In Search of Media
Edited by Timon Beyes, Mercedes Bunz, and Wendy Hui Kyong Chun
“Media determine our situation,” Friedrich Kittler infamously wrote in his introduction to Gramophone, Film, Typewriter. Although this dictum is certainly extreme—and media archaeology has been critiqued for being overly dramatic and focused on technological developments—it propels us to keep thinking about media as setting the terms for which we live, socialize, communicate, organize, do scholarship etc. After all, as Kittler continued in his opening statement almost 30 years ago, our situation, “in spite or because” of media, “deserves a description.” What, then, are the terms—the limits, the conditions, the periods, the relations, the phrases—of media? And, what is the relationship between these terms and determination? This book series, In Search of Media, answers these questions by investigating the often elliptical “terms of media” under which users operate. That is, rather than produce a series of explanatory keyword-based texts to describe media practices, the goal is to understand the conditions (the “terms”) under which media is produced, as well as the ways in which media impact and change these terms.
Clearly, the rise of search engines has fostered the proliferation and predominance of keywords and terms. At the same time, it has changed the very nature of keywords, since now any word and pattern can become “key.” Even further, it has transformed the very process of learning, since search presumes that a) with the right phrase, any question can be answered and b) that the answers lie within the database. The truth, in other words, is “in there.” The impact of search/media on knowledge, however, goes beyond search engines. Increasingly, disciplines—from sociology to economics, the arts to literature—are in search of media as a way to revitalize their methods and objects of study. Our current media situation therefore seems to imply a new term, understood as temporal shifts of mediatic conditioning. Most broadly, then, this series asks: What are the terms or conditions of knowledge itself?
To answer this question, each book features interventions by two (or more) authors, whose approach to a term—to begin with: communication, pattern discrimination, markets, remain, machine, archives, organize—diverge and converge in surprising ways. By pairing up scholars from North-America and Europe, this series also advances media theory by obviating the proverbial “ten year gap” that exists across language barriers due to the vagaries of translation and local academic customs and in order to provoke new descriptions, prescriptions and hypotheses—to rethink and re-imagine what media can and must do.
In Search of Media is a joint collaboration between meson press and the University of Minnesota Press.