Motion and Time
Jan Svankmajer, Dimension of dialog
In "For a Philosophy of Technology in China," Hui raises questions about whether design and technological innovation can thrive without the foundation of critical thinking or philosophical inquiry. These questions extend to whether China can develop a unique technological identity that combines innovation and reflects its distinct philosophical and cultural heritage, or if it will mainly adopt or adapt Western technologies. In the context of recent influential innovations in “Chinese technology”, I see TikTok stands out as an example originating in China and achieving significant global success.
If we apply McLuhan's Four Laws of Media to analyze the cultural impact of this new technology, TikTok's informal, bite-sized videos seem to retrieve the characteristics of communication in oral cultures: non-linear, personal touch, culture-specific, and direct representation. This revival brings back a sense of tribalism and appreciation for diversity that declined during the era of print media. Moreover, TikTok's powerful recommendation algorithm takes the concept of video-sharing to new heights, simplifying content consumption to cater to modern preferences for shorter attention spans. As a result, it has obsoleted older media forms like TV, with lengthy introductions and annoying celebrities. This shift in viewing habits has also made TikTok a competitor to platforms like YouTube and Instagram that once dominated the scene, but only provide their user with the freedom of choosing their content, rather than “serving” them with the content directly. In line with Heidegger's concept of modern technology, TikTok offers optimized entertainment for relaxation and efficiency.
For creators, TikTok also caters to the need for self-expression. Notably, TikTok initially targeted teenagers with entertainment and performance-oriented needs, aligning with their strong desire for identity-building and a sense of belonging. This resonates with Ted Kaczynski's idea of "surrogate activity," as it fulfills the “need for the power process” in a modern society that tends to guarantee physical necessities to everyone in exchange for "obedience.
Regarding TikTok's potential reverses and their societal impact, the section on the "Control of Human Behavior" in The Unabomber Trial's Manifesto seems to be relevant. It discusses how surveillance technology enhances law enforcement's effectiveness. Additionally, the article "TikTok Is Inane. China’s Imperial Ambition is Not” suggests that China aims to export its anti-liberal vision and surveillance technology globally, with TikTok playing a crucial role in this strategy.
The question of whether TikTok represents a "Cultural Cold War" waged by China is debatable, as its success seems to fit well within the capitalist framework. Unlike Nishida who rejects materialism as the negativity of Western modernity, I feel Chinese traditions often blend elements of materialism and idealism in its “cosmological perspectives”. For example, Daoism emphasizes harmony with the natural world and the flow of reality, while Confucianism places strong emphasis on moral and ethical values, social harmony, and the cultivation of virtues. This “collaborative relationship” with nature and the divine contrasts with a sense of fear or domination in some other cultures, which shows a utilitarian concept of spirit — that it should advance the greatest good for people. After the Chinese philosophy of technology was put in the framework of the "dialectics of nature," as proposed by Engels, there appears to be an increased emphasis on materialism in contemporary Chinese thought. TikTok, as a product of contemporary Chinese thought and cultural dynamics, embodies this heightened materialistic focus. Its design and features resonate with the consumerism in modern society, emphasizing entertainment, creativity, and self-expression.
Assignment: Speculative Movie Pt. 2
Plant Concept & Character Design by Iris