Kittler and the Materialities of Communication

Posted in Uncategorized on January 13, 2008 by Darroch

York 6109B / Ryerson 8939

Mondays, 4-7 pm
Accolade East (ACE) 008, York University

Dr. Michael Darroch
Graduate Programme in Communication & Culture
York University & Ryerson University

mdarroch [at]

Office: 303D Goldfarb Centre for Fine Arts (York University)
Office Hours: Mondays, 12-2pm, by appointment

Course Description:

Questions concerning the ‘medial a priori’ and the ‘materialities’ of communication are widely debated among contemporary German media scholars. Through close readings of the works of Kittler and surrounding figures, this seminar offers students a thorough introduction to this school of media theorising that emerged in post-1968 Germany. We will explore the many implications of this so-called ‘posthermeneutic’ approach to media and communication, which places description and analysis of technological forms ahead of questions of meaning. In particular, we will examine how materialities theory repositions the relationship of technology to subjectivity and the body, as well as the implications of digitisation for semiotics and semantics. Drawing on Kittler’s primary works and his concept of ‘discourse networks,’ we will trace the critical and theoretical underpinnings of materialities theory in French poststructuralist thought, information theory and cybernetics, as well as psychoanalysis. We will also expand our outlook from Kittler across the spectrum of theories of materialities, helping to position the materialities approach against other traditions of media theorising, including the Toronto and Frankfurt Schools, Katherine Hayles’s understanding of posthumanism, and Niklas Luhmann’s autopoietic systems theory.