Vilém Flusser: Not Images, but Circuitry Entraps Us

Technical images are currently connected so that their senders are at the center of society, places from which the images are broadcast to scatter and disperse the society. They are precarious places. When you approach them, whether to take part (to join in the broadcasting) or to criticize (to remodel the circuitry), they present themselves as illusions. They are like the proverbial onion: layer after layer comes away, but when everything has been understood, explained, there’s nothing left. It appears that no one and nothing lies at the center of contemporary society: senders are nothing but those dimensionless points from which the media bundles stream.

For cultural criticism, this is an unpleasant discovery. When you’re criticizing culture to change it, you want to be fighting something solid (e.g., dark men behind the scenes or gray eminences with evil intentions that can be exposed). If you start to expose contemporary society, however, you realize that there is nothing and no one to fight. One is not so much tilting at windmills as storming Kafka’s castle. For one is fighting a how rather than a what. Not people and things, but contents. Not images and the human interests that stand behind them, but circuitry. Therefore it is not surprising that many cultural critics yield to these new demands and, all evidence to the contrary, go on looking for manipulators and power brokers among the senders.

from Into the Universe of Technical Images by Vilém Flusser

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