Technical Media Theory and the Web

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Last week, I was asked what Technical Media Theory, following the approach of Kittler, would have to say about the web.

After the Money

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If, as David Greaber writes, credit precedes money, at least in small communities, one could envisage a future in which money retreats thanks to the extension of a global village. How could that work?

democracy, media, parties, web

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representative democracy got stuck in the 19th century when it comes to the use of media. the web would allow for a decidedly different process of decision making. whether parties as a form of organization still need to be part of this process seems more than doubtful. in their current shape they first of all serve the purpose of shielding the voters’ voices from the political decision making.
With that they follow pretty much the model that Max Weber used to call “Stellenjägerparteien” (M.Weber: Politik als Beruf,21) – job hunters associations.
Liquidifying the process of decision-making could be a solution, but with caution. If software just becomes the interface of a party structure, not much is solved. Preferably the parties should be turend into interface of a web-based decision platform. and at some point one might want to replace them by other forms of organizing the decision making.

Useful source for the state of discussions:
Stefan Jabbusch 2011 – Liquid Democracy in der Piratenpartei
with a brief hint to the direct legislation initiative of William U’Ren.

text, news and event

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an article a text by jeff jarvis made me think about the relation of events to news and to texts.
it could be analysed as a relation of frequencies and duration.
the event in real time meets a regular frequency of text, like a daily update in traditional newspapers. this frequency changes on the web.

but also events do not stretch equally over time.
some occur over a set duration (football game)
some occur in an instance (car crash)
some events condense a historical situation (9/11)
some stretch over a considerable time and produce chains of smaller incidences (the arab revolution, occupy wall street)

also the reportingextends over time
instant (twittter)
live with time lag (youtube)
with a scheduled rhythm (newspapers)
lagging and accumulating (books)

there is so to say economic relation between writing and event. jeff jarvis argues against the article on the basis of it outdated daily occurence, once made necessary by the printing press.
but his argument reaches much further.

Why did (German) Media Theory miss the Web?

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Back in the times, when (German) media theory was first brought up, major topics discussed included simulation, virtual worlds, and media history (forever!). In the mid 80s, Friedrich Kittler was one of the first to sample McLuhan and Foucault and to turn from philology to media studies. At that time, there was no WWW. 10 years later, media studies had been well established within the German academic field. And the web also was well under way at that time. But it was never considered a serious topic within German media theory.
Then the experimental phase ended quickly, and most of the followers turned back to the history of media, as their academic socialisation required.
Was that all the reason to miss the net? Or is there an inherent obstacle, that prevented German media theory from tackling urgent questions ahead? Or was it a mere misconception of technologies’ future? Or, are we about to repeat the same mistake: in focussing on the web, missing again the future questions?

Media are ontogenetic machines. To put it simply, they are operative things that produce and assemble and reproduce things, including themselves.And what is most surprising about media, and what distinguishes them from pure tools, is that they themselves know all of this.

writes Lorenz Engell,so maybe it was the theorists’ fault not to listen carefully enough to their ontological statements. But shouldn’t theory be able to cope with exactly this issue?


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Die Chance der Piratenpartei könnte gerade darin liegen, keine Partei zu werden. Indem sie das, was sie Transparenz nennen auf den politischen Entscheidungsprozess anwenden.