and, in theory, transparent.
“Full transparency forces political communication to a temporality that makes slow, long-term planning impossible. It is no longer possible to allow things to mature.
The future is not the temporality of transparency. Transparency is dominated by the presence and by the present,” writes the author.
But, in this way, it is difficult for politicians to practice pondering, debate, and reflection. A mayor of a European city, in an interview with Byung-Chul, pondered how such transparency makes it difficult for politicians to even openly discuss unpopular themes or positions in a circle of people.
There is always the possibility of someone is recording.
Yes, this can be good again if the tool serves properly to unravel frauds. But the dictatorship of transparency, the author recalls, does not give voice to discordant opinions or unusual ideas. “It is very difficult to think of anything,” he writes.
There is also a crisis that can be seen in the always beautiful and lively versions of the images captured and edited from the devices. “In our time, images are more vivid than humans,” says Byung-Chul.
This visual effect takes from the photograph its role of representation, it is to become. An image that accompanies “another way of life, in which both becoming and aging, both birth and death are erased.”
The digital era is also the era of performance, which turns all the time into a time of work. There is no leisure, and “deceleration” only slows down working time, rather than turning it into another time.
We lose the exploitation of the working machines, but the digital apparatus “produces a new coercion, a new exploitation.” “Everyone carries the work with them as a working warehouse. So we can no longer escape from work, “writes Byung-Chul.
The author’s reflections lead us to believe that there are more losses than gains if we are not careful.
We can enslave ourselves to other machines, and against them, we have no revolt as happened in the movement known as Luddism, early nineteenth century.
Now we become partners with our tormentors. The digital society of surveillance, which has access to the collective unconscious, to social behavior, “develops totalitarian traits,” warns Byung-Chul. The book is worth as food for important reflections of our era.