Informational vertigo and the public sphere of communication

Fortunately, algorithms, no matter how intelligent they are, do not eliminate memory, contingency and imagination

We have said it before, the raw information produced by information and communication technologies is the raw material of the 21st century and the crowd economy the main driving force of the digital society.

Furthermore, the major transitions underway trigger countless external effects, positive and negative, many virtuous and vicious circles and many more or less pronounced ecological and digital footprints.

It is here, in this emerging and dizzying systemic metabolism of great transitions that the contribution of philosopher Paul Virílio on the relationships between speed, technology and politics makes perfect sense.

In the current context, surrounded by platforms, networks and applications on all sides, we are experiencing a true informational vertigo that substantially alters our perception of reality and generates a lot of agitation in our cognitive system, as well as the permanent risk of collision.

Imagine, for example, the speed of technology such as artificial intelligence and the automation of intelligent machines and we will be increasingly closer to many incidents and accidents on the road. A real knowledge accident industry, as Paul Virilio would say.

The information vertigo in which we are immersed affects the perception of reality, the scientific procedure, but also the role and function of general culture, which is now going through a process of deconstruction due to the hallucination and madness of so much information.

In fact, it is not just the difference between true and false that is at stake, it is also the lack of empathy between human beings, now replaced by the synchronization of emotions in the virtual colony, a kind of new tyranny of feelings.

From a historical-epistemological point of view, after the press, books and newspapers, after radio and television, we now have smartphones and computer screens, that is, we are witnessing a structural transformation of the public sphere in the era of digital society, or, as the philosopher Jurgen Habermas would say, we are witnessing the emergence of another theory of communicational action.

We are clearly at a turning point, but we still don't know if it is us, humans, who are reinventing the great commitment of politics, or if it is the digitalization of society engendered by intelligent machines and algorithms that impose the normalization and standardization of our behaviors.

We have known for a long time that our rationality is limited, but we also know that we were able to find a common background for discussion in which contextualization, argumentation and contradiction are part of our communicative rationality.

This communicative action is the basis of our democratic public sphere as we know it in the Western world where the tripartite division of powers and public freedoms ensure, despite the noise, the commitment of politics and the politics of compromise.

Now, the transition to digital society gives rise to another communicative rationality, a kind of social physics, where Big Data, algorithmic logic, intelligent machines and artificial intelligence appear as a functional equivalent of the public sphere and the general will to other times.

We are, therefore, faced with a behaviorist and utilitarian theory of human behavior that digital rationality has normalized and standardized through the information and data that we constantly produce and which, in addition, will lead us, finally, to the ultimate truth without the noise and the waste of previous communicative rationality.

In short, a social physics supposedly superior to the rationality of communicational action and superior to the discussion, argumentation and communication that constitute it.

Admittedly, we are not like bees that function according to the laws of a certain social physics and, furthermore, digital swarms are very dangerous bubbles of consumption and communication.

Despite these risks, the trend towards digital society is accentuated, the democratic public space is increasingly centrifuged by decentralized and distributed platforms that prove to be incapable of consistent political and cognitive action. In short, informational vertigo and digital addition remove clarity and discernment from communicative action and rationality.

We thus have, in direct confrontation, a cohabitation that appears difficult and complex. On the one hand, pluralism, representative diversity and the opinions of others, a rationality inherent to discussion, argumentation and contradiction that enriches and builds political democracy.

On the other side, we have the privatization and tribalization of the internet and a review of the facts in the name of identity and group truth. Here, the context counts for little, the arguments do not count, there is no longer debate and discussion, the communicative action fades and is disguised.

Having said that, we cannot, however, do without the commitment of politics because a sum of private spheres does not make a public sphere and systemic inequalities have not been eliminated, in addition to the instruments of digital society being very precious for building convergence between personal values and social values.

In short, we have, on the one hand, the infra time, the time of reflection, the machine time that has been delegated to time machines and, on the other hand, the slow time of politics which is the time of the art of social commitment.

In a way, History has transferred from Earth to Heaven (cyberspace and cloud computing), the acceleration of time has made the world flat and non-places have emerged where identity gives way to traceability and surveillance.


Final grade

In short, we have moved from passive spectators to active emitters of information, however, we cannot tolerate that information intoxication keeps people in ignorance and that information vertigo creates agitation in the cognitive system that destroys the perception of reality and rational action.

We are already somewhere between information capitalism and surveillance capitalism, with a smartphone in hand and in the hands of the algorithmic black box that keeps a complete record of our behavior.

Fortunately, algorithms, no matter how intelligent they are, do not eliminate memory, contingency and imagination.

But the truth is on the way to being privatized because information saturation makes us lose the drive for truth. Nothing seems trustworthy.

So let’s get back to the essentials. The common good and the ethics of care, common sense and common sense, the common background of things and the rationality of communicative action.

In the end, let us not forget, truth is a social construction and this gives meaning to life in common, its existential foundation. And the truth is a regulator of life in common because it provides us with the path to reunion.



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