Thinking Differently Amidst the Worlds of the Internet

Image Source: Akamai

Holding on to grammatology, we can see how we have privileged only the sense of vision and have used it to legitimate all thinking. The etymology of the word Idea (idein) , the smallest unit of thought comes from the Greek root that means the look of a thing. The same is true of the Latin, video which means ‘I see’. Ideas are therefore, abstract pictures. Maybe this is the reason we have the metaphor of light and darkness related to the coming to enlightenment through ideas. Somehow the entire history of Western thought is linked to this coming to light through ideas. Perhaps, it has its roots in Socrates who believed in the luminous power of ideas. This is why Jacques Derrida is right in describing the entire Western Philosophy as a photology. If we can think that thinking is a form of writing following Derrida’s grammatology than we can say that we are writing our thoughts with our eyes. All thinking is oculo-centric and is deeply conditioned by metaphors of light and darkness. This means we have enframed our thinking into visibility and presence. This is why Derrida accuses Western thought of suffering from logocentrism that thinks from the privileged position of presence. This logocentric thinking has its limitations and we cannot adequately respond to the new world of the internet and the allied big data analytics using it alone.

Derrida’s effort to replace/ displace an idea (basic unit of thinking) that is rooted mainly in the sense of vision with force is praise worthy. He does this to derail the dominance of the sense of seeing (and hearing) and tries to bring a new balance of the senses of smell, touch and taste. This is done because there are relations between the sense (intelligible) and the sensible. We have so far depended on the senses of vision and hearing to produce the sense of the world. Derrida tried to displace this mode of thinking and produce knowledge by trying to set the sense of smell and taste as the new ground for the basic units / alphabets of thinking. This is important because it opens us to the world of aesthetics/ tastes that rules us as we explore the internet. It is our aesthetic inclinations that hold us glued to the internet and also offer the data footprints to the big data analytics. This means the form of writing/ grammatology of the internet is different. It intensively intermediates the world of aesthetics and excites and triggers our tastes. This is the reason why we need a new grammar of thinking. We need new basic units of thinking( philosphemes) to understand and respond to it.

It is only by stepping outside the cave of thinking that reduces all thought to a luminous disclosure may be we will be enabled to think of the changed condition that afflicts us with arrival of the smart phone in our idiotic hands. Force becomes a new unit of thought as it enables us to capture the fast paced dynamic world as well as it enables us to understand how it triggers, enforces and energizes us as we swim like ducks in the worlds of the internet. While we do not have to debunk the contribution of the eye to our thinking (which is a form of writing), we have to embrace energetics of intensive thinking modes that are rooted in our tastes. The world of the internet sets us on to dance of pulsation locking us into effects, affects and sensations which transcend the cognitive modes of thinking. In fact, we have become subjects of the network communication technology, seamlessly jumping from one site to another, quickly forgetting the cognitive resonance of meaning while holding on to the aesthetic ones that satisfy our big appetite for ‘tastes’. This means we have now stepped into the decorative, ornamental sides of life and are trapped into an infinite dance of substitutes. Nothing seems to be fully satiating our tastes even when we are surfing an inexhaustible digital world.

The new worlds in the Internet have put us back into what may be called a complex form of hieroglyphs of the Egyptians. The Hieroglyphs used pictures as alphabets. Thus, using pictures or images Egyptians wrote. Hieroglyphics are phonocentric. The digital world uses sonic, ideographic , graphic and pictographic images to write its texts. These texts cannot be only passively or intellectually read. They fully involve us. It often seems to numb our cognitive abilities and imprison us into the sensorial world of aesthetics. This is why we have to make sense of the grammatology of the digital world to offer our creative and emancipative response. Derrida’s effort to base thinking into the new alphabets away from sight and hearing can be seen as actualized in the work of Deleuze and Gauttari who use the imagery of intensive flows / riding of the waves to show how we are affected by conditions that produce effects in us. Often these effects lead us to mindlessly riding the flows. But Deleuze and Gauttrari teach us to open lines of flight and move away from these enslaving flows. Therefore, thinking of life as a form of writing offers us ways of writing life under erasure as well as writing differently from the master texts that often enslave us and inhibit our thinking by closing it within the coordinates of its boundaries. We need to embrace grammatology to respond to the new world of the internet.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao