ByCharles M. Ess
Pages 14

Existentialism endorses taking responsibility for discerning and creating meaning for our lives vis-a-vis deeply felt recognition of our mortality. The author begins with ancient sources of existentialism to help highlight its transformations as digital technologies have come to envelope and ground our existence. This large context is then illustrated through contributions to the recent Precarious Media Life conference. Mark Coeckelbergh and Peter-Paul Verbeek foreground themes of embodiment, vulnerability and natality; they further bring into play virtue ethics in both Kantian and contemporary flavors, as especially suited to the relational selves afforded by contemporary media technologies. Transcendence then appears as a theme conjoining contemporary Existential Media Studies with Digital Religion, and leads in turn to considerations of how we may still ground disobedience in the face of an enveloping digital environment that threatens autonomy and agency in manifold ways. Such rebellion is essential to the existential project of resisting prevailing ways of denying mortality, including contemporary dreams of a disembodied “digital immortality.” Here the work of Margaret Schwartz, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, and Beverly Skeggs is especially suggestive, in part as they point to a larger shift to a post-digital era in which the human subject is decisively re-centered within the body.