The End of the Virtual? A Hermeneutical Approach to Digitality

  • Alberto RomeleEmail author
Part of the Numanities - Arts and Humanities in Progress book series (NAHP, volume 11)


The purpose of this chapter is to offer the grounds for a double rehabilitation: that of hermeneutics on the one hand, and of the virtual, a concept that became popular especially between the 1980s and 1990, on the other hand. More precisely, hermeneutics will be used to lay foundations for the hypothesis according to which the virtual never ended. The argument will follow three steps. In the first section, the author accounts for theories on the end of the virtual, distinguishing between those who think that the real has invaded the virtual and those who say that it is rather the opposite. The second section, entitled “The Virtual Never Ended”, is a tribute to Philip K. Dick and his crazy idea that the Roman Empire never came to an end. The digital works through representational distanciation and performative appropriation, and it is precisely this process that makes the virtual a valid concept that still gives rise to thought, and which allows hermeneutics to be used in the context of digitality. Finally, in the concluding section, the author will briefly present the epistemological and ontological advantages of such a perspective.


  1. Bachimont, Bruno. 2010. Le sens de la technique. Le numérique et le calcul. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.Google Scholar
  2. Beaude, Boris. 2014. Les fins d’Internet. Limoges: FYP.Google Scholar
  3. Boyd, Danah. 2001. Sexing the Internet: Reflections on the Role of Identification in Online Communities. Paper presented at Sexualities, Media, Technologies, University of Surrey, 21–22 June 2001. Accessed 8 June 2017.
  4. Capurro, Rafael. 2010. Digital Hermeneutics: An Outline. AI & Society 35: 35–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Diamante, Oscar. 2014. The Hermeneutics of Information in the Context of Information Technology. Kritike 8: 168–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ferraris, Maurizio. 2014. Total Mobilization. The Monist 97: 201–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Floridi, Luciano. 2010. Information. A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Floridi, Luciano. 2014. The Fourth Revolution. How the Infosphere Is Reshaping Human Reality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Floridi, Luciano, and Sanders, Jeff. 2004. On the Morality of Artificial Agents. Minds and Machines, 349–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Foucault, Michel. 1995. Discipline and Punish. The Birth of the Prison. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  11. Fuchs, Christian. 2014. Digital Labour and Karl Marx. New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gerbaudo, Paolo. 2016. From Data Analytics to Data Hermeneutics. Online Political Discussions, Digital Methods and the Continuing Relevance of Interpretive Approaches. Digital Culture & Society, 2/2.
  13. Heidegger, Martin. 1995. Aristotle’s Metaphysics 9, 1–3. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Ihde, Don. 1990. Technology and the Lifeworld. From Garden to Earth. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnosn. 1980. Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  16. Latour, Bruno. 1994. On Technical Mediation. Philosophy, Sociology, Genealogy. Common Knowledge 3 (2): 29–64.Google Scholar
  17. Latour, Bruno. 2005. Reassembling the Social. An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Latour, Bruno. 2013. An Inquiry into the Modes of Existence. An Anthropology of the Moderns. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Law, John. 2009. Actor Network Theory and Material Semiotics. In The New Blackwell Companion to Social Theory, ed. Bryan S. Turner, 141–158. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lazer, David, Ryan Kennedy, Gary King, and Alessandro Vespignani. 2014. The Parable of Google Trends. Traps in Big Data Analysis. Science 343: 1203–1205.Google Scholar
  21. Manovich, Lev. 2013. Software Takes Command. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  22. Mohr, John, Wagner-Pacifici, Robin, and Breiger, Ronald. 2015. Toward a Computational Hermeneutics. Big Data & Society 2 (2). Scholar
  23. Rastier, François, and Bachimont, Bruno. 1998. Herméneutique matérielle et artéfacture: des machines qui pensent aux machines qui donnent à penser. Texto! Textes et Cultures. Accessed 15 June 2017.
  24. Ricoeur, Paul. 1984. Time and Narrative, I. Chicago: Chicago University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ricoeur, Paul. 1991. From Text to Action. Essays in Hermeneutics, II. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Rogers, Richard. 2009. The End of the Virtual. Accessed June 10 2017.
  27. Romele, Alberto. 2018. Imaginative Machines. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology 22 (1): 98–125.Google Scholar
  28. Romele, Alberto, and Marta Severo. 2014. Une approche philosophique de la ville numérique: méthodes numériques et géolocalisation. In Devenirs urbains, ed. Marise Carmes and Jean-Max Noyer, 205–226. Paris: Presses des Mines.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Romele, Alberto, and Marta Severo. 2016. The Economy of the Digital Gift. From Socialism to Sociality Online. Theory, Culture & Society 33: 43–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Romele, Alberto, Francesco Gallino, Camilla Emmenegger, and Daniele Gorgone. 2017. Panopticism is Not Enough: Social Media as Technologies of Voluntary Servitude. Surveillance & Society 15: 204–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Scholz, Trebor (ed.). 2013. Digital Labor. The Internet as Playground and Factory. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  32. Van Den Eede, Yoni. In Between Us: On the Transparency and Opacity of Technological Mediation. Foundations of Science 16: 139–159.Google Scholar
  33. Van Zundert, Joris. 2016. Screwmeneutics and Hermenumericals. The Computationality of Hermeneutics. In: A New Companion to Digital Humanities, ed. Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth, 331–347. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  34. Vattimo, Gianni. 2000. Histoire d’une virgule. Gadamer et le sens de l’être. Revue internationale de philosophie 213: 499–513.Google Scholar
  35. Verbeek, Peter-Paul. 2003. Material Hermeneutics. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology 6 (3): 181–184.Google Scholar
  36. Verbeek, Peter-Paul. 2005. What Things Do. Philosophical Reflections on Technology, Agency, and Design. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Verbeek, Peter-Paul. 2013. Moralizing Technology. Chicago: Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Winner, Langdon. 1980. Do Artifacts Have Politics? Daedalus 109: 121–136.Google Scholar
  39. Zhao, Shanyang, Sherri Grasmuck, and Jason Martin. 2008. Identity Construction on Facebook: Digital Empowerement in Anchored Relationships. Computers in Human Behaviors 24: 1816–1836.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lille Catholic UniversityLilleFrance

Personalised recommendations