Friedrich Kittler

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Born 1943 in Rochlitz, Saxony. Died 2011 in Berlin. Literary scientist and a media theorist. His works relate to media, technology, and the military.

Biography

Friedrich Kittler was born in 1943 in Rochlitz in Saxony. His family fled with him to West Germany in 1958, where from 1958 to 1963 he went to a natural sciences and modern languages Gymnasium in Lahr in the Black Forest, and thereafter, until 1972, he studied German studies, Romance philology and philosophy at the Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg in Freiburg im Breisgau. During his studies, he was influenced by Jacques Lacan's and Michel Foucault's writings.

In 1976, Kittler received his doctorate in philosophy after a thesis on the poet Conrad Ferdinand Meyer. Between 1976 and 1986 he worked as a scientific assistant at the university's Deutsches Seminar.

In 1984, he at last earned a Habilitation in the field of Modern German Literary History.

He had many stints as a Visiting Assistant Professor or Visiting Professor at universities in the United States, such as the University of California, Berkeley, the University of California, Santa Barbara and Stanford University.

From 1986 to 1990, he headed the DFG's Literature and Media Analysis project in Kassel and in 1987 he was appointed Professor of Modern German Studies at the Ruhr University, and also in 1993 he was appointed to the chair for Media Aesthetics and History at the Humboldt University of Berlin.

In 1993, Kittler was awarded the "Siemens Media Arts Prize" (Siemens-Medienkunstpreis) by ZKM Karlsruhe (Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie, or "Centre for Art and Media Technology") for his research in the field of media theory.

He was recognized in 1996 as a Distinguished Scholar at Yale University and in 1997 as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Columbia University in New York.

Kittler is a member of the Hermann von Helmholtz Centre for Culture and the research group "Bild Schrift Zahl" ("Picture Writing Number") (DFG).

Work and its importance

Friedrich Kittler is seminal in the new approach to media theory that grew popular starting in the 1980s, new media (German: Technischen Medien, which translates roughly to "technological media"). Kittler's central project is to "prove to the human sciences [...] their technological-media a priori" (Hartmut Winkler), or in his own words: "Driving the spirit out of the humanities" (note: "spirit" is "Geist" in German, and "humanities" is "Geisteswissenschaften", or "spiritual sciences"), a title that he gave a work that he published in 1980.

Kittler sees an autonomy in technology and therefore disagrees with Marshall McLuhan's reading of the media as "extensions of man": "Media are not pseudopods for extending the human body. They follow the logic of escalation that leaves us and written history behind it. (Kittler in Geschichte der Kommunikationsmedien. In: Jörg Huber, Alois Martin Müller (publishers): Raum und Verfahren).

Consequently, he sees in writing literature, in writing programmes and in burning structures into silicon chips a complete continuum: "As we know and simply do not say, no human being writes anymore. [...] Today, human writing runs through inscriptions burnt into silicon by electronic lithography [...]. The last historic act of writing may thus have been in the late seventies when a team of Intel engineers [plotted] the hardware architecture of their first integrated microprocessor." (Kittler, Es gibt keine Software. In: ders.: Draculas Vermächtnis. Technische Schriften).

Publications

  • 2006: Musik und Mathematik. Band 1: Hellas, Teil 1: Aphrodite. Wilhelm Fink Verlag, Paderborn.
  • 2004: Unsterbliche. Nachrufe, Erinnerungen, Geistergespräche. Wilhelm Fink Verlag, Paderborn.
  • 2002: Zwischen Rauschen und Offenbarung. Zur Kultur- und Mediengeschichte der Stimme (as publisher). Akademie Verlag, Berlin
  • 2002: Optische Medien. Merve: Berlin. ISBN 3-88396-183-3
  • 2001: Vom Griechenland (with Cornelia Vismann; Internationaler Merve Diskurs Bd.240). Merve: Berlin. ISBN 3-88396-173-6
  • 2000: Nietzsche – Politik des Eigennamens: wie man abschafft, wovon man spricht (with Jacques Derrida). Berlin.
  • 2000: Eine Kulturgeschichte der Kulturwissenschaft. München
  • 1999: Hebbels Einbildungskraft – die dunkle Natur. Frankfurt, New York, Vienna
  • 1998: Zur Theoriegeschichte von Information Warfare
  • 1998: Hardware das unbekannte Wesen
  • 1997: Literature, Media, Information Systems: Essays (published by John Johnston). Amsterdam
  • 1993: Draculas Vermächtnis: Technische Schriften. Leipzig: Reclam. ISBN 3-379-01476-1 Essays zu den "Effekten der Sprengung des Schriftmonopols", zu den Analogmedien Schallplatte, Film und Radio sowie "technische Schriften, die numerisch oder algebraisch verfasst sind".
  • 1991: Dichter – Mutter – Kind. Munich
  • 1990: Die Nacht der Substanz. Bern
  • 1986: Grammophon Film Typewriter. Berlin: Brinkmann & Bose. ISBN 3-922660-17-7 (English edition: Gramophone Film Typewriter, Stanford 1999)
  • 1985: Aufschreibesysteme 1800/1900. Fink: Munich. ISBN 3-7705-2881-6 (English edition: Discourse Networks 1800 / 1900, with a foreword by David E. Wellbery. Stanford 1990)
  • 1979: Dichtung als Sozialisationsspiel. Studien zu Goethe und Gottfried Keller (with Gerhard Kaiser). Göttingen
  • 1977: Der Traum und die Rede. Eine Analyse der Kommunikationssituation Conrad Ferdinand Meyers. Bern-Munich