Stefan Heidenreich on Thu, 30 Apr 2009 16:42:58 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Debating German Media Theory in Siegen

having attended the Kittler "Oberseminar" - the phd candidates 
colloquium - during the crucial years form 1992 to 2000 I have to say, 
things look very much different seen from a personal perspective from 

1) the media apriori and the focus on technicality and materiality were 
our core axioms. Influential was also the early Foucault and a technical 
interpretation of Lacan.

2) Media theory was all but abstract. no trace of Benjamin, no ontology, 
no "Geist". Florian is dead wrong on these points. His so called outside 
perspective blurs the main impulse in order to remix it with German 
academic tradition.

3) Kittler's turn to the greek can be seen as a continuation of his 
early work.

4) The decline of the rest of the school went along two lines: a 
withdrawal towards academic historicism and a conceptually empty 
radicalization. Both in order to avoid the more risky attempt of 
thinking the present, i.e. the net.

let me try to elaborate in short:

1) and 2) In its radicalism the Kittler-school perceived itself as 
something unique - the early links to Tholen, Bolz or Gumbrecht were 
still present, but not productive, as they had left the common 
theoretical ground. "enemies" or discoursive no-go areas were 
Medienwirkungsforschung (empirical media studies, mass media studies), 
kritische Theorie (Adorno, Habermas, also Benjamin), and the hermeneutic 
Geert's construction of the term German Media runs into a dilemma. 
Either one takes it as broad as he does. But then the conceptual impulse 
once present gets lost and it looks like a mere field of research guided 
by a very blurry set of assumptions. Or one tries to focus on the 
theoretical impulse and then it remains centered around the Kittler 
school, where we called it at some point "Technical Media Theory". 
Nobody amongst us would claim it to be something "German".

3) Kittler left "Media" aside as soon as it became a mere academic 
field, but he kept some core assumptions when closing in on the Greek. 
He always looked for initial scenes - "Urszenen" - as if in the 
beginnings a certain truth would show up. So his recent focus can simply 
be read as a shift towards the media of theory as such, a 
self-reflective turn that finds its beginnings in the greek alphabet.

4) The main factor responsible for the disintegration of the Kittler 
School lies in the nature of the german humanities and universities. 
Instead of following a common programme, the more or less eclectic 
followers tried to distinguish themselves from each other and from 
Kittler in order to pursuit their academic careers.
They lost themselves in the various historical topics of research which 
the master's steps left undone. Nobody dared to apply the model to the 
present, as that was considered risky and not very promising in an 
academic environment focused on historical subdivisions. That's why you 
find plenty of books and papers on a variety of topics, but almost 
nothing adressing our present world. The few attempts to further 
radicalize Kittler's position lead mostly to futile and narrowminded 
approaches focusing on the raw material or the raw code.

geert lovink schrieb:

> Is there an exceptional way for German media theory? This was the  
> theme of a public debate at the University of Siegen (between Cologne  
> and Frankfurt in Germany). I was perhaps the young outside rebel on  
> the panel, in part because of my age, my passport, being an “internet  
> pope”, as chairman Karl Ludwig Pfeiffer described me. Participants  
> were Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht (Stanford), Friedrich Kittler (Berlin),  
> Irmela Schneider (Cologne), Hartmut Winkler (Paderborn) and Erhard  
> Schüttpelz (Siegen). The German word discussed here was  
> “Sonderweg” (special way).

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