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Hiroki Azuma | Not Political, but Database, Animals: Towards a political semi-transparent interface

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Hiroki Azuma | Not Political, but Database, Animals: Towards a political semi-transparent interface

东浩纪

Aristotle defined humans as political animals. It is understood that the political act requires an act of demarcation between the inside and outside of the polis; that is, it is the demarcation between the political domain and everything else. Despite being ideologically opposed philosophers, both Carl Schmitt in The Concept of the Political (1927) and Hannah Arendt in The Human Condition (1958) pointed out that any political act inevitably assumes a separation between the issues that deserve to be argued politically and not, as well as the exclusion of the latter.

Nevertheless we, living in the information age, must confront a new reality. We experience the malfunction of this political demarcation because, on one hand, the development of a postmodern society that annihilates cultural borders and, on the other, the rise of information technology that erases geopolitical borders. We can no longer easily determine what deserves to be politics and what does not and what should be argued in public and what should not (sexual identity problems, for example). Aristotle’s polis is dissolving in our postmodern, ever-globalism society. Jean-François Lyotard once called this the collapse of the grand narrative (The Condition of Postmodernity, 1979).

Given such a situation, the first question we might ask is: how do we define humans if they lose the polis? I proposed a new diagnosis in my Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals (2001) in response to Alexandre Kojève’s depiction of humans living within modern-day capitalism as simply animals returning to an animality without any human, historical and/or dialectical self-consciousness (Introduction to the Reading of Hegel, 1947). Instead, I suggested referring to these humans as database animals – animals who share the accumulation of various cultural representations (e.g., movies, music, anime, etc.) instead of a grand narrative (i.e., the polis) as the basis or platform for their quasi-political communication. The work and behavior of otaku in Japan can be analyzed as examples of this phenomenon, though I believe the database animalization of humans is an observable global trend. Humans in the 21st century construct society not on the polis but on the database. The database also decides the political scope of our interest.

The second question we might ask is: what will be the process of policy-making in the world of database animals if databases are all that exist? Political animals made their political decisions through public deliberation in the agora, an open space existing in the real and physical world. Database animals must do it through different means.

I examined this question in my General Will 2.0 (2011). My argument is:

i. A new kind of database supported by information technologies (Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) will visualize the people’s will without the need of direct deliberation.

ii. Rousseau’s concept of the people’s will (“general will” in The Social Contract and “general will 1.0” in my book) – part of the basis of modern democracy – can be redefined as the theoretical justification for the database visualization of the people’s will.

iii. Thus, we can easily imagine that in the near future our society will require more and more transparent and real-time connections of visualization technology and democracy, which may result in the worst form of populist radicalism.

iv. Therefore I concluded that we must update the concept of general will 1.0 and re(in)novate it (“general will 2.0”) as a new social sphere of interaction, or interface, between people’s unconscious desires visualized online through a large database and citizens’ conscious deliberation enclosed in actual small communities, or agoras.

The general will 2.0 is not the will. It must be defined as an interface, or a new surface, on which the new kind of deliberation will be activated through being attacked, supported and sourrounded by the technologically visualized people’s unconsiousness, i.e., general will 1.0. I believe the screenshot of Niconico (Japan’s leading video sharing website) will be a good example here.

Rousseau loved transparency (Jean Starobinski, The Transparency and the Obstacle, 1957). His whole philosophy and literature originated from his love of transparency. But the transparent representation of people’s will generates radical populism. Database technologies accelerate it. We must innovate a semi-transparent interface between deliberation and database to control its acceleration.

Author of Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals (University of Minnesota Press, 2009) and General Will 2.0: Rousseau, Freud, Google (Vertical 2014) in addtion to numerous books including phlosophical essays, cultural criticisms, and sci-fi novels in Japanese language.

Director of the publishing company Genron and its affiliated alternative space Genron Cafe in Tokyo.

Hiroki Azuma b.1971 in Tokyo.

Philosopher and Critic.

Ph.D. (University of Tokyo)

twitter: @hazuma or @hazuma_en

Winner of Suntory Prize for Social Sciences and Humanities(1999) and 23rd Yukio Mishima Prize(2010).


亚里斯多德定义人是一种政治的动物。这句话被理解成政治行动需要一种在古希腊城邦内部与外部之间创造边界的动作;这是界分政治领域与其他一切事物的动作。尽管他们作为意识形态迥异的两位哲学家,Carl Schmitt 在《何谓政治的》(The Concept of the Polical, 1927)与汉娜鄂兰在《人类的状态》(The Human Condition, 1958)都同样指出:任何政治行动不可避免地都预设了一种分离—是否值得被用政治方式讨论的事务,与对不值得用政治讨论事务的排除。

然而身处在资讯时代的我们,必须面对的是一种新的现实。我们正经历着政治区分的失去功能:因为一方面后现代社会的发展摧毁了文化的边界,同时另一方面资讯科技的兴起抹消了地理政治的边界。我们不再轻而易举地能够决定何者值得、何者不值得被视为政治,以及什么才应该在公众领域被讨论,什么不应该(例如性别认同问题)。亚里斯多德的希腊城邦在我们后现代、越来越全球主义化的社会里消融不见。李欧塔(Jean-François Lyotard)一度称这种处境为“大叙事的崩塌”(《后现代状况》(The Condition of Postmodernity, 1979)。

在这种情况下,我们问的第一个问题也许是:如果他们失去了“城邦”,我们该如何定义(作为政治动物的)人类?在我的《御宅族:日本的资料库动物》(2001)书中,我提出了一个新的诊断来回应科耶夫(Alexandre Kojève):他描绘人们生活在现代资本主义下,宛如回归动物性的简单的动物,而没有任何人类、历史的与/或辩证的自我意识(《导论:阅读黑格尔》(Introduction: Reading of Hegel, 1947))。作为替代,我建议这些人类应该被称为“资料库动物”:分享诸多文化表征(例如电影、音乐、动画等)的积累过程,取代了大叙事(例如政治城邦)作为其类政治沟通的基础或平台。日本御宅族的作品与行为可以被分析作为这种现象的范例,虽然我觉得人类的资料库动物化应该是一种全球可被观察的趋势。21 世纪的人类建构社会不站在城邦的基础上,而是站在资料库上。资料库同时也决定了我们利益的政治视野。

第二个问题我们也许可以这样提问:如果资料库是所有既存的一切,在资料库动物的世界中,政策制定的过程将变成什么样子?政治动物透过在城市广场/市集(agora)中的公共审议做出他们的政治决定,那是一个开放空间存在于真实与实体世界。资料库动物必须透过不同的做法。在我的《共同意志 2.0》(General Will 2.0, 2011)书中,我检视了这个问题。我的论证是:

  1. 资讯科技如谷歌、脸书、推特等所支持的一种新型态的资料库,将会把人们的意志视觉化,不需要直接审议的需求。
  2. 卢梭的概念“人民意志”(在卢梭的《社会契约论》中用“共同意志”,在我的书中用“共同意志 1.0”来表示),是现代民主的基础之一部分,可以被重新定义,作为人民意志的资料库视觉化之理论正当化(theoretical justification)。
  3. 我们于是可以轻易地想像在不远的未来,我们的社会将会需要更多的视觉化科技与民主的透明的即时连结功能,而这些将导致民粹激进主义的最糟糕的形式。
  4. 于是我总结:我们必须更新共同意志 1.0 的概念,并且再更新它(共同意志 2.0)做为一个新的社会互动层,或介面,介于人们的线上潜意识欲望视觉化之间,透过一个大型的资料库与公民的意识审议、围成实际上的小型社群或城市广场。

共同意志2.0 不是意志。它必须被定义成一种介面,或新的表面,在其上新型态的审议将会透过被技术视觉化人们的潜意识(共同意志 1.0)所攻击、支持与环绕下被启动。我相信日本领导世界的影音分享网站 Niconico 的弹幕 / 荧幕快照,将会是这里很好的范例。

卢梭爱透明(Jean Starobinski,透明与阻碍 The Transparency and the Obstacle, 1957)。他全部的哲学与作品源自于他对透明的热爱。但是人民意志的透明在线将会导致激进的民粹主义。资料库科技加速了这个进程。我们必须创造出一个,介于审议与资料库之间的半透明的介面,来控制其加速过程(避免社会的崩坏?)。

东浩纪 1971年出生于东京

哲学家与批评家

博士,东京大学

推特:@ hazuma或@ hazuma_en

荣获:三得利人文社会科学奖(1999)

第二十三届三岛由纪夫奖(2010)

作者:《动物化的后现代——御宅族眼中的日本社会》(明尼苏达大学出版社,2009)《一般意志2.0:卢梭,弗洛伊德,谷歌》(Vertical出版社2014)除此以外还著有大量日本语写作的哲学随笔、文化批评、科幻小说。Genron出版公司及其下属另类空间Genron咖啡馆驻东京的董事。

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