Classic Philosophers and New Media

On: November 14, 2006
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About Twan Eikelenboom
One of the first Masters of Media to crawl upon this blog (2006/2007)! Still following (and at times contributing) to this great project. Working at Dutch sectorinstitute for e-culture Virtueel Platform. Special interest in stories resulting from new media product use (think: sat nav gone wrong) and independent gaming. Also blogging at


philosophers in new media

I want to post a discussion question here about the use of the classic philosophers (ie Aristotle, Plato, etc.) and the link with New Media studies. And also a call for links on this subject, if anyone knows any.

This question came to me when I was reading ‘The Six Elements and the Causal Relations Among Them’ by Brenda Laurel. She talks about the links between Aristotle’s Poetics and Human-Computer interaction. She does give us some striking examples, like the link between characters in a play doing things “out of the blue” and a word processor with an automatic correction doing things “out of the blue” (see your T9 mobile textbook perhaps).

I’ve also blogged about Plato’s Republic and the history of the internet. And the links are quite remarkable when you read the original text by Plato. I thought I was reading the history of the internet itself, written by Plato himself. But the question is, are we seeing things they never really meant while writing? Is that even relevant? Or are we seeing patterns that dominate life through the ages? Or…?

8 Responses to “Classic Philosophers and New Media”
  • November 14, 2006 at 6:37 pm

    While reading your post I thought of the book:
    The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace: A History of Space from Dante to the Internet
    By Margaret Wertheim

    This book does not use old philosophers, however it does look at the internet in a philosophical way, comparing the internet to the christian concept of heaven.

    A book review can be found here:

  • November 14, 2006 at 7:51 pm

    That’s pretty interesting, a while ago I read this news article ( ) about a boy who “committed suicide thinking that he would meet his friends from cyber space after he died.”

    But it is an interesting example of ‘theories of all ages’ applied to New Media. If I come across a copy of the book, I’ll check it out.

  • November 14, 2006 at 9:13 pm

    I think Plato’s cave allegory could be an interesting approach to cyberspace as well.

    I also thought of the following book: New Philosophy for New Media by Mark B.N. Hansen, Timothy Lenoir

  • November 14, 2006 at 9:48 pm

    If you have a text of an old smelly philosopher and can somehow apply his ramblings to new media, why not? As long as you continue to make sense and use proper argumentation, I don’t think it really matters from which source or era your info is.

  • November 15, 2006 at 6:37 pm

    Yea I agree, buttttt I’m wondering: doesn’t it give us restraints to our way of thinking about New Media?

    Plato’s cave allegory is a good and useful example by the way! New Philosophy for New Media also sounds like a promising title :) I also found this critique on Jos de Mul’s “Cyberspace Odyssee”, although I haven’t read that (yet) this critique also shows some connections between the classics and New Media:

  • November 15, 2006 at 6:37 pm

    Björk sang:

    “All the modern things
    Like cars and such
    Have always existed
    They’ve just been waiting in a mountain
    For the right moment
    Listening to the irritating noises
    Of dinosaurs and people
    Dabbling outside”

    I think she has a point…

  • November 16, 2006 at 11:54 am

    I also wanted to draw your attention to Margareth Wertheim’s book The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace and, of course, Jos de Mul’s Cyberspace Odysee,, but I see Heleen and Twan already did that. Another book that might interest you is Richard Coyne, Technoromanticism: digital narrative, holism, and the romance of the real (MIT, 1999) where you will find a profound critique on the way ‘old smelly philosophers’ (Peppie) have been and are being used in theorizing about new media. A good example of technoromanticism is Pierre Lévy, who wrote Cyberculture (2001) and Collective Intelligence: Mankind’s Emerging World in Cyberspace (1997) (if you might think this is old stuff, too, may I remind you that even Henri Jenkins buys into this in his recent book on Convergence Culture (2006).
    Another by now ‘classic’ publication is Randall Packer & Ken Jordan’s Multimedia: from Wagner to Virtual Reality (2001), which has a website (Multimedia – From Wagner to Virtual Reality). A history of practices of and thinking about VR can be found in Oliver Grau, Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion (MIT 2003).
    Philosohical reflections on cyberspace and vr can be found in Michael Heim’s also classic essay The Essence of VR (1993). Cyberspace has been compared to Plato’s Cave from the beginning. This is the thema that als hit the popular imagination, as you can check out at the philosophy section of the official website of The Matrix. Philosopher John Partridge has published an essay there titled ‘Plato’s Cave and The Matrix’. Critical views on this Platonian and Cartesian approaches to new media can be found in Hubert Dreyfuss (also present on the The Matrix website) booklet Internet (Routledge, 2001).

  • November 20, 2006 at 11:23 am

    If anyone is interested in investigating the internet and religion, you will find interesting papers in this journal:

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