O Instituto de Ciências Sociais da Universidade de Lisboa (ICS) acolhe dia 17 e 18 de Junho na Sala Polivalente a Conferência Internacional Rethinking Jaques Ellul and the Technological Society in the 21st Century.
ABSTRACT: Jacques Ellul provides us a rigorous method into the investigation of the technological reality. Ellul proposes that one must think of a technological system instead of a specific technology or collections of technical objects. That is to say, one should investigate systems or subsystems instead of arguing whether, for example the internet or television is good or bad, or seeing the technological reality as a composition of different independent technologies. Ellul further proposes some critical concepts such as autonomy, unity, universality and totality that allow us to further explore these systems . This paper want to proposes that (1) Ellul’s proposal is not only valid today, but also is the only useful method which allows us to understand the complexity and reassess our reality, especially at the moment we are witnessing the rapid convergence of technology and the process of globalization which is mainly technologically driven. This paper also wants to (2) reflect on the nature of the technological system described by Ellul: de-symbolization, which however was not made clear by Ellul. Drawing from Gilbert Simondon, Ellul proposes that the development of a technological system is the process of de-symbolization, in which ‘man’s inherent power of symbolizing is excluded’, he further complicated that ‘on the other hand, all consumption is symbolic’. The dialectical relation between the de-symbolization and re-symbolization constitutes the dynamic of Ellul’s technological system. The technological system is not a product of the capitalistic system, but rather the latter is engulfed by the former. Ellul in this sense reconstitutes the relationship between the technological and capitalistic system, technology correlates to the capital flow, but they don’t share a simple causality. This paper want to juxtapose this dialectics and suggest that we should take desymbolization further, and indeed in the current internet driven technological system, we are witnessing two more forms of de-symbolization that go further than the re-symbolization of consumption. The paper suggests that firstly the de-symbolization also implies the process of materialization, which is not what Simondon and Ellul perceived, the production of technical objects which are associated by different industrial standards and technical elements . Instead we are witnessing the materialization through creation of the universality of data especially under the current open data movement, which is not only technical objects, but also digital objects. Digital objects are subsumed under calculation and algorithmic control. Secondly, the desymbolization is also an externalization, which Ellul took from Andre Leroi Gourhan while he did not carry it further. This aspect of externalization is explored by the philosopher Bernard Stiegler . Stiegler calls this form of externality ‘tertiary retention’, which doesn’t only constitute the coherence and lineage of a technical system, but also man’s ability to mediate and anticipate . Through these two further dimensions of de-symbolization, the paper proposes to bring Ellul’s technological system back to the technological reality.