... Wenn sie miteinander darüber sprechen, was sein könnte, was alles passieren könnte, dann meist beim Frühstück oder beim Abendessen und immer mit wenig Worten, in knappen Sätzen, nur das Allernötigste. Sie sprechen ohnehin nicht mehr viel. Genau genommen sprechen sie mit jedem Jahr immer weniger. Sie glauben zu wissen, was der andere denkt. Sie könnten eigentlich auch auf Worte verzichten – und tun es häufig. So wurden ihnen mit der Zeit die Worte fremd, sie gingen ihnen verloren, sie fanden sie einfach nicht mehr, als wäre alles ausgesprochen. Sie finden es mittlerweile anstrengend, miteinander zu reden, auch wenn sie das kein einziges Mal gesagt haben.

Aber diese ganze Unsicherheit und Veränderung wegen des Todesfalls ist dann doch zu viel, verlangt dann doch das eine oder andere Wort mehr. Also sprechen sie zunächst mit ihren wenigen Worten, die sie für einander noch übrighaben, und mit Worten, die ganz langsam wieder auftauchen. Sie sind zurückhaltend und vorsichtig. Denn immer mehr Worte tauchen auf. Sie müssen sich erst daran gewöhnen. Manchmal sehen sie sich an, bevor sie zu sprechen beginnen ...

To Perceive

Theoretical Approach for the Third Edition of the Visual Cultures University Publication Series – A Plea for Literature

Experts who sit in centers of knowledge, issuing statements about our times and presenting analyses in the media, will often use language that is incredibly vague. This includes words such as ‘complexity’, ‘non-transparency’, or the oft-cited language of ‘change’. These words say everything and nothing at once. True, there are no eras or passages of time in the past that would be easy to describe or record from the point of their developmental stages.
Nevertheless, there are some quotations by contemporary, highly influential figures that present a treasure trove of truths about our times. These figures are not members of a traditional political system or from political parties, parliaments, governments or the media. They are part of the network society and global data centers. First illustrative quotation (german reference): „Wenn wir es richtig angehen, können wir alle Probleme der Menschheit lösen.“ (“If we approach them correctly, we can solve all of humanity’s problems”). This statement comes from Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Google from 2011-2015, who is now with Alphabet Inc. Second illustrative (german reference): „Es gibt eine Menge Dinge, die wir nicht tun können, weil sie illegal sind. Wir sollten ein paar Orte haben, wo wir neue Dinge ausprobieren und herausfinden könnten, welche Auswirkungen sie auf die Gesellschaft haben.“ (“There are a number of things that we cannot do because they’re illegal. We should have a few places where we can try out new things and determine their effects on society”). These are the words of Larry Page, Google Co-founder.

Life in an age of extremes

We might summarize our findings from the selected quotations as follows: The limitations of human cohabitation on earth are being negotiated anew, and, in the process, our methods of communication are being completely re-structured and re-conceived. Another quotation (german reference): „Es ist sowieso egal, was die Menschen machen, denn sie werden bald zurückgelassen werden, wie die erste Stufe einer Rakete“ (“It doesn’t matter what people do because they’ll soon be left behind, like the launch pad of a rocket” - Hans Moravec, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA - see also: Mind Children. The Future of Robot and Human Intelligence.)

This is why the newly emerging, billion-dollar business models are only to be found in gray areas and border zones that lie between legality and illegality, existing order and anarchy. They exceed the limitations of humanity. These new ideas and business models represent the direct expression of our intellectual situation, and include artificial intelligence, robotics, and autonomous machines like self-driving cars or drones. They are genetic modifications carried out by biological engineers, as well as research on more effective bodies and new intelligent thought configurations. The major subject of virtual reality also contributes to the shifting of boundaries. This is the topic of the third volume of the Visual Cultures series. What is happening around us at the moment, and what took place before? “The essence of humanity is up for debate,”’ wrote Ulla Berkéwicz in her book Maybe We’ll All Go Mad (2009). “The demystification of the world has been successful”. She took this statement from an analysis of comparable fanaticism movements, and it is a sentiment that is also reflected in one of the volume’s articles that examines the surpassing of limitations and the power of manipulation through new technologies.

The manipulation of thought

New electronic and technological developments such as virtual reality are seamlessly incorporated into reality and result in experiential extremes in which manipulation takes place not only to stimulate ideas and outcomes in education and training or in therapeutic procedures, but also to repress the capacity to think, and therewith the autonomy of the subject. With this line of thinking, it is necessary to determine what happens if the technologies take over the control of information transfer, or if a corrective is missing. The shock moment that arises from ‘being thrown into the midst of it’ is the same as a pseudo-realistic narrative form. Immediacy and unlimited participation, triggered by the desire for real-time and live broadcast of immediate experience, break down any distance between reality, image and perception, and evoke a proximity to reality that is left unquestioned. Real time induces a state of exhilarated panic. Virtual reality exploits this exhilaration and links it, by means of a manipulative and daring game, to technological feasibility. If people can – and are expected to – distinguish increasingly less between entertainment and information, and become removed from real life, then a moment of thought and reflection is all the more important for accessing knowledge or wisdom. That is, if humankind takes its autonomy and its legacy of the enlightenment seriously. In the future, this moment will be described as a space or an interval, whereby this space is the literature of narrative, literary narration and historical lore.