Theater of Cruelty

Gigantic global experiment

Digital hedgehogs. Live and never die online
Forfatter: Davide Sisto
Forlag: Bollati Boringhieri, (Italia)
MEDIA / In the book Digital hedgehogs, Italian Davide Sisto tackles what the virtual does to our self-perception and our five – perhaps many more – senses.


The Italian philosopher and writer, Davide Sisto, analyzes further about our relationship with ourselves and the outside world in the brave new world with a physical reality and a digital reality. 'Surrealism' one is almost tempted to say after reading his book Digital hedgehogs («Digital hedgehogs») – published in Italian.

The book circulates about the duality of these two realities – and personalities of the individual – and states that the covid-19 pandemic was the surprising and unplanned historical event that confirms once and for all the anthropological metamorphosis that we all as individuals are subject to in the so-called digital revolution – a gradual metamorphosis over the last three decades.

Digital Hedgehogs launches concepts such as that the digital civilization with the covid-19 pandemic was out for a crash test, where we were all forced to incorporate the digital reality even more in our lives – in our private, social and commercial relationships.

Digital personal metamorphoses

Sisto has no doubts. We are all part of a gigantic global experiment, where we, as laboratory rats, participate in the world's largest community to date, which knows no limits and does not set them ourselves. We must set the limits ourselves in a digital universe.

For the digital – our digital personal metamorphosis – metamorphosis constantly integrates our body and the image of it. According to Davide Sisto, aspects such as the relationship between being present and not being, closeness and distance and the connection between our self and its many ramifications, create a rapid renovation in the philosophical approaches to the concepts of personal identity.

He concludes that although we are forced to 'freeze' our bodies in our homes – during the pandemic – we have at no time stopped interacting physically with the outside world. The divide between our physical and digital lives is more and more diffuse, just like the border between the near and the far and the material and the immaterial.

To be (un)screened

"We are no longer beings with five senses. Technology has provided hundreds", as Myron W. Krueger wrote in 1991 about the concept of artificial reality.

Ergo: The important thing is to realize this in order to harness and convert this potent 'sensitivity' and sense into one we can receive and understand.

Sisto here touches on an aspect of today's values: That technology and our digital personality and body give us a sense of protection. Being (off) the screen – via a computer screen or mobile phone screen. In other words, a 'gay comfort' has arisen!

But the closer they stood, the more they stabbed each other (to the point of blood) with their spikes.

Sisto says that in 1851 Arthur Schopenhauer formulated a metaphor to find a balance between closeness and distance between people – and personal relationships. A herd of hedgehogs suffered badly from the cold on a winter's day. The closer they stood together, the more they kept warm – in the community. But the closer they stood, the more they stabbed each other (to the point of blood) with their spikes. And had to constantly move away from each other a little to relieve the pain – until the cold again forced them to stand close together.

Sisto uses that metaphor in his analysis of what we as individuals experience today with the expansion of virtual spaces and forums. And that proximity and distance are not always physical but also digital and virtual. And hurt in their ways. Hence the book's title, 'Digital Hedgehog'. Sisto tries to show how we are emotionally and psychologically affected directly by our digital bodies and our way of living and being in the real world. And that despite being completely inside this new digital civilization, we can never completely avoid being hedgehogs who need to be close to each other and sometimes away from each other.

In his previous book from 2020, Remember me: The digital revolution between memory and oblivion ('Remember me: The digital revolution between memory and forgetting'), Sisto also tackled how the digital social networks help to build a large collective autobiography, where everyone contributes with words and images and together forms a personal but also collective memory.

In both books, he reflects on how our relationship with memory and forgetting is changing in the digital age. And how the past doesn't really exist for real. It's just become a story we tell ourselves and each other.

Rune V. Harritshøj
Rune V. Harritshøj
Writer living in Buenos Aires.

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