Armin Medosch on Sat, 2 May 2009 15:13:48 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Debating German Media Theory in Siegen

I am not sure if the world really needs 'German' media theory right
now. First of all the term 'German media theory' does indeed suggest a
focus on the German nation, whilest leaving out or forcibly connecting
to it (Anschluss) other works in the German language by authors from
Switzerland and Austria, or Czech/Brasil as in the case of Flusser.

That what indeed could count as a 'German' media theory is, as Stefan
Heidenreich said, the socalled Kittler school. I am not inclinced
to go into any in depth discussion here of this work but would just
like to note two tendencies in passing. First, even the translator
of the English edition of Grammophone, Film, Typewriter, is quite
critical of Kittler and calls him a 'reactionary postmodernist' -
and that would be a quite good description of that strand of german
media theory. And, second, why I say that can be illustrated by the
following example:

In 1995 when Ars Electronica dedicated itself to the newly opened up
web, Kittler contributed a short statement to the catalogue which said
that artists/theorists who hoped that the net had an emancipatory
dimension were wrong, because the net had been invented by the
military and therefore its core was all about encryption and secrecy.
This wild thesis has been thouroughly disproven by empiricism, it has
been shown to be wrong, and theorists need to be held to account for
the validity of their theories. so why would the world need more of

More funny is of course the question, how german is 'grammophone, film
...' as it mostly seems to rely on mcLuhan, Focault and Lacan for its
theoretic foundations.

I think Florian Cramer is right to point out the importance of the
big Benjamin revival that has been going on for years and years in
anglophone acadmeic discourse. Because of his untimely death Benjamin
could not develop a followership or school in the immedeate postwar
years in germany, and that maybe explains Stefan's reluctance to see
Benjamin's as a 'german' theory of media, but the relevancy of his
work is unbroken, as it is one of the few things you have to work with
if you are not falling for the negative cultural pessimist assumptions
behind so much of media theory or media studies. So maybe German media
theory suffers from a diminished influence of the Benjamin, Brecht,
Enzensberger line of thought, while French poststructuralists have
brought back Heidegger and with that more 'reactionary postmodernism'.

Thus, to conclude on the notion if there is such a thing as german
media theory, this would either have to be Kittler school, or such
a loose and wide definition that it does not make sense to throw
those things together at all, as Stefans aid. Take for instance Frank
Hartmann's work. One of his best books and I think the last media
philosophical one (as subsequently he also turned to history of media)
is Mediology, which is, to say it in most abbreviated form, a reading
together of Regis Debray and Vilem Flusser.

This book is, I agree with Geert, one of many that deserves to be
translated and it is true that in all likelihood publishers wont
do it themselves. Yet this counts also true for Italian, Spanish,
Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese and other theories of media. The
anglophone world is indeed notoriously translation lazy and at the
same time quite hegemonic considering the position of its universities
and publishing houses, so there could be a 'project' there.

Last not least I am a bit concerned about the notion of capital
letters Media Theory. That leaves out a lot of work by artists who
deal with media and who also write, yet in a less theoretic style.
What would come to my mind in this regard is for instance the work of
Valie Export or other feminist artists such as Cornelia Sollfrank,
work that says maybe more about the media condition than the big white
males/whales such as Kittler, Luhmann, Flusser etc.

best armin

thenextlayer software, art, politics

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