To be affirmative towards the mass and social media then, we can perhaps say that it believes, from its pole of sovereignty, that its keeps society in a state of uncertainty. The media generates an everyday willingness to be “prepared for surprises and disruptions…. ” The mass and social media then belong within the "accelerated auto-dynamic of other function systems such as the economy, science and politics, which constantly confront society with new problems". It is worth noting how and why the media supplanted religion and the priesthood as thejuridical pole of sovereignty. How could it not given that its predecessor, (no matter what religion) is always reaction…
"…Just as in other function systems, the precondition for the differentiation of a particular function system of society is a special code. Differentiation means the emergence of a particular subsystem of society by which the characteristics of system formation, especially auto-poetic self-reproduction, self-organisation, structural determination, and along with all these, operational closure itself are realised. In such a case, we are not simply dealing with a phenomenon which a distinguished observer can distinguish. Rather, the system distinguishes itself. Analysis of the system of the mass media thus occurs at the same level of analysis as the economic system, the legal system, the political system etc. of society, and is concerned with paying attention to comparability, despite all differences….” ( Luhmann - The reality of the mass media)
The risk of a research project lies especially in the initial hypothesis proving untenable, or even this finding proving impossible to determine with any degree of certainty. This risk comes to a dramatic head because science is expected to produce new knowledge and for this reason assessments of the truth value of new developments diverge strongly…. It is typical to see protection against this by designing research in any case to generate with a high degree of probability data worth reporting. The refutation of hitherto accepted knowledge can also count as a research success, especially if it has to do with knowledge of great theoretical import,. …. These considerations of risk management within science modify the thesis that the risk of scientific research lies in not discovering the truth. If, however, we look not at individual projects but at larger research context, we realize that science cannot very well live by self-criticism or falsification alone, for this would rapidly exhausts all suitable store of knowledge. In the long run sustainable truths must continuously be generated, and the risk run by certain research complexes or entire disciplines lies not in not being able to do just that…. Luhmann (2008) Risk - And Science
In these notes on (commodity) fetishism the starting point has been where Marx speaks of social relationships which are taken to be things, objects, the fetishism of commodities. But here we are speaking not of simple commodities but of human relations as commodities. Relations as things. Accepting that “…this fetishism of commodities has its origins… in the peculiar social character of the labor that produces them…” In the society we have lived in this has been reproduced in all aspects of our society, from the products traveling in the slow network of container ships to the concepts zooming around on the fast networks. In the attempt to avoid this understanding - which assumes that the modernity is liquid, that within capital everything that is solid will melt… It seems to me that the clearest example of this tendency of fetishized concepts to zoom around is nihilism….
Nihilism, the devaluation of all values, is for many thinkers the most important consequence of modernity and thus post-modernity. What is fetished here is the very notion of values for what is avoided by those most invested in nihilism is the central issue of responses to political economy… all that is solid melts into air….Perhaps then we can name one or two fetishised responses to the present and recent past - the first one is nihilism, the varieties of this particular fetishism in its contemporary postmodern form, touched on here are those delineated by Deleuze and Lyotard. Both at their most Nietzschean and at their most liberal.. Initially nihilism was proposed not simply as a matter of belief, and nor could it be reduced to a mere doctrine. Nietzsche understood Western culture to be inherently nihilistic, and understood nihilism as the historical process shaping the fate of the West, a process In which the highest values devalued themselves. Values which he understood as having historically (its the 19th Century) provided Europe with its aim and purpose but which had lost their binding power and force… leaving human lives lacking direction or truth, life as nothing beyond its empty self perpetuation. Deleuze reads this as follows "…thus we can see that the relation between nihilism and transmutation is deeper than was initially suggested. Nihilism expresses the quality of the negative as a ratio cognoscendi of the will to power; but it cannot be brought to completion without transmuting itself into the opposite quality, into affirmation as ratio essendi of this same will… destruction becomes active at the moment when, with the alliance between reactive forces and the will to nothingness broken, the will to nothingness is converted and crosses over to the side of affirmation…” (from Deleuze- Nietzsche 1983).
In the specific context being drawn out here the concept of affirmation is fetishised within the nihilistic turn, within which it is accepted that to say ‘nihilist’ in the affirmative sense of the above is imagined as being meaningful. To resolve the nihilistic crisis at the heart of western culture is to complete the turn and reproduce the positive role of nihilism in a philosophy of affirmation, an affirmative life. In the process avoiding the alternative which is the nihilistic descent into passivity, the will to nothingness. To be specific, both affirmation and passivity are aspects of nihilism. It is not surprising that Deleuze presents creativity/the creator as the destroyer of nihilism through the use of the fetishised taxonomy of Nietzsche’s characters (aristocrat, artist etc), These conceptual personae are assumed to be the way out of the radical passivity, the will to nothingness of nihilism. Nihilism is negated, values are destroyed… ‘Destruction as the active destruction of the man who wants to perish and to be overcome announces the creator’… destruction of all known values is the trail of the creator…’ (Deleuze Nietzsche) Here then affirmation is defined in otherwords not as nihilism but as its resolution… Creativity is the other fetishised term which interests me in this ideology and discourse - ‘creativity’, both elitist and foolish, it is the initial moment when, through its very fetishisation, the discourse enables the rightwing to appropriate the text. The third fetishised term here is values…. In our times nihilists tend to follow Lyotard’s related approach, seeing nihilism as creating new persona…. semioticians, scientists … and placing them in new institutions, theories and situations. The simplest way to understand Lyotard’s focus on nihilism is in the difference between the signifier and what it represents/signifies, between the philosophical representation and the thing represented. The division holds the material sign away from its meaning, hence the drift from the material, to sensation and affect and finally to meaning and understanding. This trajectory is a phantasm, never a complete process. For science is always a work in process, and meaning has no origin. For Lyotard it is a small step to suggest that science maintains a devaluation of matter (and affect) in favour of understanding and that it is a nihilism because in denying matter in favour of understanding they are following a line which can never end. Lyotard defines the task of understanding as nihilistic. This misunderstanding of science as nihilism has haunted us throughout recent decades, haunted by the death, extinction and where probability ends.
Do I need to speak of the elitism of nihilism, which begins with the original Nietzschean critique of egalitarianism, from the recognition that value presumes inequality and that equality must undermine value. Even whilst equality is according to this a form of nihilism, not all nihilisms are egalitarian. It is this latter which is referenced in the resolution of nihilism proposed above. Nihilism as such then is a way of avoiding the necessity of socialism as a pure critique of the capitalist mode of production… And yet the absence of those who do not exist in this affirmative moment, those who are nothing, makes this look like a pathetic gesture, trapped in the sign system, between the theoretical and religious representation and what is represented. Everyday life is excluded, implicitly defined as nothing… nihilism as fetish.
"Printed books and humanistic scholarship have a shared history. For centuries, humanists have worked with formats—the printed page, the bound codex—that have remained essentially consistent. But communication in digital environments has required the invention of new forms, tools, and schemata. The lack of conventions and the opportunity to imagine formats with very different affordances than print have not only brought about recognition of the socio-cultural construction and cognitive implications of standard print formats, but have also highlighted the role of design in communication. Modeling knowledge in digital environments requires the perspectives of humanists, designers, and technologists."
— Digital_Humanities, Anne Burdick, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, Todd Presner, Jeffrey Schnapp (2012)
… the understanding of technology as simplification indeed does not mean that the world even in its basic structures is simple and that this fact would have to be discovered. Science is not discovery but construction. Nor is it necessary to break through the surface of the phenomenal world and unmask it as mere appearance in order to discern the mathematical or categorical framework that carries the world. These are the theories of the premodern world. On the contrary science … tries out simplifications, incorporates them into a given world, and seeks to determine whether isolations necessary for such experiments are successful…. (Luhmann)
"… the specificity of modernity must be sought in the differences that are produced when an observer designates something and thereby makes a distinction. We infer this insight from the observation that important statements about modern science take the form of a critique that does not start from the perspective immanent to science with the view towards possible improvements but, in principle, complains about the fact that modern science, as science, leaves something essential out of consideration….. What is at stake in such a critique is the form of modern science - that is, the difference made by the fact that science exists…. … another description of science, equally critical of modernity, that targets its centre. It takes aim at a one-sided tendency towards formalisation idealisation, technicalisation, accounting and so on. In this sense, Edmund Husserl, as has already been discussed elsewhere, spoke of the crisis of the modern sciences. What is at stake here is not the dependency of technology on science but the dependency of science on technology - and not in the sense of a simple ‘finalising debate' that takes only goals into account. We are leaving open the question of whether anything is to be criticised, improved and avoided. We are only asking: in what sense is technicalisation (we continue to use the word) a form? And what is the other side of this form? ….. According to Husserl - and many have reiterated his view - technicalisation forgets the ‘lifeworld’, the always already employed, concrete foundation of meaning for subjective intentions, whether in the form of a naive ‘putting-into-it’ or of a reflexive attitude. Against this forgetting, Husserl reminds us of a special telos of European history: the complete self-realisation of reason under the guidance of philosophy. Accordingly, the other side is the concrete actualisation of meaningful human life under the guidance of reason…” ( Niklas Luhman p68/9 Theories of Distinction (1995/92)
"….The tacit assumption that truth is not possible without reference to an external world (because this is precisely what is meant by ‘truth’) has led to endless and unproductive discussions of the problem of realism. If the very operation of referring …… must be understood as a real operation, one can seriously think that only what it designates (refers to) is real. On the other hand it is not sufficient simply to change over to the opposite position and maintain the reality of the referring operation. The operation is inaccessible to itself, and for the observer it could be referred to only as something he designates. This way, one is left only with the existing controversy between realism and constructivism - as if these were incompatible positions….."
This may be considered as understating the opposition between realist and anti-realist/constructivist positions, but at the same time as Luhmann points out “…the impossibility of solving a problem posed in this way indicates that modern society needs to formulate its epistemological problems differently…” To put it in suitably blunt terms no realist position can satisfactorily address the problems of reference and truth….
"… a bivalent logic has forced people to conflate the two perspectives. It’s only positive value, truth, designated being and therefore articulated reference. The countervalue untruth only served to control the act of referring (designation, claiming, recognizing). Under these presuppositions, the loss of reference had to appear as a loss of truth resulting in the paradox of nihilism, which states that consequently only the untrue could be truth. Logic was not structurally rich enough to represent more complex relations, and this condition was sufficient for social relations that went along with a world described in a monocontextual fashion…" Nikolas Luhmann Theories of Distinction (1995)
Nihilism, the devaluation of all values, is for many thinkers the most important consequence of modern and thus post-modernity. The way Luhmann puts it above describes the central issue with all analyses which begin from an understanding of ‘nihilism’. The fetishism of value…