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Full-Text Articles in History

In History, The Future: Determinism In The Early History Of Photography In France, Emily Doucet Oct 2018

In History, The Future: Determinism In The Early History Of Photography In France, Emily Doucet

communication +1

Technological determinism and media specificity have profoundly shaped the history of photography—two strands of thought inherited from nineteenth century predecessors. Media archaeological approaches—while not always explicitly and perhaps, as Thomas Elsaesser has recently suggested, rather as symptom—have been taken up in the history of photography in response to long held narratives shaped by a disciplinary media determinism. This article explores discourses of futurity and historicity in early photographic writing in France, examining one thread in the early trajectory of media determinism in the history of photography. Taking up Eric Kluitenberg’s concept of “imaginary media”, this article ...


Spreading The Spirit Word: Print Media, Storytelling, And Popular Culture In Nineteenth-Century Spiritualism, Simone Natale Sep 2015

Spreading The Spirit Word: Print Media, Storytelling, And Popular Culture In Nineteenth-Century Spiritualism, Simone Natale

communication +1

Spiritualists in the nineteenth century gave much emphasis to the collection of evidences of scientific meaning. During séances, they used instruments similar to those employed in scientific practice to substantiate their claims. However, these were not the only source of legitimization offered in support of the spiritualist claims. In fact, writers who aimed to provide beliefs in spiritualism with a reliable support relied very often on the testimonies of eyewitness that were reported in a narrative fashion. This article interrogates the role of such anecdotal testimonies in nineteenth-century spiritualism. It argues that they played a twofold role: on one side ...


Self-Writing Machines: Technology And The Question Of The Self, Christian Kassung Sep 2015

Self-Writing Machines: Technology And The Question Of The Self, Christian Kassung

communication +1

In order to show that technology mediates between man and machine, I will discuss in this text a literally other or alter-knowledge system that also heavily relied on self-writing machines: spiritualism. Contrary to scientific knowledge systems, in spiritualism the unforeseen, the singular, and the disturbance is what counts as, and produces, significance. That is the reason why alter-concepts such as spiritualism, esotericism, or occultism are not typically recognized as innovative agencies in the history of knowledge. Hence, what is needed to raise the question of a non-hegemonic knowledge production is a symmetrical approach in the history of technology.


Media In Action: From Exorcism To Mesmerism, Stephan Gregory Sep 2015

Media In Action: From Exorcism To Mesmerism, Stephan Gregory

communication +1

In the Bavaria of 1775, the popular exorcist practices performed by the catholic priest Johann Joseph Gassner were discredited and superseded by the enlightened, scientific’ system of Franz Anton Mesmer's “Animal Magnetism”. As the article argues, this replacement could happen so easily because–below the apparent ideological differences–both procedures were based on the same idea of technical functioning, they relied on the same principle of operation. Gassnerism as well as Mesmerism revolved around the idea of communication, and in both cases this communication’ was not about conveying a message, a meaning, it was a about mediating between two ...


Insensible And Inexplicable - On The Two Meanings Of Occult, Florian Sprenger Sep 2015

Insensible And Inexplicable - On The Two Meanings Of Occult, Florian Sprenger

communication +1

While the distinction between spiritualism and science was understood affirmatively as a demarcation of true science against pseudo-science, nowadays, after several Science Wars, it is obvious for us that this distinction does not correspond to the actual practices of science but reflects a work of ‘purification’ typical for modernity in the Latourian sense. In the physico-philosophical surroundings of this boundary epistemological foundations are shaped and modern science is constituted as the primary way to knowledge. Referring to studies on the history of the occult in the early modern period, the article shows that in order to understand the stakes of ...


Mind Reading In Stage Magic: The “Second Sight” Illusion, Media, And Mediums, Katharina Rein Sep 2015

Mind Reading In Stage Magic: The “Second Sight” Illusion, Media, And Mediums, Katharina Rein

communication +1

This article analyzes the late-nineteenth-century stage illusion “The Second Sight,” which seemingly demonstrates the performers’ telepathic abilities. The illusion is on the one hand regarded as an expression of contemporary trends in cultural imagination as it seizes upon notions implied by spiritualism as well as utopian and dystopian ideas associated with technical media. On the other hand, the spread of binary code in communication can be traced along with the development of the "Second Sight," the latter being outlined by means of three examples using different methods to obtain a similar effect. While the first version used a speaking code ...


Occult Communications: On Instrumentation, Esotericism, And Epistemology, Bernard Dionysius Geoghegan Sep 2015

Occult Communications: On Instrumentation, Esotericism, And Epistemology, Bernard Dionysius Geoghegan

communication +1

Viewed from the perspective of the occult, formerly straight and narrow conduits of reason may even begin to resemble irregular relays composed of irregular twists and turns. This essay offers a brief overview of key literature on spiritualism and the occult, some larger reflections on the place of the occult within studies of science and communications, and brief summaries of the essays contained in this volume.


Clean By Nature. Lively Surfaces And The Holistic-Systemic Heritage Of Contemporary Bionik., Jan Mueggenburg Sep 2014

Clean By Nature. Lively Surfaces And The Holistic-Systemic Heritage Of Contemporary Bionik., Jan Mueggenburg

communication +1

This paper addresses questions regarding the prospering field of Bionik in Germany. Its starting point is the wide spread assumption that universal functional principles exist in nature and that these ‘solutions’ can be transferred into technological objects. Accordingly, advocates of Bionik herald the advent of a better world with more sustainable and efficient products of engineering. The so-called ‘functional surfaces’ occupy a special place within this contemporary version of biomimesis. Shark-skin-inspired swim suits, self-cleaning façade paints with lotus effect or drag reducing Dolphin-Skins for aircraft-wings are expected to improve the quality of life for everyone. It seems that skin and ...


Plutonium Worlds. Fast Breeders, Systems Analysis And Computer Simulation In The Age Of Hypotheticality, Sebastian Vehlken Sep 2014

Plutonium Worlds. Fast Breeders, Systems Analysis And Computer Simulation In The Age Of Hypotheticality, Sebastian Vehlken

communication +1

This article examines the media history of one of the hallmark civil nuclear energy programs in Western Germany – the development of Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor (LMFBR) technology. Promoted as a kind of perpetuum mobile of the Atomic Age, the "German Manhattan Project" not only imported big science thinking. In its context, nuclear technology was also put forth as an avantgarde of scientific inquiry, dealing with the most complex and 'critical' technological endeavors. In the face of the risks of nuclear technology, German physicist Wolf Häfele thus announced a novel epistemology of
"hypotheticality". In a context where traditional experimental engineering ...


Rewriting The Matrix Of Life. Biomedia Between Ecological Crisis And Playful Actions, Christoph Neubert, Serjoscha Wiemer Sep 2014

Rewriting The Matrix Of Life. Biomedia Between Ecological Crisis And Playful Actions, Christoph Neubert, Serjoscha Wiemer

communication +1

The paper discusses concepts of ‘nature’ and ‘life’ as subjected to historical changes. The 21st century seems to be obsessed with ‘life’ and ‘nature’, which are reconfigured as objects of simulation practices and of a multitude of technoscientific enterprises as well as of political struggle. The historical influences and epistemological shifts of systems thinking are significant within two distinctive and interwoven fields: On the one hand the discourse of environmentalism with the paradigm of ecological crises, centered around ideas of resource management, sustainability, the general idea of an ‘endangered nature’ and the interconnectedness of global politics and individual actions. On ...


Environment Between System And Nature: Alan Sonfist And The Art Of The Cybernetic Environment, Etienne Benson Sep 2014

Environment Between System And Nature: Alan Sonfist And The Art Of The Cybernetic Environment, Etienne Benson

communication +1

This paper examines the role of systems thinking in environmental(ist) art and activism through a close reading and contextualization of Army Ants: Patterns and Structures (1972), an installation by Alan Sonfist, one of the leading figures in U.S. land art and environmental art of the 1960s and 1970s. It challenges a commonly held retrospective understanding of "environmental art" as being inherently about bringing nature into art (or into the gallery) by showing how important systems thinking, which blurred the natural-cultural divide, was to Sonfist and other artists of the time. It suggests that these two understandings of the ...


From Punched Cards To "Big Data": A Social History Of Database Populism, Kevin Driscoll Aug 2012

From Punched Cards To "Big Data": A Social History Of Database Populism, Kevin Driscoll

communication +1

Since the diffusion of the punched card tabulator following the 1890 U.S. Census, mass-scale information processing has been alternately a site of opportunity, ambivalence and fear in the American imagination. While large bureaucracies have tended to deploy database technology toward purposes of surveillance and control, the rise of personal computing made databases accessible to individuals and small businesses for the first time. Today, the massive collection of trace communication data by public and private institutions has renewed popular anxiety about the role of the database in society. This essay traces the social history of database technology across three periods ...