Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Liberty, Technology, and the Advent of Social Networking

St. Michael the Boss
Interesting article by  Harvad PhD candidate, Gladden J. Pappin, discussing the intersection of virtue, vice, and social media, with nods to McLuhan and Baudrillard. 

How does technology recast the relationship between liberty and virtue?

"To fashion our network double we have to resolve ourselves into our constituent parts, advance some and suppress others, make ourselves the medium without making our souls the message.

"The community of the Internet is now as spiritual as the communion of saints once was, so it is fitting that McLuhan thought Thomas Aquinas's angelology was important in understanding the media. Through social networking we receive not prayers and graces but links and likes. The church triumphant appears in virtual reality, where all things are possible and everything is realized virtually in the mystical body of the web. As in the resurrection of the body, logging off from your account gives you your body back, this time not glorified but fraught with anxiety, the church suffering after triumph rather than the reverse. Signed off from your account, you are now unaccounted-for. Reality itself becomes the afterlife, the postmodern No Exit where hell is virtual people. The advent of virtual reality, not to say the beginning of modern politics itself, detaches human beings from the consolations of church, city, and family that wayfarers in this life once thought they had. A late-modern Augustine could not see technology as just another dimension of alienation from our heavenly home. We are now aliens twice removed."


  1. very interesting quote. thanks for sharing

  2. Skimmed the article, but had to read the section on the soul!

    To me it is extremely interesting how the 'virtual reality' of social networking does doubly 'remove' our souls. And again, tying in the notion of irony and unlimited choice -- how do we live moral lives becomes a huge question, and one that moves towards the dissolution of the human in the virtual, I think.

    As Aristotle argued in the "De Anima," touch is an essential property of the soul, and when we lose our sense of touch (as we do in the virtual), animal life ceases -- and to be an animal for Aristotle is to have a telos and to already up in 'moral space,' to use that phrase anachronistically. And our bodies are essentially limited -- we don't have every choice open to us, and maybe because of that, we can live morally. Does the moral require the specific? Is there no morality outside embodied situation?

  3. Ooh that's really interesting, I didn't know that about Aristotle's De Anima, I should get around to reading it. The section on the soul in the article was the most interesting part, in my opinion. But I think this is where media studies really comes alive!