The so-called new media have constituted the subject of research since at least the 1980s; and there already exists an extensive body of literature on the subject, which is attested to by the identification of many aspects of its presence and functioning. Its development has also been accompanied by a growing list of concepts describing this complex phenomenon. The present book attempts to supplement what appeared to be a complete set, directing the reader’s attention towards problem areas that are usually not addressed when analysing the effects of information technology. This sphere that has been passed over is the technological embroilment of the new media in the field of knowledge and cognition – a region of reality that is superficially distant; an area of prepositions shaping the image of the world, ones leading to a specific means of description, equally by means of science. The discussion documenting the crisis within this field is relatively young when placed against the backcloth of the so-called humanities developed in the second half of the twentieth century. Its origins are, however, much earlier and appeared at least at the turn of the twentieth century within the field of a science alien to humanists – that of mathematics. This moment was to be of momentous significance for convictions on the intellectual property of constructions created by man and their ability to capture the phenomena of the real world. In the field of mathematics this was to take the shape of questions as to the reliability of mathematics itself; within the area of philosophical reflection – the examination and analysis of the role of language. The latter moved roughly in the direction of the social determination of linguistic entities, which were identified as the only reality accessible to man. In the framework of meta-mathematical reflection key findings turned out to be conclusions depriving mathematical constructions of metaphysical certainty, leaving them merely the right to an intensional and restricted cohesion.
The new media, as mentioned, has embraced since the start of the twenty-first century, as a result of its exceptional popularity, almost all areas of human activity, which has resulted in the commencing of research into its social effects: effects which have moved to the fore in the process of the shaping of civilisation and culture. The fundamental concept applied in their description is that of social media. This deep and universal influence has been recognised while the question – somewhat old fashioned - of an acquaintance with the specific immanent properties determining this influence has been left aside. Meanwhile the conceptual design of the machine which has enabled the appearance of new media – the computer – is no matter of chance. Although it possesses a long history documented by the list of inventors who preceded it, the meaning of its existence appeared somewhere else: in the bosom of mathematical, abstract constructs although ones vitally connected with natural scientific curiosity. The impression of a lack of relevance may bestow on this problem area controversy as to so-called technological determinism; controversy proceeding chiefly within the sphere of media studies, although it is not merely them that it has touched, which is after all its serious simplification.
The crisis and the development of mathematics from the start of the twentieth century gave reason for a complete reformulation of the cognitive paradigm which had been in force within Western culture from at least the times of Galileo and which had obviously become the subject of philosophical reflection starting from questions connected with the legal validity of science, and questioning in essence the cognitive ability of man in general. The new media, and strictly the computer, register themselves within this story with the importance that they derive from reflections on the foundations of man’s cognitive competences and the specific means of their application. This should be understood as its own specific determination of the image of the world they utilise (there exists a grounded anxiety that we have only access to this image; the world itself lies beyond the limits of our possibilities). The source of this determination resides in diagnoses commenced at the time of the recalled paradigmatic breakthrough which afresh defined the cognitive possibilities of the natural sciences based on mathematics, though its form is paradoxical: this recedes to the times of a mechanism and determinism significantly earlier in origin, to the beliefs still shaped by Leibniz, Descartes and Newton. For in turning to a mathematical heritage, yet in that part where the fundamental epistemological questions are raised, it allows one to understand and grasp the details of its shape. Such questions appeared thanks to the achievements of mathematicians like David Hilbert, Kurt Gödel, Alan Mathison Turing and others, creating at the same time the conceptual bases of the computer, but also inspiring thinkers such as Jean-François Lyotard and Claude Lévi-Strauss. Its traces should be also expected everywhere where the computer has taken on an assisting role or one enabling the comprehension and understanding of an instrument, particularly where this takes on a mass character and takes over or creates new social forms. The present book assembles proofs on the existence of this phenomenon and attempts to describe it.
The problem area herein sketched is fundamental in character, hence the idea of dividing the text into two parts. In the first part the starting point is the apparatus – the electronic component of the computer serves in the operating of theatre light and is designated for the servicing of real instruments and devices. It imposes at the same time limitations of various natures being the result of its technological, IT specificity. Their consistent and intentional combination is described in the book, which allows one ultimately to derive the theoretical model of its functioning – the inspiration for which was Michał Heller’s formal model of phenomenological processes – and even to formulate the concept of the pseudo subjectivity of the digital computer. Premises for these generalisations appear also at other levels of a computer’s functioning, and most fully are formulated by programmers, IT specialists and others practically involved with this device, particularly at the beginnings of its history – at the specific moment of the absorption of new technology, which the book equally attempts to take into consideration and generalise.
In the second part, investigations are carried out into the traces of the conceptual dependence of certain philosophical constructions, ones important for civilisation and contemporary culture, such as postmodernism and structuralism, on meta-mathematical sources, expressis vebis formulating, after all, the significant presence of information technologies. Amongst which extensive recourse is made to the constructions created by Jean-François Lyotard and Claude Lévi-Strauss, which continues, however, currents present in a notably earlier philosophy, one present in the works of Horkheimer and Adorno, Husserl and others. The work is accompanied by an introduction to the meta-mathematical problem area: the idea of formalization created within the framework of generalised cognitive reflection. The final chapter deals with the problem that is the most current: the idea of knowledge being shaped thanks to the presence of the Internet and recounts the concepts creating from this idea the category that is the fundamental instrument for understanding the role of the civilization global network. Possibly the most important and most frequent amongst them is the concept of Pierre Lévy, which is here subjected to critical review within the framework of the wide context of its social aspect.