Clear digital 

Byung Chul-Han: In the Swarm MIT Press. United States

In the Swarm
Forfatter: Byung Chul-Han
Forlag: MIT Press (USA)
Chul-His hat to the digital age is bombastic and just occasionally interesting. Still, he is easy to like.


Sometimes I read books that make me meet myself at the door. Or, to say a little differently, acts as a magic mirror for what I think. Either because they take a few bucks longer in a reasoning I've led or because they commit the same unreasonable jumps I tend to take myself. Both are the case of Byung Chul-Hans In the Swarm.

The technology psyche is to the touch of this South Korean (but Berlin-resident) philosopher. He hates digital more than me, and is so slanted that it is constantly annoying.

Lost community. When he writes about the difference between collective movements in analog reality, he is romantically rooted in the belief that the ability of political ideologies to form a "we" could bring about change (I say could, because he seems to think that time is over). But when discussing collective movements in the digital world, all the nuance of wealth seems to have disappeared. Digital alliances are "swarms," ​​he argues, without any inner life and reflection.

“The digital swarm lacks the spirit or soul of the masses. Individuals who come together as a swarm do not develop a we, "Chul-Han insists. This is true for , Byung Chul-Han? I have a hard time believing that.

Digital alliances are "swarms", without any inner life and reflection ability.

The nostalgic impulse that points towards a bygone golden age is expressed in several places, including in his favor of writing by hand, or in distress with typewriters, besides the cognitive and social joys of analog encounters (not found in digital, according to Chul-Han – obviously not).

Now it should be said that life in front of the screen leads to more isolation than life in the square or the cafe does, but that this would necessarily cut us off from connecting with others is a simplification to say the least. The individualization and atomization of the political space is pointed out by many others, including Ulrich Beck and Jonathan Crary, but rarely with such strong conviction and with as few nuances as here.

Missing the subject. The problem is the generalization. Chul-Han leaves little room for the subject in his considerations, although it is in a civilization diagnosis that he is just among the scattered individuals with Secondly, perceptions sprout for change. Besides the lack of space for the subject and the changes that the individual can bring about, there are also astonishing little nuances when it comes to the use of the digital. It is, evenly, only destructive to both thinking and social community, and makes us emotionally depleted, according to the author.

But – BUT – it is obviously on the verge of the banal that, for example, social media or a smartphone can be used in a completely different way than what Chul-Han outlines. The tendency may go in the direction he describes, but it is obvious that there are exceptions and other forms of use that differ radically from his analyzes.

Also, there are several more engrossing self-evident here. Chul-He strictly reiterates what many of us have heard before – and if there is anything there is much to do with, it is left-wing intellectuals who hate the internet and social media. But Chul-Han goes further than most as the essay progresses. Both representation and traditional media – the "priesthood", he says – are on the way out of history.

When two-way communication and democratic dissemination arenas such as Facebook and blogs are available, the traditional media, the critical public – yes, even the future as such – will soon become a saga, we should believe the South Korean. Well, he is in to something, but the reasoning is parodied. Direct comic it becomes when he, after naming Hannah Arendt and her term about handling, states that we will soon be no longer able to shop. "The digital is the post-natal and post-metaphysical era," he says.

If there is something there is a lot of it is the left-wing intellectuals who hate the internet and social media.

Silence and power. Where Chul-Han is most interesting is in his description of power and naming. “Practices involving responsibility, fidelity and reliability are linked to being named. Confidence has to do with faith in the name. ”

The digital is destroying the name, he then goes on to say. This is more interesting, albeit more enigmatic, than most other things in this book. It points in the direction of possibilities, that there is room for individual variations, and thus that not everyone is a prisoner of the dystopian diagnosis made in the book (where we can neither act, think or do much else).

In addition, his analysis of power, which, he believes, is "the ability to create silence". This "silence" is the opposite of the noise that the web and digital puppeteers create in our lives and in public spaces – not least with all kinds of online trolling, which is a repetition in the book. Silence occurs when someone respects you and what you have to say, instead of churning out a long conversation thread or troll in the comments field.

This silence associated with the respect of others signifies a conservative tendency of Chul-Han, where we see the outline of a society where there is trust and respect between people who stop the chaos and restore order. It's an interesting way to go – and a way I should have seen a lot more of in this rather diffuse anti-digitization pamphlet.

Polemic philosopher. But again, this is probably a deliberate polemic form Chul-Han has cultivated in several books, not least though fatigue society, which is published in a number of languages ​​and has become a bestseller in several countries. The shape is bombastic, jargon heavy and short. It is as if the author cuts out the long reasoning and retains only the conclusions. They are, one could say, essays consisting solely of quotes. At the same time, it is a freshness of Chul-Han I, despite all the inconveniences, can not help but like a bit, maybe because I recognize him in his internet trill. The polemical, provocative and simplified form is undeniably driving the arguments effectively, arguments that are, after all, occasionally insightful. This is how you get your own head sharpened, since this both agreement and disagreement must necessarily be filled with more thought work.

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