Monday, March 19, 2012

Questions Concerning Technology

In general, I agree with Fran Lebowitz. The answer to Heidegger's famous "question concerning technology" is, well, "no". So, until this weekend, while I did have both a microwave oven and a computer, I did not have a mobile phone. I believe, as Heidegger did, that our technologies shape our sense of self. Indeed, as I read him, he believed (rightly) that who we are emerges from the confrontation of our ongoing activities (Betrieb) with our technical apparatus (Gestell), or as he puts it in some translations, with how our "hustle" is "enframed". There is no question that the smart phone structures the way we do things, how we move through the world. And Lebowitz is no doubt right too: one of the things they allow us to do is not be where we are. In full awareness of "the danger", then, I got myself an iPhone.

The main reason for this is that I'm running my own business and have so far been using my landline at home to contact clients (and for them to contact me). I wanted a way to have an "office". It is interesting to me to notice how this existence as a "small businessman" is changing my sense of who I am. It changes the way you work, of course, and your choice of technologies, which further shape the way you work. Interestingly, I was beginning to feel somehow less present, not more, because of my lack of connectivity. I felt a little like life was happening just beyond the reach of my senses, like I was being left out. But I'm sure I have to choose my connections carefully from here on. If I connect to everything at once I'll go mad.

Certainly, I'm going to be learning something about how people have been experiencing life (and each other) this past decade. (To remind myself of the danger, I think of Hemingway's idea that "it is valuable to a trained writer to crash in an aircraft which burns. He learns several important things very quickly.") I also bought myself a laptop, which I've been without ever since I left my old job. Last week, when I was in Constance, I had neither a phone nor a computer, so I was dependent on my host to keep in touch with the outside world. That meant that I could check my mail only when we were at his office. This week, I'm in Leicester (which explains my posting an hour later than usual the next few days) and I'm fully "connected". This will give me a good sense of the difference.

Finally, I have bought myself an internet domain. I'm working on the contents slowly but steadily and readers of this blog will of course be the first to know that the site is up. If I have my way, it's going to be very sharp. Very simple and clean. The most articulate place on the web.


Andrew Shields said...

I read this post on *my* iPhone, though I am typing this note on my computer (desktop).

That little bit of translation that you refer to drives me nuts: "Betrieb" and "Gestell" are everyday words, nicely translated/paraphrased by your "ongoing activities" and "technical apparatus", and terribly translated by "hustle" (maybe "hustle and bustle", or just "bustle", but "hustle" by itself is terrible) and the utterly awful "enframed."

Luckily, when I translated the letters of Heidegger and Arendt, I mostly did not have to deal with that kind of stuff (and the way it has already been translated). Translating Heidegger's poems was the trickiest part!

Thomas said...

I'm glad you like "hustle and bustle" because I'm using it in my book. I agree that many of these translations are awful. I even sometimes take the hard line that Dasein should be rendered "existence", but that also causes well-known problems.

I must read your translation of Heideggers letters.