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<nettime> Friedrich Kittler
Timothy Druckrey on Fri, 28 Oct 2011 04:01:21 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Friedrich Kittler


No doubt lengthy paeans will be forthcoming from the Kittler 
scholars. They will be, of course, well deserved for a thinker whose 
work traversed so many spheres. For us in the media, Kittler's work 
has been an indispensable source of rigor and insight. Back in 1987, 
I read the first chapter of Gramophone, Film, Typewriter in the 
journal October. After that, his name surfaced in many sources and I 
read everything I could find with voracious interest. He was 
regularly in the media festivals and his intense presence was a stark 
challenge to the kind of idiosyncratic history that was/is still so 
prevalent in the media sphere.

Uncompromising and prodigious, Kittler's works evinced an analytical 
force that came with unsparing lucidity. Few contrived accounts could 
match his astute autopsies. Kittler embraced history from both ends 
and wrung from it meanings that analytical amateurs could never 
fathom. At home with Pink Floyd and Pynchon, Volta and Virilio, 
Edison and Euclid, Helmholz and Heidegger, Shannon and the 
pre-Socratics, Foucault and Frege, Turing and Thucydides, Wagner and 
Weiner, etc,. Kittler dissected history with exacting precision. 
Under the veneers of comfortable historiography, Kittler discerned 
systems and unscrambled ciphers that identified not mere 
archaeological tidbits but the anatomy and circulatory systems for 
the mobilization of discourses increasingly inscribed by technologies 
whose effect would radically alter our 'so-called' (one of his 
favorite phrases) communication horizon. He knew so well the link 
between militarism and media, power and information, philosophy and 
poetry, reading and really reading. 

His wit was often obscure, his arguments targeted with intimidating 
precision, his ideas formidable and elucidated with the kind of 
certainty that remain a challenge to anyone representing themselves 
as media historians or theorists. No one in our field can avoid the 
continuing reverberations of his ideas, the on-going influence of the 
many scholars who have followed, studied with, or have seriously 
studied his work.

Years ago at the Ars Electronica conference InfoWar, Paul Virilio 
participated remotely by videoconference. Just after, I spoke with 
Kittler who said in his reluctant English "he always brings water to 
my eyes." Well, we were outside the Brucknerhaus smoking at the time 
so maybe it was just a little smoke in the eyes. Nah. It wasn't then 
for him and it isn't now for all of us.


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