Out of the dichotomy: the circulating ambivalence

The world we humans live in has a peculiar attribute. That is an ambivalence, which can be negative or positive for our lives. ‘Yin-Yang’ from the Eastern notion about the universal truth is a frame, dealing with such attributes in our surroundings. As a frame to see the world, Yin-Yang embraces the contradictory elements by noticing and appreciating to find the harmony between the elements and makes the synergy from the harmony (Li 2014, 322). As to see this frame ‘Yin-Yang’, the opposite characteristic features in humankind can co-exist, making the balance between them. That is a more positive fact on the ambivalence, and then it can be the capacity of ambidexterity. Meanwhile, two-sidedness with the development of media technology is newly engendered, comparing the Utopia and Dystopia. How can we find the balance between the dichotomy, and how can the two-sidedness co-exist more positively?

The origin of the word ‘Utopia’ means a non-place, the place of nowhere. In other words, Utopia is a fantastic place that will never exist out of dreams. Nevertheless, people are struggling to make the world a Utopia with media technology because the Utopia is also a societal vision as a better world (Fuchs 2020, 149). However, ‘what the better world is?’ makes some people think and act dichotomously about technological development, humanity, and nature. We, humans, are surrounded by devices that contain Artificial Intelligence for almost 365 days. These devices have become elements such as another vital organ of the human body to communicate with each other or for our own convenient life. Compared to the previous human life familiar with analogue decades ago, modern people enjoy a similar life as in Utopia in terms of convenience. Some people even regard AI in devices as a universal solution for any problem in contemporary society. But others blame this technology with a dystopian perspective that machine intelligence may ultimately dominate or destroy humans (Crawford 2021, 214). The technological and human-societal views on the development of AI technology are not sufficient to show the polarized two sides of media technology. It is because more dystopian situations can be found in nature. 

As modern times is a capitalist society, more and more people pursue a “development” without knowing its end for their benefit. Otherwise, some people tend to step into the development of media technology to improve the negative factor of society, such as monopoly capitalism. Nevertheless, humans inevitably encounter the problem behind technological development, and the matter is clearly revealed from an environmental point of view. Most digital devices containing artificial intelligence technology require lithium batteries, and some specific areas must become a mining town for this lithium material. Eventually, the mining area is a world of dystopia due to environmental pollution. Therefore, voices to conserve the environment at the individual or social level are becoming increasingly radical in recent years. That can be a defence mechanism against ourselves seeking development because the global environment is where humanity must live for a lifetime, so the environment crisis provokes our anxiety naturally. 

As a pursuit of media technology development progresses rapidly, ambivalence as a human’s natural characteristic creates a rapid movement that conflicts with the development. It is impossible to achieve perfect harmony according to the frame of Yin-Yang as the end of the extremes cannot be anticipated. However, rather than paying attention to the extremes of the two sides, we need to look at both sides objectively as recognizing the middle of humankind’s progress. This attitude can be found in nature, and the rare Matsutake in the forest is an example. Matsutake has been creating relationships with things around them to live in destroyed nature for a long time before they become mushrooms. In other words, the mushroom, organizing its relationships with soil and trees on its existing place without any future expectations, seems to create its own destiny. Similarly, rather than solving the unpredictable end of the contrasting aspects of technological development, we humans need to keep looking at the relationships between technology, humans, and the natural environment and continue asking various questions about them. That is the one way to get out of the dichotomy regarding the development of media technology.

From the current point of view, the environmental crisis is a problem sacrificed for media technology. However, all the progress of technological development can not be stopped to solve the critical situation. In the future aspect, the pursuit of technology may be inevitable at the current moment. In this regard, it is a dilemma to judge what is clearly right and wrong in the ambivalence of technological development. From the 18th century, Scottish geologist James Hutton described the Earth’s evolution as a dynamic cycle of erosion, deposition, consolidation, and uplifting before erosion starts the cycle anew (Zielinski 2006, 4). Likewise, when we take a step back, trying to find a point that connects the two sides from the ambivalence will positively impact the growth of humankind. In the end, the ambivalence on media technology will begin to co-exist in the evolutionary cycle of humanity and the environment.


[ References ]

Li, Peter Ping. “The Unique Value of Yin-Yang Balancing: A Critical Response.” Management and Organization Review 10, no. 2 (2014): 321-32. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1740877600004228.

Fuchs, Christian. “The Utopian Internet, Computing, Communication, and Concrete Utopias: Reading William Morris, Peter Kropotkin, Ursula K. Le Guin, and P.M. in the Light of Digital Socialism.” tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique. Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society 18, no.1 (2020): 146-186. https://doi.org/10.31269/triplec.v18i1.1143.

Crawford, Kate. 2021. The Atlas of AI Power, Politics, and the Planetary Costs of Artificial Intelligence. Yale University Press.

Zielinski, Siegfried. 2006. Deep Time of the Media: Toward an Archaeology of Hearing and Seeing by Technical Means. The MIT Press


[ Project reference images]

“Concave-Convex”, Bruno Munari


“Moebius Loop”, Christian Marclay


“Mobius strip”, Christine Cathi


“Mobius” interactive circular bench,  Louis Lim (Makingworks)


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