Vilém Flusser, Nomads

Vilém Flusser, Nomads, in: The Freedom of the Migrant, Chicago 2003, pp. 47-54.

„The word [nomad] comes from the Greek nomas, or ‘pasture seeker’, which in turn comes from nomos, which can be translated as ‘bounded area’. The suffix -nomy, as in astronomy or autonomy, is derived from this word. (…) The word nomos, in turn, comes from nemein, ‘to grant, to assign’. This is the derivation of our word nemesis, revenge in the sense of returning something to its just and proper state. The verb nemein can be traced back to the ancient Indo-European root n-m*, which expresses self-subjugation to an order or law (as, for example, in the Sanskrit word nam). We derive the word number from this root.“ So for the Greeks the nomad was: „a person searching for boundaries or limits set to him, for a region or area in which he has legal status.“ 47

„The word nomad denotes a person who cannot be defined in terms of place or time“ 47

„Since the Information Revolution we have become indefinable. We can no longer be localized spatially or temporally. (…) Only now … can we experience what is essential about ourselves. This means that we can experience ourselves as embedded in a concrete relationship, as the Other of an Other.“ 48 f.

„The settled have divided the world and themselves into sections, nomai, and concepts on which they sit, and they strive to possess ever more of these sections. And nomads experience concrete networked reality; they move about in it and travel over fields of potentiality. (…) Nomads consider the possession of concepts to be a form od madness, while the settled see only meaningless drivel in undefined romaing through experience.“ 50

„Rational, conceptual thinking is disintegrating, too, because it is being perforated by calculatory analysis. Both objects and subjects are desintegrating, and nothing remains to be possessed, nor is there anything capable of possessing anymore. (…) but the relational network, the mathesis universalis, is becoming visible behind this desert. That is where experience lies. We are becoming nomads.“ 50

„after we have laid waste to everything through calculation (granulation, pulverization), we can make it blossom again thanks to computation (assemblage, networking).“ 51

„Computing is the concentration of abstract, potential particles out of a networked dispersion.“ 51

„potentials gather together to be realized.“ 51

„the confluence of potentials and the collecting of dispersions result in the concrete experience that we label ‘I’ and a conrete ‘you’. We approach one another for our mutual realization and … to create an objective world“ 51

„We do not experience time as if it could not be reversed, say, in flashbacks. And above all, we do not experience time as emanating from the past (…) Concrete experience demonstrates that (as the word implies) the future arrives.“ 52

„We are in the process of learning that with some difficulty. Words like synchronicity and retrieve are symptomatic of this learning process. They imply that time is a potential from which we may compute concrete things that can be experienced. (…) only the present is concrete and … the past and the future are interchangeable potential forms of time.“ 52

„This form of nomadism is one in which dispersed potentials approach each other via a networked structure so that they may experience a mutual ‘I’ and ‘you’ and dialogue above history. Such nomadism … is not about possession (economics) or the public (politics); nor is it about reality or fiction, theory or praxis. Other categories will have to be worked out and their contours are already discernible. The rational, causal and definitional way of thinking will yield to a thought field that is relational and probabilistic. In all likelihood our current language will no longer be able to articulate these categories. We will have to avail ourselves of other codes, maybe computer codes [maybe genetic codes]. … it seems that aesthetic criteria will supplant our present ethical and epistemological ones. The nomad who emerges from the nineties will more likely be an artist than a hunter or herdsman. Out of dispersed potentials he will artfully compute concrete realities“ 53

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