Microsoft Reads Heidegger: Reflections on Video Game Culture and the Space-Time of Late Capitalism
Cultural studies critics have generally praised the new digital technologies for offering individuals and movements a technics of democratization and resistance. Computer-based media like the internet are said to undermine the state, to destabilize traditional forms of gender and racial identity, and to offer environments for establishing prefigurative, utopian communities. More than a proxy for the “real world,” the realm of the virtual is seen as the next, perhaps farthest, existential horizon of human possibility: our ticket to what some have called a “post-human” future. By contrast, the present author suggests that the digital revolution is altering ontology and consciousness in quite dangerous and unpredictable ways. Notwithstanding the tactical usefulness of computer and communication technologies for enabling certain (limited) kinds of popular mobilization, virtual or digital culture taken as a whole has so heightened the aggressive impulses of society, while at the same time destroying or undermining the cognitive and social bases of critical consciousness, that for the first time we are faced with the real possibility of total strategic defeat for the forces of emancipation. Examining techno-culture in the context of late capitalism, the author reflects on (among other things) the impact of cell phones on public culture, the triumph of instrumental reason in video games, and what happened when the author tried dictating Heidegger's "The Question Concerning Technology" to Microsoft Word's voice recognition software (the resulting text revealed surprising truths about the hegemony of capital and its saturation of the lifeworld).
Keywords: Capitalism, Video Games, Phenomenology, Social Movements, Commodity Fetishism, Lifeworld
Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Department of Humanities and Arts, Worcester Polytechnic Institute