Manual Thumbelina: The Culture and Technology of Millennials

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Daniel W. What kind of body will she inhabit? Through what eyes will she see? What kind of physical material will she grasp with her fingers and manipulate with her hands in order to communicate her ideas? And, moreover, through what cognitive arrangement will she perceive the world around her? Can we assume, for example, that she will synthesize intuitions by means of the same rationality, the same cogito, as we do today — or, at least, as we think we do?

She is to be named Thumbelina Petite Poucette , an honorific granted on account of the dexterity of her thumbs as they freely and nimbly glide over the screen of her smart-phone, a device that is constantly in her hands Serres prefers the feminine form over its masculine equivalent, Tom Thumb, or Petit Poucet, claiming from his own experience that young women demonstrate greater development in this regard than their male counterparts.


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Although thumbelina is a reality that is still-to-come, she is also a reality in our midst: she is one of the networked generation, those who engage with the world through technology in novel, creative, and for us highly-unspecified ways. As an octogenarian who has taught for decades in the context of both the French and the North American university systems, Serres appreciates that he has presided over the advent of thumbelina.

And yet, eschewing the curmudgeonly tone typically associated with the parental generation as it repudiates what it has itself spawned, he declares himself proud to have acted as her midwife.

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Because, for Serres, thumbelina represents a fresh and necessary incarnation of humanity. For Serres, thumbelina possesses nothing less than a new interiority.

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He anticipates that, through her, a new historical epoch will arise, one that will be more democratic and more ecological than our own. In her wake everything will change.

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Having been beheaded at the foot of Montmartre by his Roman captors, the legend narrates how the decapitated body of Denis rose up on its feet, to the dismay of those in attendance, and continued its march up the hill, severed head in hands. In the same way thumbelina, upon opening her laptop, functions with her head held outside her body, in the form of the vast repository of information contained on the web, to which she has access at the click of a button. The critical task for the generation-to-come, then, undergirded by the digital revolution, will morph from stultifying, atrophic exercises of analysis to multiple, creative acts of invention.

His writing also slips into augury: for now that she is here, how will thumbelina begin to challenge and overturn the society in which she participates? Serres, — is such that eventually it will no longer be possible to hear the monological voice of traditional power structures above the din. Rather, wherever it is heard, her voice sounds a furious call for epistemological democracy.

Thumbelina is no longer prepared to be subjugated, serf-like, in a demos that prefers abstraction over particularity and unity over aggregation. Instead, with a quasi-algorithmic rigor, thumbelina insists upon the recognition of reality as multiple and plural.

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A banal observation buried in the comments section of an obscure website may not appear to be a substantial contribution to the treasury of human knowledge, but, as far as Serres is concerned, it constitutes a gesture of identification, a demand to be recognized as a this or a that, as a quality and as an essence Some of the most effective passages in the book describe the bankruptcy of the institutions in which thumbelina is currently housed.

For Serres, even the physical topography of our contemporary institutions will be disrupted and overturned by thumbelina. Formerly, in the classroom, in the court of law, on an airplane, or in church, people have found themselves arranged in rows or in pews, eyes forward, like prisoners in the Platonic cave, piloted, slouched, passive, and inert.

But now, those rigid spaces are exploding. Thumbelina is constantly circulating, gesticulating, and frolicking, a cognitive agility that is mimicked in the dance of her thumbs as they type out messages and manipulate digital images. She is constantly on the move. She embodies motricity.


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Thumbelina : the culture and technology of millennials APA. Serres, M.

Thumbelina: The culture and technology of millennials.. Serres, Michel. The title of this timely and thought-provoking book, a French bestseller, refers to schoolgirls sending text messages to their friends on their smart phones. Michel Serres, one of France's most important living intellectuals, uses this image to get at something far broader: that humans are formed and shaped by technologies, and that with the advent of computers, smart phones, and the Internet, a new human is being born. These new humans beings are our children-thumbelina petite poucette and tom thumb petit poucet -but technologies have been changing so fast that parents scarcely know their children.

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Serres documents this cultural revolution, arguing that there have been several similar revolutions in the past: from oral cultures to cultures focused on reading and writing; the advent of the printing press; and now the complex changes brought about by the new information technologies-changes that are taking place at an accelerated pace and that affect us all. Smith - ISBN: This book is an English-language translation of a bestselling book in France that explores the relationship between humans and new technologies.

Thumbelina : The Culture and Technology of Millennials. Barakamon, Vol.