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?