During the phase we now call „The Enlightenment“ societies in Europe managed to throw off oppressive regimes, free cities from the bondage of the medieval estate-based society, and define a set of basic human rights that helped define their sense of self. The subsequent upswing not only transformed economies, but continues to influence throught processes and societal discussions all across the Western world.
Today, we as citizens of an increasingly digitized and networked world face similar circumstances as the fathers for the (bourgeois) Enlightenment of the 18th century. We need the audacity to rethink rules, values and categories that define societies and our own roles within them. In the words of Immanuel Kant, the “father” of the first Enlightenment, we need to “dare to think for ourselves” (”Sapere aude!”).
Invoking pink images of a perfect past won’t help us, nor will holding on to obsolete legal and cultural frameworks which continue to defy digital reality. Trusted old concepts such as “privacy” or “copyright” have no place in a world of digital transparency, and the sooner we wake up to this and start adapting as individuals and as a society the better. However, we need to establish alternatives to replace these old categories, and for this we need informed discussion. That is what this book hopes to stimulate. All we know for sure is that neither old-style critical reasoning nor traditional political economy, much less fuzzy notions of psychoanalysis or media theory will suffice to point us towards the digital future. We need to reexamine reality, looking through the lens of digital transformation – and at times through the lens of a pair of Google Glasses – in order so see where we are going and how to influence the outcome. We must, in short, survey the digital world anew.
My friend Ossi Urchs and I wrote this book in the summer of 2013, and it was published in German under the title „Digitale Aufklärung“ in fall of that year. This summer, I spent three months translating and updating the text, and this week it came out in English as Digital Enlightenment Now! at BoD. It is also available in the Kindle format at Amazon.
I am very proud of this book, and my only sorrow is that Ossi didn’t live to see it published in English – a language that he loved and spoke almost as well as I do myself. But of course I’m a native American, and he hailed from Cologne, so his achievement is all the greater.