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“Friedrich A. Kittler was the most important, original and controversial German media theorist of his time. Departing from a philological background in German literature and arriving at a theory that combines the questions of technology, discourse and power, his oeuvre has had considerable impact on scholarship in the humanities over the past three decades. In contrast to Marshall McLuhan, who also started his career as a scholar in philology, Kittler’s theory is not anthropological in its epistemological set-up – media are not extensions of man; rather, Kittler’s theory is modelled after a Foucauldian-style archaeology but without Foucault’s ‘blind’ restriction to the medium of print.
Kittler’s works have either ‘produced’ ardent followers or have attracted vitriolic comments. These strong reactions to his works can in part be ascribed to his own academic style, which does not shy away from polemic commentary. Most of it is spurred by Kittler’s early desire to overcome a traditional type of literary criticism that ignores the impact of technology on the process of the production of meaning. And this lack of reflection is particularly apparent in the ‘art of interpretation’ (especially when this ‘art’ is relying on hermeneutics to justify its approach). Kittler’s work instead – strongly influenced by Shannon’s communication theory, Lacan’s writings on language and psychoanalysis and, as mentioned, Foucault’s archaeology of the humanities – attempted from early on to show how the technological dispositive (in various historical periods) is key to the cultural, societal and political environment at any time.
The scholarly articles and essays of this issue set out to introduce Kittler to the reader. The aim is to further a broader reception of his work in the anglosphere, and in particular in Australia, where he remains virtually unknown.” (from the Introduction)
With contributions by Geoffrey Winthrop-Young, Peter Krapp, Markus Krajewski, Matthias Bickenbach, Niels Werber, and Axel Fliethmann.
Publisher SAGE, November 2011
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