chapter  5
26 Pages

Between totalitarianism and heterogeneity

Lyotard and the postmodern condition

We have examined three approaches to technology in Heidegger, Benjamin and the Futurists. All three wrote when, for the first time, technology enabled the profound reconstitution of human ways of thinking and being in the world. In many ways, the Italian Futurists are the most straightforward in their approach, yet their concerns and general sensibility resonate right up until the present day, forming an important precursor for cyberculture movements. The Futurists, as we have seen, looked upon technology as a means of transcending what they regarded as the staid and decaying social and cultural forms of early twentieth-century life. The manner in which technology feeds already existing ideologies is clear in the case of the Futurists, especially Marinetti. Technology allows an extension of violent and patriarchal fantasies, culminating in a complicity with fascist politics. This much is well known. The first part of this text extended this analysis. First, I argued that the relationship between technology and Futurism as a cultural movement goes well beyond the empirical affinity for new technologies. The Futurists moved to embrace a more generalised sensibility of transcendence and material abstraction, a sensibility which framed their relation to ‘non-technological’ aspects of cultural and social life. Second, while technology allows the promulgation of violent fantasies, in that new weapons technologies allow for an aesthetics of destruction, this violence was also a ‘logical’ outcome of the resolution of various contradictions in relation to technology. The embrace of a technological framework in order to initiate a process of subjective and national regeneration also entailed erasing the prior framework from which both the subject and the nation-state drew their meaning. The technologically mediated subject and the nation-state in the age of technological globalisation were threatened as much as empowered. It is not surprising then, that their identities were restored only through a violent domination of otherness. Finally, it is important to register the fact that the Futurist embrace of a logic of flux and circulation, their love of speed and their revolt against depth or temporality set up the conditions for

a particular sensibility that can be played out most effectively, if not through war, then through the logic of technologised forms of commodity exchange. It is worth keeping this in mind when we examine the discourses on cybertechnologies, where needs and desires are primarily consumated through the consumption of images and commodities.