Where Are You? An Ontology of the Cell Phone

Where Are You? An Ontology of the Cell Phone

Where Are You? An Ontology of the Cell Phone

Where Are You? An Ontology of the Cell Phone

Excerpt

The number you have called is currently unavailable.

—VODAFONE AUTOMATED REPLY

Where has he gone? Where is he now?

—TOLSTOY, WAR AND PEACE

“Phile Mauritie, ton beltinon kai ton timiotaton he historia tes emailes he kat’akribeian … Hmmm, how does this manuscript go on?” This is how, in September 1997, my friend Alfredo Ferrarin replied to my suggestion that “per e-mail” (Italian for “via e-mail”)—one of the most recurrent terms for a decade now (“I’ll send it to you via e-mail”)—could be read as the title of an Aristotelian treatise: Perì Mail, or “About Mail,” “On Mail,” “Mail,” just as there are the Perì Hermeneias and the Peri Psyches. But, indeed, how does this pseudo-treatise go on? In 1999 I started to give a continuation to the manuscript in a short article on e-mails, writing on paper and the internal writing through which our mind, ever since Plato, has been represented. Now, years later, I might have managed to complete it, getting to the conclusion that, despite the appearances, the mobile phone is a writing machine. How is this possible?

In January 2001, in Syracuse, I was walking with Jacques Derrida and we were talking about mobile phones. The topic was philosophical and not technical. I claimed—with a dogmatic attitude—t hat mobile phones are stupid machines while computers are intelligent, maybe because I thought that on a computer one can write intelligent essays whereas, on the phone, one could produce only stupid texts. I was obviously wrong, and not only . . .

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