So, as a philosophy major, I have the tendency of getting “all caught up” in a particular philosopher for a considerable amount of time… First it was Nietzsche. Now, my most recent “obsession” is Martin Heidegger… Unfortunately for me, an “obsession” usually means my enthusiasm far out-weighs my knowledge 😛
I searched for some social media articles that incorporated Heidegger into the discussion–I didn’t have a ton of luck (if someone could help me out here, I’d be ecstatic!). But, I did find this somewhat pessimistic article that seemed to resonate (and explicitly mention) a few Heideggerian notions. The article is by Gail Caldwell of the Boston Globe…. she is a bit of a neo-Luddite, but she has a few interesting comments.
She tells the story of going for a walk with her dog, disturbing some bird watchers, and then retreating home to “google” what all the hullabaloo was about. What she most despairs over is the loss of a “full” or “whole” experience, which is replaced by a fragmented and virutally anonymous, 2-D world of informational bits of data. She goes so far as to say:
” The fact is that our pixel-driven anonymity is correlative to the false sense of intimacy it induces. (There is also an argument to be made that this online exchange has been robbed of everything that enriches dialogue, including but not limited to caring about the teller.)”
While Levinson extolls the virtues of social media, which allow for informational freedom, “catalytic competition,” and “consumers being producers,” Gail seems to lament that it ultimately deprives us of an organic experience as disclosed through (relatively) unmediated interactions, i.e. non-technological socializing. In the highly-mediated world of the internet, “we risk losing the art of synthesis – of hearing the world around us and translating those sounds into the myriad sensible narratives that make up reality… the splintering of consciousness has also become a flattening.”
My limited readings of Heidegger touch upon the dangers of mediating experience solely through technological means. It is the nature of science to break apart–in order to analyze–phenomena at the risk of jeopardizing the already-organic experience of living. I can see where she gets the idea of a “flattening,” but I wonder how applicable it really is to social media. Certainly, having a relationship with a computer (which is likely similar in ways to that of a book or even a mirror) can falsely represent an intimate relationship, but I am hesitant to generalize and say that it necessarily fragments and disrupts the natural act of “creating a synthetic narrative”… and what about potential 3-D capabilities (like AVATAR!) used with video chats?
I’ll see if I can find more articles that incorporate Heideggerian thought. But what intrigues me the most is Levinson’s comment that media, “as they evolve…become more human in their performance.” Is this an absolutely “good” or “bad” thing? This remains (and likely will forever remain) a tough question to answer…