In Future: Technogenic Proximity Intimacy as Medium of Social Engineering?

Seven Meta-Theoretical Perspectives

Bernd Ternes (2012)



The history of human societies is characterised by an unbelievable evolution of the capacity for distancing from nature. Nevertheless, it is also indirectly characterised by the almost complete lack of a human capacity to create an proximityintimacy, a connection, a motivation in relation to large-format abstract structures. All these tasks, involving media such as belief, language, money or, finally, nation building, have turned out, grosso modo, to be insufficient – not to say murderous.

Now, at the beginning and in the course of the twenty-first century, under the conditions of an increasingly rigid technologisation of existence, might we be about to witness a leap into the Promethean gap, giving people the ability, by means of, in and through technology, to ‘communicate’ with social abstractions – indeed, emotionally, motivationally, even mantically? Might something appear that could be described as technogenic intimacyproximity,[1] understood as the late evolutionary realisation of an ability of social systems to make relations of spatial intimacy proximity emotionally and motivationally accessible to relations characterised by spatial distance, proximate intimateintimate [ja, intimate distance!] [BC1] distance, and thus by real abstractions and the elimination [OK] of space?

The fact that there is still a need for the social integration of millions of people seems undisputed. But what is the appropriate medium to achieve this? Christina von Braun writes: “The modern sense of community is the product of the communication society, its structures and networks. The communication system has almost taken the place of the roots that Descartes equated with metaphysics and Diderot with the visible God, philosophy and the natural sciences. From a system of directives, which previously, in the religious context or in the absolutist state, determined the feelings and thought, a technological network has emerged that brings about a sense of community.”[2] Technogenic intimacy proximity would be the effect of a “technological network” which no longer merely brings about the sense of community, but co-constitutes it – and this without accepting a “schizotopia” requiring permanent attention by forcing a spatial double existence in both real and media space.[3] – Concerning this, I would like to make the following seven short remarks.



Technogenic intimacy proximity is “techno-optimistically” and techno-anthropologically affiliated to a social and economic movement that, at the beginning and middle of the 1970s in the USA, aimed at “liberating” emerging civil computer technology from the hegemonic power of IBM. If at the time it was thought that computers should become common property, if there was a demand that “customers set the standard” (Steve Wozniak), if the initial practice was that the users should simultaneously also be the software developers, in short, if it was the social movement for a People’s Computer Company[4] that was determining for this democratisation in the information practice of a decisive technology, then, despite the subsequently abandoned demand for a “free flow of information”, the notion of technogenic intimacy proximity aims less at retaining the democratisation of the market made possible by ICTs than at possible new practices of mediating man’s social integration within highly complex social systems. That is to say that with the computerisation of the senses, of communication and consciousness, society will not be considered as being on a path to autism, but as on a path to social- evolutionary change.[5]



Technogenic intimacy proximity assesses the still emerging information- and communication-technological socialisation of mediation in such a way that the expected change to a technological mediation of society will lead to a renewed precipitation [OK] of cultures that can be arranged into the series: division of labour = precipitation of two cultures (labour and management); capitalist organisation of division of labour = precipitation of two cultures (bourgeoisie and proletariat). In contrast, the renewed precipitation of cultures that arises in technogenic intimacy proximity is no longer founded on the division of labour, but on the division of the work of conveyance, that is to say, communication. It would be illusory not to accept an asymmetry of the precipitation of culture for this changed mode of division and hence reproduction (probably, producers and consumers of attention). However, it is not entirely illusory to assume that this new formation of cultures no longer repeats what was typical of the previous division of labour, which Claessens and Claessens describe as follows: “The division of labour in human societies leads to the apparently nonsensical result that the reasonable division of labour causes a less reasonable distancing from everything that one does not do. The serious consequences of this logical separation can be seen everywhere; it also aims at defining people according to what they can do with ever increasing skill.”[6] The non-defining of people claimed for the renewed precipitation of cultures – i.e. no clear allocation of roles, no clear formation of identity through origin, tradition, ‘heredity’, meanwhile also no clear socialisation of identity through education – causes brings about a reduction of distance to what one does not do and is not. For the normative facticity of the increased retention [OK] of the excluded [OK] and the still not chosen or decided selected possibilities, ICTs provide the suitable operationalisation. Possibilities and potentialities are upgraded; real reality, in an ontic or even ontological sense, is downgraded. Reality is no longer the (transcendental) opposite of possibility, but tentatively only one possibility among others. After a long period of semantic coming-to-terms with the sense of possibility (Robert Musil), technogenic intimacy proximity now means building up social relations in and with real possibilities, no longer being able to fall back on what one is and does – since identity no longer appears via a double negation (in the sense of: “I am the one that does not do what he does not do”).



Technogenic intimacy proximity assumes that in the future ICTs will no longer be based only on the John von Neumann architecture, and therefore should no longer be considered exclusively as the product of World War II and the development of the atom bomb (Wolfgang Hagen). This is not accompanied by the trivialisation of the serious changes in the concept of war and power brought about by computers,[7] which in the “civilian” realm, in the form of data traffic monitoring systems, are far from over; but it will be noted that the (computer) idea of saveable programming will be deployable for the development of future social relations that cannot be subordinated to a territorial subject-object ordinance and, at least for a certain experimental period, will enable a further development of the psychoanalytically understood “Fort-Da” game on and with computers, thus making probable a transformation of the “compromise formulas of the subject” (Hagen). In short, ICT would be able to contribute to the anamnesis of the psycho-social ontogenesis on a socialisation-capable technical level – thus creating the evolutive opportunity of building up a potentiality that could turn post-symbolic and post-imaginary social relations into absences as cultural technique despite the enormous dangers of the sophisticated power that continues to develop in these technologies.[8]



Technogenic intimacy proximity thus assumes a new splitting up [!] of abstract socialisation that, in communication-technological terms, leads to a concrete and an abstract virtuality of society.[9] Both these virtualities can also be named with the zeitgeist concept of the bubble. The fact of being situated in a bubble means two things: first, the bubble of the market-society (and not merely market-economy) assessment of value, of appreciation in value, of the anticipated production or speculation of the surplus value of certain products, services, above all businesses (this occurs overtly [!] through the stock exchange computer systems); and secondly the bubble in the sense of the horizon in which certain products, services and infrastructures are installed – thus, as a rule, products that affect, serve and extend media-based, virtual interaction or virtual traffic. This is a matter, on the one hand, of the increasing dependence [OK] of the operation, decision and assessment connections within the present of a future present, a future reality, an unpredictable future (abstract virtuality); and, on the other hand, of an increasing filling out of the present with interactions that can be characterised by the absence of real consequences, the absence of bodily presence, the subordination of real manifestation to the purely possible appearance within a digital representational reality (concrete virtuality). Put differently, Cornelius Castoriadis’ understanding of society as imaginary institution (the title of a book, Engl., Cambridge Mass. 1987) could, due to the change taking place in the character of the realities of society, imagination and institution, be developed or translated into an interpretation that sees the imagination as an institution become social. This still seems to be thought symmetrically. What one calls society would no longer be merely a reality of the imagination, and thus real only in the imaginary, the imagined. Instead, the extent of socialisation and the density of the apparatus-based, symbolic and techno-infrastructural means to the ends of certain social traffics would have reached such a comprehensiveness that society no longer needs to be imaginatively institutionalised to create unity, boundaries and inner/outer relations. It would now be the technically operationalised imaginations themselves that institutionalise society – now, however, no longer only imaginatively effective, but virtually effective.

These two virtualities could stand for what was previously indicated by the not undisputed pairing of social integration/systemic integration. While – put roughly – social integration addressed the problem of the development of social reproduction according to conditions and necessities that arise through interactions, actions and expectations, systematic integration placed certain infrastructures of systems at the centre of the problem, and indeed via constantly readjusted dosages of “benefits” [!] that generate the individual systems for and against one another. The tensions within the different sites of integration drew their fuel from the fundamental problem of the apparently irresolvable relationships between the individual and society. For a long time, and actually still operative today, it was possible, in high capitalist society, to behave as if there were a necessary symmetrisation of the two distinctions social/systemic integration and individual/society (still recognisable in social demands for justice). However, as it appears, this constitution of society (in nuce, the belief that there is a contract between capital and society) was a pure necessary accident in the development of an automatic machinery called society, which is currently, in an elevated hierarchy [vielleicht: “on a higher level of social morphing”] , dedicated to the emancipation of culture.

Technogenic intimacy proximity is particularly interested in concrete virtuality. Concrete virtuality secured itself – one might say – intra-psychically through the fact that individuals come ever more frequently into positions that either no longer force a difference between decision and exclusion (hence, no longer a difference between that for which one decided and that which in the decision for something wasn’t chosen and was therefore excluded), that no longer require a distinction between the reality of a sign (image) and the symbolising [!] of reality, or reveal the irrelevance of the difference between the absence and presence of a ‘not-I-world’. All these differences are exchanged for [!] a heightened competition between the temporal concepts of ‘present present’ and ‘future present’ – in short, for the becoming-factual operationalisation of the application of time to social, communicative, and material [!] space.

If one grasps this new kind of social modelling in the socialisation-theoretical concepts of socialisation and individuation, then concrete virtuality assumes the task of individuation; it should make sure that individuals that still do not understand themselves as things proceed beyond the social space to a temporally configured form of existence. From spaces – to time. Abstract virtuality, on the other hand, should make sure that the fundamentally opposed need for security, resistance to temporality, minimisation of future risk and provision socio-structurally disappears; its socialisation function would thus be a kind of temporary perpetuating of a growing number of no longer perpetuated social (not technical) traffics in society.

While abstract virtuality renders social mediation increasingly temporal/simultaneous and de-materialised, [!], concrete virtuality assumes the task of configuring human individuals in such a way that they no longer suffer under this society’s colossal volatility.

Technogenic intimacy proximity understands itself as the cautious appearance of an effective psycho-social reaction to the new pressures of abstract and, above all, concrete virtuality.



Technogenic intimacy proximity assumes that, in the coming decades, within end-modern societies, a profound change will appear regarding the mode-ensemble of the conditions for enabling intensive social relations. With the theoretical supposition that the existential dimensions of Dasein [vielleicht das deutsche Wort “(Daseinsdimensionen) ” in Klammern zusetzen] ‘private’, ‘communal’ and ‘social’ can be socio-anthropologically proven [OK] for human populations, and are therefore also to be encountered in hypercomplex social systems, for the modes of the intensity of social referentiality, in contrast, a historical field of variation [!] is assumed in which technogenic intimacy proximity starts to become a candidate for the guaranteeing of the mediated sociability of the individual member of society, after [!] the modes ‘lacking socialisation’, ‘oppression’, ‘sanctions/life obligations’ as well as ‘religious or rational motivation’ hit up against the border of the extrinsic and intrinsic guaranteeing of intensive social participation. While the law-oriented disciplinary society attends to the maintenance of the extrinsic observance and production of social relations and was supplemented by the rule-oriented control society that “monitored” the intrinsic observance and production of the social relationship, technogenic intimacy proximity assumes a continued development of the control society into a technological “society” in which an exclusively ex- and intrinsic observance and production of the benefits [!] of society will no longer be maintained through communication-technical standardisation, but through a “new” abstractly motivating version [frame,] which is guaranteed in an operationable potentiality for absence beyond common semantic, normative and culturally handed-down techniques (language, love, interaction). This profound socio-psychological incision in the identity [!] of human individuality (the becoming invisible and the de-personalisation of the individual as a mimesis of the becoming invisible and impersonality of the communication-technological infrastructure) will not be exclusively correlatable with a descriptive tradition that focuses on processes of reification. It will also be correlatable with a reconfiguration of the individual as a producer of data and electronic-traces which is currently still not calculable in its volume – in this sense the historical implementation of biopolitics described by Foucault continues in the area of information politics. The very probable radically expanded new data-configuration order correlates with a probable, marginalised symbolic, or rather semantic, order, whereby it is still not clear how “enduring” mantic forms of communication and social relation will be without subsequent semantisation and classification in the symbolic order.



Technogenic intimacy proximity understands itself as a concept of a motivational-emotional relation of proximity [relation of intimacy] to social abstractions which – as missing link – should be related to Kluge/Negt’s concept of “political raw material”; and should hence also be related to the forms and measures described by Kluge/Negt that are able to turn this raw material into a public sphere. Hence, technogenic intimacy proximity should be developed as an interface that actually suitably links the anthropo-cosmos with the socio-cosmos, and in such a way that a new, or at least different, cosmos might arise – perhaps that of curture/nurture as the synthesis of a new dimension of Dasein (besides the dimensions of the living, the social and the psychic, or those of the private, the communal and the societal). This would be characterised by the fact that it links the infra-psycho-structure of invariant feelings with the infra-socio-structure electricity understood as the one that remains invariant to all systems of movement in space and time. While this section [nicht abschnitt, sondern anschnitt; vielleicht schreiben: “point of vieww”] [BC2] relates to the invariance of the feelings and the invariance of electricity to the environment, a further dimension of interface could be made out in the variant feelings and in technogenic intimacyproximity, and indeed in the dimension of telematic media. These could allow access to the anthropology of the impulse, to the anthropology of the so-called congenital social reactions, and thus, in short, to the pre-reflexive area of the ‘emotional apparatus’ and thereby bring about that the type of emotional-motivational involvement depends on the type of medium. The sense of such a section point of view lies in the exploration of evolutively effective extensions of anthropologically so effective forms with which people have made themselves independent from their respective embeddedness in environments/media (of physics, geography, meteorology, fauna, flora). Technogenic intimacy proximity would be the attempt, after the realisation of the technologies of distancing from the media of life and living conditions that which have been thousands of years in the making and catastrophically put to work in the modern era, to now detect a highly artificial and new human dependency on media in the dimension of the socio-anthropological. Put simply, this means that man continues to develop. This further development of anthropo-techniques urgently experimenting via the socio-cultural plasticity of socialisation correlates with a presently equally identifiable beginning of the further development of bio-techniques in the form of the genome, genetic and life sciences. Whether and to what extent here a complementary or even antagonistic relation between anthropo- and biotechnologies is to be expected in the future depends on whether, through technogenic intimacyproximity, in the intensity of social relations, a real alternative can be developed to the “(pheno-)aesthetics of human existence” in which, as it were, the new sharpening of a “programme [!] of Dasein” (bio-, pharmaco-, gene and brain technology) will be culturally superseded [!].



Technogenic intimacy proximity moves between a

“However, one cannot traverse the horizon. One must remain in the boundarythreshold. And then descend into the abyss of the opened thresholdboundary. Tumble in all directions, also upwards”[10]

and a

“He will learn freedom || to break out to wherever he wants”.[11] [!]

It is currently impossible to distinguish between tumble, fall and breaking out, just as the borders between truth, myth and a deeper meaninglessness have also become less sharp.

Technogenic intimacy proximity assumes a collapse of what for man, over thousands of years, has become socio-culture: interaction with what is present [!]. It aims, however, at the learning of the freedom to break out, and not for individuals, but for social man as such: the breaking out into a social sphere in which the, for man, so essential intimacy proximity towith others and to the Oother  [vielleicht: “Other”] could be produced through the intimacy with proximity to technologically operationalisable absence. Certainly that has already been tackled in and with the evolutionary invention called language; and certainly, the linguistic imagination has had an enormous, scarcely to be underestimated, support in the explosion of the pictorial [!] visuality of our period. Technogenic intimacy proximity builds on this; but it sees, besides the comfort and relief provided by  [!] language (Heidegger) and images (Leonardo da Vinci), something with its own independent and with an intrinsic value arise: a new potentiality for abstractions such as society, responsibility and to motivationally produce an intimacy proximity towith onethes neighbour [vielleicht eher: “generalized other”].

This is currently still not imaginable – just as it is no longer imaginable that the market should have been the last candidate for a social space-time in which people encounter each other in impersonal relations as supplements of commodities.

[1] The differences between this term and other terms such as ‘technological formation’, ‘technical civilisation’, ‘technology as social relation’, ‘technical age’ among others are not taken into account here.

[2] Christina von Braun, “Altes Wissen in neuem Gerät”, in Zeitschrift Paragrana, issue 2/2001: Horizontverschiebung. Umzug ins Offene? (ed. by Dietmar Kamper and Christoph Wulf), p. 62-80, here p. 67.

[3] Günther Anders, Die Antiquiertheit des Menschen, 2 vols., Munich 1992, vol. 2, pp. 85f.

[4] “Computers are mostly used against people instead of for people, used to control people instead of to free them, time to change all [OK] that – we need a ... People’s Computer Company”, according to the text of a flyer from the early 1970s of the same company. See Wulf R. Halbach, “Zeichen der Technologistik. Körper, Körperschaft, Räume”, in Manfred Faßler and idem. (eds.), Inszenierungen von Information. Motive elektronischer Ordnung, Gießen 1992, pp. 53-68, here p. 54. On the following page, Halbach points out that the “Homebrew Computer Club” founded in 1975 – the first of its kind – was made up of precisely those members are still among those dominating computer technology today (e.g. Apple).

[5] For the first version, see Bernd Beuscher, “‘Hacker’. Auf dem Weg in eine autistische Gesellschaft”, in Fragmente. Schriftreihe zur Psychoanalyse, issue 35/36, 1991: Unterbrochene Verbindungen, pp. 251-264.

[6] Dieter Claessens & Karin Claessens, Kapitalismus als Kultur, Frankfurt am Main 1979, p. 27.

[7] “The universal technicity of power begins to assume the position of the totalitarian ideology of the political state of exception; not openly, not in the discourse of an ideology, but in the form of an intrinsic technology/politics”, according to Wolfgang Hagen, “Rechner Krieg und Rauschen. 12 Thesen zum Medium Computer”, in Fragmente. Schriftreihe zur Psychoanalyse, issue 35/36, 1991, pp. 267-276, here p. 271.

[8]Camouflage, invisibility as guarantee of the most powerful effect, is the signature of the infrastructure of the modern period. The historically progressive becoming-invisible of the infrastructure [...] is on the one hand analogous to Jacques Lacan’s differentiation of the real, the symbolic and the imaginary in terms of what is analysable; on the other hand as that which eludes the classical medium of the historical description”, according to Wolfgang Ernst, “Bausteine zu einer Ästhetik der Absenz”, in Bernhard J. Dotzler and Ernst Müller (eds.): Wahrnehmung und Geschichte. Markierungen zur Aisthesis materialis, Berlin 1995, pp. 211-236, here p. 225.

[9] For the following, see Bernd Ternes, “Konkrete Virtualität, abstrakte Virtualität. Notizen zu einem neuen Stand gesellschaftlichen Modelns”, in Soziologische Marginalien, vol. 3, Marburg 2000, pp. 181-188.

[10] Dietmar Kamper, Nach Dannen, ins erste Futur, unpublished manuscript, Otzberg 2000.

[11] Friedrich Hölderlin, Sämtliche Werke, ‘Frankfurter Ausgabe’, vol. 4: Oden I, ed. by Dietrich E. Sattler & Michael Knaupp, Frankfurt am Main 1984, p. 202.

 [BC1]Here perhaps better „intimate distance“...

 [BC2]Ich bin noch unsicher was „abschnitt“ hier bedeutet?