Topic „New Forms of the Social“Feb 14th, 2013 | By Ulrich Gehmann | Category: New Forms of the Social, Topics
In this topic, intensifying the one of a Posthuman Age, we want to investigate new forms of the social which emerged since the onset of a so-called Internet age, and unfold in the present. Since the onset of that age, our basic understanding of what it means to be social has changed profoundly. To cite McLuhan, being a cultural animal first and foremost means to be a social one. And since the onset of that age, not just some new forms of communicating had evolved, but new ones of being social as such. Since that starting point, in both real and mythical terms a new era begun.
The world was divided into two, an old world of the physical now called the analogous world and a new one called the digital world, in two distinct but nevertheless connected kinds of spatiality. In the sphere of the digital world, new ways of being social took shape which soon adopted new forms of being social at all, supplementing and even superseding the prevalent form up to now: the sociality inside the terms of an analogous world. These new forms cover a broad range of appearances, from Social Media to the attempts to create a Second Life of virtuality, down to recent ventures to generate a Web 3.0, opening the path to a „postdigital“ age to arrive even. There were (and are) mythical hopes of new individual freedoms, of liquid democracies, of a new Ikaria allowing everybody to participate and to unfold. The old idea of social life that was tight to the old analogous world, the one of a finally urban civitas as a communitas of citizens, it became fragmented and particulated into manifold interchanging new forms of the most diverse communities.
But also inside the old world, new forms of social life have emerged and still spread out, first of all inside the central space of the old civitas, the urban context. Favelas as „informal“ cities are inhabited by an approximated number of two billion people. At the same time, gated communities and consumer cities as very special forms of sociality are emerging like mushrooms. The old urban context gave way to the phenomena of a splintering urbanism, to a global system of nodes and lines connecting decision hierarchies and flows of goods, people, financial transactions, and information. Parallel to that, so-called logistic landscapes were emerging, leading to the aesthetic graveyards of the urban periphery we all know: highways, logistic centers, even mobile container cities as the dernier cri of contemporaneous architecture. Some call these tendencies the death of the city, man the cultural animal’s former prime space to live; some conceive it as a new world: the world as network, combining the analogous and the digital hemisphere of human belongings.
In any case, it gave rise to manifold forms of being a social animal, and at the same time, it is triggered by a formatted economic context. A context that begun to emerge in the same period as the Internet age did which is closely linked to it. The old analogous world as well as the digital one became privatized, too in that terms‘ literal meaning. Referring to the old discussion about a conditio humana, the basic human condition, it seems that our existing understanding of this very condition has to be reassessed.