The iPhone 5, Jurgen Habermas, Langdom Winner & some random Observations

I lived a year without a cell fone using instead  Google voice  when I needed too. During that time I also didn’t own a TV at that time. It was surprisingly very freeing and liberating. I didn’t feel as isolated ironically enough. So you can imagine my consternation when I started to see comments like on my Facebook feed about the iPhone 5. From the comments and the unrealistic levels of enthusiasm I almost thought that the Second coming of Christ was upon us.

on the fedex truck out for delivery…. it’s almost here!

What’s your favorite iPHONE apps?

The Public Sphere

Cool Representation of the Public Sphere

I remember reading some time ago the works of Jurgen Habermas, in particularly his writings on the public sphere. To summarize briefly, he mentioned that after the French Revolution was over and the monarchy was disposed, a public sphere arouse where people discussed ideas, many newspapers, journals, and reading clubs were started and it was a particularly fecund time.

In today’s world I feel that the public sphere is not so much a place for the exchange of ideas as much as it is a place to sell things. Technology like the internet and advances in building computers has expanded the public sphere to the point where I feel that we in a way cannot escape it. I think the focus on selling things creates a constant need for us to in a way divide people up so that we can target the specific demographics and study and manipulate humanity’s propensity for herd-like behavior as Edward Barnays, the nephew of Freud and the Father of Public Relations illustrated

Tangent: Edward Barnays

He was an Austrian-American pioneer in the field of public relations and propaganda, referred to in his obituary as “the father of public relations”. He felt this manipulation was necessary in society, which he regarded as irrational and dangerous as a result of the ‘herd instinct‘. In Propaganda (1928), Bernays argued that the manipulation of public opinion was a necessary part of democracy:

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.

Technology & Langdon Winner

As we compare our own minds to the operations of a computer we acknowledge that an understanding of technical devices has somehow merged with the  most intimate levels of self understanding …. What appear to be nothing more than useful instruments are from another point of view, enduring frameworks of social and political action

– Langdon Winner

I also feel that technology at least looking at the lines of people waiting for and all the comments on the iPhone 5 brings with it a certain sense of privilege and a culture of exclusion in a way, and a ways of staying willfully ignorant of what going on. So the world can burn or melt and we all as a global society can be pushed towards the edge of a looming abyss, but for the mean time there are apps to buy, new levels of Angry Birds to conquer, and music videos to watch.

This is not to deny all the positives of technology. But as Langdon Winner says in his book the Whale and the Reactor: “…human ends are powerfully transformed as they are adapted to technical means.” For me at least this warrants reflection.

What do you think ?

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  1. Both technology brainwashing and our propensity for the latest in everything if truth be told is a trap that eventually sucks us into that abyss of ethical and psychological ruins.
    Is there hope for some sort of salvation? I think not. It’s just too late for the majority of us. Thankfully, there are people like you and me who can always discern the difference.

    Definitely worthy of reflection.. I mighty like this side of you.


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