though it may sound like heresy,
(nod, wink and yes, think the intro to G.K. Chesterton’s book Heretics)
i’d like to think Heidegger’s work on the temporality of spatiality in Paragraph 70 of Being and Time via Google Maps. on an iphone. in nyc.
no use arguing for life in the provinces, here… or then again, without further ado:
70. The Temporality of the Spatiality that is Characteristic of Dasein
We must now make an existential-analytical inquiry as to the temporal conditions, for the possibility of the spatiality that is characteristic of Dasein – the spatiality upon which in turn is founded the uncovering of space within-the-world. We must first remember in what way Dasein is spatial. Dasein can be spatial only as care, in the sense of existing as factically falling. Negatively this means that Dasein is never present-at-hand in space, not even proximally. Dasein does not fill up a bit of space as a Real Thing or item of equipment would, so that the boundaries dividing it from the surrounding space would themselves just define that space spatially. Dasein takes space in; this is to be understood literally. It is by no means just present-at-hand in a bit of space which its body fills up. In existing, it has already made room for its own leeway. (p. 419 of Being and Time translated by Macquarrie & Robinson)
it’s a quick easy leap, i admit. but it goes like this:
imagine yourself coming up out of one of new york’s many subway stations. you’re headed to see a show, or perhaps meeting a friend at a bar or bookstore you’ve not been to before… whatever your destination, the point is you are going somewhere and you need to figure out how to get there. you, like all good soon-to-be-directionally-challenged city dwellers, turn to google maps, courtesy of the iphone in your pocket.
if you’ve done this before, you’ll remember that when the phone is still down in the subway station, and even when you are clearly above ground, there is often a few second’s delay between the moment when you, the little blue glowing orb, appear onscreen and the time when the map fills in around you. in those moments it is you as blue orb on a grey field. you might say dasein is in the process of worlding, in fact. yet, as the map fills in, the world worlds and you, Dasein, are temporalizing space in the simple act of reading the map in hand. because you aren’t just thinking space. you are looking at city blocks, blocks that break up the landscape, or rather, that compose the landscape… and with composition comes cadence, comes tempo, comes time: as you think ‘each block is how many minutes away from the bar?’ you are temporalizing spatiality as the blocks spatialize temporality.
so far… well,
not so good: there is a serious flaw in this google maps argument, but until we get to it, we can cheat and imagine that it is in the above way that, ‘literally’ as Heidegger inveighs, “Dasein takes space in… In existing, it has already made room for its own leeway.”
As Simon Critchley pointed out during his lecture on this section of Being and Time, the word leeway above is translated from the german word for something like ‘play space’. whether we think play space as Lacan’s chess board or simply as a child would think a sand box, the very problem with the google maps example above is that Heidegger directly resists representational modes and separations such as I have set up by linking you, the recent subway exitee and soon-to-be walker, with a blue dot on a handheld screen. rather than opening into and becoming play space via Dasein’s world worlding, the iphone gives us a picture of that process which is necessarily and detrimentally stilting and reifying. Picking up with Heidegger mid-thought:
To be able to say that Dasien is present-at-hand at a position in space, we must first take [auffassen] this entity in a way which is ontologically inappropriate. Nor does the distinction between the ‘spatiality’ of an extended Thing and that of Dasein lie in the fact that Dasein knows about space; for taking space in [das Raum-einnehmen] is so far from identcal with a ‘representing’ of the spatial, that it is presupposed by it instead.
the problem with my google map analogy is thus clear: the knowing holder of the iphone, standing above an appearing map is precisely the errant present-at-hand and ‘knowing’ entity Heidegger is working to explain around and away. in order for the google map analogy to work, you would in fact have to be the blue dot.
and that is, oddly, easy enough.
if you had left your phone behind, if you had never taken it from your pocket to begin with, if you had simply mounted the subway stairs and come out street level, you would have the same experience. the city opens up around you, the sidewalk sections, the blocks, the buildings all create spatial cadence and tempo and there you are, Dasein, ‘taking space in’ and ‘breaking into space’.
despite Heidegger’s thieving language here (what’s with all the breaking and taking…?) this doesn’t mean that technology is the enemy. as i began with Chesterton, and as Critchley articulated in his lecture on the above paragraph in Heidegger when he said there are at least two ways to read Heidegger on technology, we might agree that heresy is the true domain of the hipster, or rather, now, post-luther, simply that which is a cool re-instating of the orthodox.
now, if i could find an iphone app to quickly orient us all through heidegger’s relationship to orthodoxy, well then, that might truly be time and space worth mapping.