French Philosophy and New Media

: Sartre, Foucault and Stiegler on the Technics of Existence

  • Amelie Berger Soraruff

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Abstract

This thesis examines Bernard Stiegler’s revivification of the technologies of the self as an alternative to technologies of psychopower. It discusses the relevance of care as the exercise of freedom in the age of new media, which is seemingly reinforcing structures of control and surveillance.

The task of this thesis is twofold. It first offers a critical engagement with Stiegler’s argument for the necessity of developing an aesthetics of the self, which I propose to do through a discussion of Jean-Paul Sartre and Michel Foucault. Second, the thesis aims to show the limits of Stiegler’s technologization of the socio-cultural malaise we are confronted with. This will be principally done with the works of Sherry Turkle, Alexander Galloway and Wendy Hui Kyong Chun.

Stiegler proposes to reinstall practices of care at the core of human existence in order to minimise or escape the effects of psychopower. By psychopower, Stiegler understands the massive exploitation of consciousnesses currently facilitated by new media. I show that a reading of Sartre is necessary to understand the political resonance of this stance insofar as they both locate the possibility of freedom within the structures of consciousness. I then contrast Stiegler’s reading of care with Foucault’s to stress that the existential crisis diagnosed by Stiegler is a technological problem which has an aesthetic effect and deserves political attention.

I argue, however, that Stiegler’s emphasis on the disastrous reality of psychopower, influenced by his reading of Foucault, leads him to overestimate the actual power of structures of control.

Through a comparison of his work with Turkle’s, I show that they both portray, in their own way, technologies as the mirror of the human and thus assume an effective correspondence between technologies and the human. I then contend, by means of Galloway’s work, that Stiegler’s reduction of technology to its capacity to produce, diffuse and order meaning does not allow technology to be anything else than a message. Finally, I stress with the work of Chun that this conflation of the message with the medium, already criticized by Galloway, has led, among other things, to the conflation of freedom with its technological application and may contribute to producing more paranoia and more control.
Date of Award2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Dundee
SupervisorDominic Smith (Supervisor), Oisin Keohane (Supervisor) & Nicholas Davey (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • French Philosophy
  • Technology
  • Existentialism
  • New media
  • Politics
  • Phenomenology
  • Biopolitics
  • Digital
  • Psychopower

Cite this

French Philosophy and New Media: Sartre, Foucault and Stiegler on the Technics of Existence
Berger Soraruff, A. (Author). 2020

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy