Ars Electronica 1988
Festival-Program 1988
Back to:
Festival 1979-2007


Territory and Technology

'Peter Weibel Peter Weibel

In a historical survey of the theory of perceptive organs (Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Condillac, Helmholtz, Mach, Marx, Freud, Merleau-Ponty, McLuhan) it is shown that the question of the extension of perception beyond the reach of the natural organs has been a focus since the beginning, for the problem of expansion is part of the theory of natural organs as such. "How can a sensation go beyond the instrument that captures it?" Condillac asked in 1754. The technology comprises the knowledge of such extension. "Through the machine the performance of Man is extended beyond his physical limits. The machine carries his view over thousands of miles", Werner Sombart wrote in 1901, as Karl Marx had foreseen it in 1856: "Machines are products of human industry; natural material transformed into organs of human will over nature or of its confirmation in nature. They are organs of the human mind made by human hands: concreted science." This sophistication and extension of the natural organs through the machine tolls beyond the body's capabilities was understood by Freud as early as 1930 as an enhancement of the "god-likeness" of Man. Technology as the sum of all tools makes Man the "God of Prosthetics" and continues the task of "writing as the original language of the absent" (Freud). Technology, as a language transformed into physics, too, is a language of the absent. It does not only transform Nature, but makes it absent and replaces it. The cultivation of the body by its "inlaid subsidiary organs" (Freud), the transformation of reality through technology exterritorializes thus. De-bodyfication and de-realization are the two most prominent kinds of this exterritorialization, the consequences and appearance of which will contain the lecture as such: the techno-transformation of the world. How does our world, our perception, our perception of the world change in these interfaces of organ, technology, Man, Nature, with every roll of the dice and its still unknown results.