in the swarm
Wrestling with my addiction to and loathing of the Internet, I’ve been taking notes from In the Swarm, a pamphlet by Byung-Chul Han, a Korean-born German philosopher, published by MIT Press in April.
“Sovereign is he who commands the shitstorms of the Net,” Han declares.
Sound timely? Han believes the Internet is “a narcissistic ego machine” that cashiers traditional democratic politics. Once upon a time, it may have been possible for rage to inspire the people of a nation into action, but that was because mass media, like radio, taught citizens how to surrender their individuality and become a people. Today, online, there is no collective soul but only a swarm of isolated individuals, through whom political indignation ripples like a wave—and dissipates. Some of Han’s aphorisms sound very translated from German—“The new man will finger instead of handling”—and he’s a bit too orphic for a pragmatist like me to take him without a grain of salt. But his pessimism feels salutary. —review by Caleb Crain (“Envoy”)
...Byung-Chul Han counters the cheerleaders for Twitter revolutions and Facebook activism by arguing that digital communication is in fact responsible for the disintegration of community and public space and is slowly eroding any possibility for real political action and meaningful political discourse.
DEEP! BOOM! I am reading this summer!