Speaking the Unspeakable: Heidegger and Social Media's 'Mouseclick Solidarity'

Herzogenrath-Amelung, H. 2018. Speaking the Unspeakable: Heidegger and Social Media's 'Mouseclick Solidarity'. in: Battin, J.M. and Duarte, G.A. (ed.) We Need to Talk about Heidegger: Essays Situating Martin Heidegger in Contemporary Media Studies Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien Peter Lang. pp. 151-167

Chapter titleSpeaking the Unspeakable: Heidegger and Social Media's 'Mouseclick Solidarity'
AuthorsHerzogenrath-Amelung, H.
EditorsBattin, J.M. and Duarte, G.A.
Abstract

In this chapter, the author acknowledges that philosophy is not a popular approach for thinking about technology and the social. The fast paced environment of social media studies especially makes philosophy look slow moving, sluggish, and out of touch. Philosophy, Marx famously wrote in his famous Theses on Feuerbach, has only ever interpreted the world - what counts is to change it. And social media have become almost synonymous with social change since the Arab Spring, which has widely been hailed as a ‘social media revolution’.
Martin Heidegger took on Marx’s complaint head-on, countering that in order to change the world, one would first needs to interpret it correctly. This chapter seeks to challenge the dominant narrative of social media as engines of social change, arguing that instead they pose acute examples of the extent to which not only social life, but the critical human mind, that faculty on which the Enlightenment built its hopes, are increasingly enframed by instrumentality. Martin Heidegger’s critique of technology is often misread as a Luddite attack on all technological modernity, and a passionate plea to return to pre-technological forms of life. As this chapter will show, however, Heidegger’s concept of the Gestell offers a critical perspective on the impacts of technological mediation that goes beyond the typical utopian/dystopian dichotomy. While social media have widely been hyped as ushering in a ‘communications revolution’, rupturing established hierarchies and creating democracies bottom-up, Heidegger’s conceptual framework allows us to see how the freedom promised by social media continues to be technologically enframed.
This chapter will consider Twitter as an example of technological enframement: I will problematize the ‘quick fix’ solution to democratic action that Twitter promises, and highlight how the 140 character Tweet encourages what Heidegger refers to as the ‘privileging of the correct over the true’. A number of instances will be discussed where it emerges how Twitter, while seemingly challenging established power hierarchies, in fact serves to reinforce these.
Thus, rather than being the ‘terrifying abstraction’, as which it has often been criticised, Heidegger’s Gestell offers a sophisticated mechanism for addressing how the digital matrix reduces the complexity of human being-in-the world to a technologized parody of itself. It is a strength, not a weakness, that it operates at the level of the abstract, as this allows us to address the unifying features of modern information & communication technologies, rather than being caught up in its specificities.

KeywordsHeidegger, Gestell, Social Media, Twitter, Social Change
Book titleWe Need to Talk about Heidegger: Essays Situating Martin Heidegger in Contemporary Media Studies
Page range151-167
Year2018
PublisherPeter Lang
Publication dates
Published18 Oct 2018
Place of publicationBerlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien
SeriesLiterary and Cultural Theory
ISBN9783631750674

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The New Instantaneity: How Social Media are Helping us Privilege the (Politically) Correct over the True
Herzogenrath-Amelung, H. 2016. The New Instantaneity: How Social Media are Helping us Privilege the (Politically) Correct over the True. Media, Culture & Society. 38 (7), pp. 1080-1089. doi:10.1177/0163443716664855

Book Review: The Truth of the Technological World: Essays on the Genealogy of Presence
Herzogenrath-Amelung, H. 2016. Book Review: The Truth of the Technological World: Essays on the Genealogy of Presence. Media, Culture & Society. 38 (1), pp. 129-135. doi:10.1177/0163443715618866

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Herzogenrath-Amelung, H., Troullinou, P. and Thomopoulos, N. 2015. Reversing the order: towards a philosophically informed debate on ICT for transport. in: Thomopoulos, N., Givoni, M. and Rietveld, P. (ed.) ICT for Transport: Opportunities and Threats Cheltenham Edward Elgar. pp. 205-225

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Herzogenrath-Amelung, H. 2013. Ideology, critique and surveillance. tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique. Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society. 11 (2), pp. 521-534.

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