Text To Speech Reading 17: Silicon Sociology, or, Two Kings on Hegel’s Throne?: Kittler, Luhmann and the Posthuman Merger of German Media Theory by Geoffrey Winthrop-Young (2015)

Mon, Feb 26, 2018
Programming Series

7:00pm, Cineworks Studio
1131 Howe St (lane entrance)

Text To Speech is a reading group organized by Western Front, Cineworks and VIVO Media Arts Centre. Focused on writing about media, media art and the surrounding concepts and frameworks of the mediated world, Text To Speech gatherings aim to build stronger community ties and knowledge in our field. In this reading group, participants will be provided with copies of the text, and we will facilitate a group reading, discussion, and analysis. Prior knowledge of the work is encouraged but not required, as the session will involve some form of introduction, and some portion of close reading (out loud).


Geoffrey Winthrop-Young

Silicon Sociology, or, Two Kings on Hegel's Throne? Kittler, Luhmann, and the Posthuman Merger of German Media Theory

In 1999 Rudolf Maresch and Niels Werber co-edited a Suhrkamp volume entitled Kommunikation Medien Macht ("Communication Media Power") that aspired to reclaim the abandoned peaks of German philosophy. In their letter of invitation, the editors solicited contributions that would respond to "a philosophical, intellectual, creative and political challenge of the first order" by helping to merge the poststructuralist media theory of Friedrich Kittler with the autopoietic systems theory of Niklas Luhmann. […] the merger was doomed from the outset. But then why write about it, or why try to initiate it in the first place? Because in matters of theory--just as in matters of love and business--ambitious failure is a great deal more interesting and revealing than moderate success; and what makes this particular failure so intriguing is that it grows out of an exemplary move within the space of posthuman theorizing.

Following N. Katherine Hayles, "posthuman" does not refer to the absence of humans but to a historically specific construction that recently emerged from the changing constellation of media, technology, and culture. As Hayles argues, the 'posthuman' is a point of view characterized by a set of (highly debatable) assumptions including the privileging of informational pattern over material instantiation, the debunking of consciousness "as an evolutionary upstart trying to claim that it is the whole show when in actuality it is only a minor sideshow," and, most importantly, the redesign of the "human being so that it can be seamlessly articulated with intelligent machines.”…