Heidegger, mortality, and technology

Having failed at "Sein und Zeit" before, repeatedly and miserably, I'm most grateful to Dreyfus and Spinosa's essay on Heidegger, Borgmann and technology. Everyday life and our understanding of being embedded in a specific context allows us to make sense of our environment and act sensibly. In the authors' terminology, practices focus around things that exude their own ways of dealing with them, or with the situation, and remind us that we assume a specific behavior and sense a particular connection to the situation (a local identity) instead of all other options that we have in life. Our mortality reminds us that we could do things differently because time is scarce and we choose.

When he speaks of death, he does not mean demise or a medically defined death. He means an attribute of the way human practices work that causes mortals (later Heidegger's word for people who are inside a focal practice) to understand that they have no fixed identity and so must be ready to relinquish their current identity in order to assume the identity that their practices next call them into attunement with.

To understand oneself as mortal means to understand one's identity and world as fragile and temporary and requiring one's active engagement. In the case of the highway bridge, it means that, even while getting in tune with being a flexible resource, one does not understand oneself as being a resource all the time and everywhere. One does not always feel pressured, for instance, to optimize one's vacation possibilities by refusing to get stuck on back roads and sticking to the interstates. Rather, as one speeds along the overpass, one senses one's mortality, namely that one has other skills for bringing out other sorts of things, and therefore one is never wholly a resource. Hence, because one has in readiness other skills for dealing with other styles of things thinging, one can relate to the highway bridge not just as a transparent device but in its specificity as a way of bringing the technological ordering out in its ownmost. But that is to say that the highway bridge can be affirmed as a possible kind of focal thing that calls to us as mortals, only if there are other focal things around that preserve other styles in which things can thing.

Freeing us from having a total fixed identity so that we may experience ourselves as multiple identities disclosing multiple worlds is what Heidegger calls technology's saving power. (Dreyfus and Spinosa, 2003)

The disclosing activity is the essential entrepreneurial activity and it takes a "thorough contextual sensibility" (Steyaert, 2007: 462) to change practices that we experience. In other words, only if we experience a specific context can we be motivated to contribute to it in disclosing ways that carry the practice forward, create better quality, venture into new markets, challenge the rules, or abandon the practice altogether.

In the context of MISSION ETERNITY, this essay reminds us of two things: that to remember an individual requires capturing an extremely transient identity that only appears in time and in connection with a (local) practice. etoy's method of SCRAMBLING goes a long way towards capturing a moment and inscribing it into the global memory, indelibly and as an expression and disclosure of a mortal being at one particular moment in time.

Second, embracing technology is a valid and necessary strategy to characterize today's life and practices. Our dissolving and morphing identities that face the stand-by possibilities of access to infinite information make it ever more challenging to capture anything of our daily cyber-identities at all. Maybe, subversively, MISSION ETERNITY will end up bowing to the visionary and honest gesture of age-old burial cultures that reduce the memory of an individual to a time stamp simply because there is nothing more substantial of an identity that lasts.

War der Grabstein der Weisheit letzter Schluss?



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