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When Body and Image Interpenetrate

Walter Benjamin predicts the Internet, crowd-sourced revolutions, and beyond:

    “Only when in technology body and image so interpenetrate that all revolutionary tension becomes bodily collective innervation, and all the bodily innervations of the collective become revolutionary discharge, has reality transcended itself to the extent demanded by the Communist Manifesto.”

This is from his 1928 essay “Surrealism,” which can be found in the collection Reflections — or online here.

In fact, it could be argued that Benjamin’s reference to a future “when in technology body and image…interpenetrate” looks even further ahead than the Internet we have today. He seems to be describing a situation where the Internet becomes part of our own bodies, so we can receive the impressions of others directly through our own senses, or upload our impressions directly to the collective cloud. Google Glass may be the first primitive manifestation of this, but the full technological realization is still years in the future. Only in this way will we live the “revolutionary tension” of humankind as “bodily collective innervation” — which means stimulation of the nerves. If this is really what the Communist Manifesto is all about, then it was truly a radically futuristic document, one whose ultimate vision will not be realized by technology until some two hundred years after it was written (1848)!


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