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Research Salon Creativity in a Telematic Society: Vilém Flusser's Model

Nancy Roth

30 April 2007
14.00 hrs – 16.00 hrs
News Conference Room
(BA Journalism)
Woodlane Campus



The capacity to generate new information, store it, and share it with others is central to the philosophy of Vilém Flusser (1920-1991). It is the capacity that makes us human, and that stands between us and a "natural" state of loneliness and despair. In his account, new information is generated from the exchange of existing information, that is, in dialogue. The "genius" of earlier times exchanged information internally; today, the potential speed and scope of invention are exponentially greater, as a result of dialogic networks that can include both human brains and artificial intelligences.

Flusser fears for a society in which creative dialogue seems to become increasingly difficult, yet envisions a possible future in which machines work, and people spend their days in playful, creative exchange.

Flusser wrote in four languages--German most prolifically, Portuguese only slightly less so, followed by English and French. He is currently best-known to German-speakers as a media-theorist. But his work is far broader in scope, embracing history, science, writing, images, technology, emigration and nationalism. The unifying concept is, arguably, the figure of multiple languages--hence multiple universes--itself.

This presentation, by a relative newcomer to Flusser studies, will attempt to open some key terms and structures of Flusser's account of creativity to discussion.

Nancy Roth

Nancy's research interests coalesced from a Ph.D. dissertation of the German photomontage artist John Heartfield (1891-1968): the history of photography and more broadly the intersection of art and technology, the perceptual play between image and text, the implications of artistic collaboration. Both before and since the dissertation was completed in 1996, she has written art criticism, mainly on photography and on art using so-called "new media"--video and computing technologies.

Her keen interest in the philosophical work of Vilém Flusser (1920-1991) is more recent, following her recognition of how well its concerns coincided with her own. Flusser is currently only partially-known to a speaker of any one, or even two of the four languages in which he wrote. His work sets the relationship of images to writing in historical perspective, gives technology a central position in the history of art, and makes dialogue essential to human life. Nancy hopes to contribute to Flusser studies both by making more of the philosopher's German-language writing available in English, and by testing and extending his ideas on her contemporary experience of images, language, writing and art.