In medias res: the diminishing of historical continuity in modern thought


  • Kara Te Water University of the Free State



digital media, manipulation, modernity, rationality, contemplation, action


Innovation and future predictions are discussed as the main goals of modern technology. Living in this empirical, modern world set on the future has the possibility of diminishing the value of historical continuity as observation and outcome-based theory take precedence over contemplation and tradition. It is proposed that the forgetfulness of modernity creates a stilted perception of time and thought which results in a dissonance between the perceiving subject and their surroundings. This is exacerbated by digital media as it mostly frames information as an attractive or trending source of amusement rather than as a possibility for edification. The result of this dissonance between the subject and their surroundings and the influence of digital media can be seen in the thoughtless or repetitive action and the abdication of action altogether in favour of escape from reality. This is problematised in as far constructive action for the well-being of the individual cannot be sustained in terms of the current engagement with digital technology.


Drawing on thinkers such as Connerton (1989, 2009), Davidson (2004), Habermas (1987, 1989), a discussion follows regarding how the diminishing historical continuity in thought can lead to the manipulation and a lack of rationality discussed in Horkheimer’s and Adorno’s culture industry thesis. To adopt the approach of continuity as embodied in the phrase in medias res(in the midst of things) in interpretation, rather than an observation assuming novel activity, may bring an alternative consideration for how modern technology (specifically the digital) can be used to assist the individual in taking contextual action rather than trying to escape action altogether while reframing the potential of digital technology towards a constructive, achievable standing rather than resigning it to a problematic system of distraction and degradation of thought.



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