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….and: The Birth of Geometry in Encryption and Deciphering–Towards a Physics of Communication.

“Bacteria, fungus, whale, sequoia, we do not know any life of which we cannot say that it emits information, receives it, stores it and processes it. Four universal rules, so unanimous that, by them, we are tempted to define life but are unable to do so, because of the following counterexamples. Crystal, indeed, rock, sea, planet, star, galaxy: we know no inert thing of which we cannot say that it emits, receives, stores and processes information. Four universal rules, so uniform that we are tempted to define anything in the world by them, but are unable to do so because of the following counterexamples. Individuals, but also families, farms, villages, cities, nations, we do not know any human, alone or in groups, of which we cannot say that it emits, receives, stores and processes information.“

– Michel Serres (2014)

Technology presumes given measures to operate steadily, mechanically, reliably and unbiased. In other words, technology can work smoothly when metrics is not problematical. Yet there is a reciprocal germination of our ability and sophistication in measuring: technical devices allow for new practices, and hence are capable of opening up new understandings of matter, time and space, new modes of inhabiting the world, new knowledge, new forms of organization, new insights, new interests, altered cultural values – new manners of measuring and new devices. This relation between the (collective) subject of a lived praxis (civilization) and the (collective) subject of a functioning operator (technology) constitutes the core of media studies: it is through this relationally within collectivities (rather than individual subjects) that media are distinguished from technical instruments.

In this PhD colloquy we will read a selection of texts by the classical protagonists of the field: Eric Havelock, Harold Innis, Marshall McLuhan, Friedrich Kittler. Thereby, we will (1) sharpen a particular perspective that foregrounds the role of „technical channels“ and their quasi-physical reality in techniques of algebraic symbolic encryption, and (2) we will pursue, question, discuss and elaborate this perspective in relation to the fact that from today’s point of view, we are dealing not only with McLuhan’s unsettling observation about the non-neutrality of the communication channels, namely that The Medium is the Message; a tip more abstract now, e.g. in peer-to-peer filesharing, we have the situation that Each Message Constitutes a Channel.

Reading assignments are roughly 60 pages per week.
The colloquy will take place on Tuesday mornings from 9.30 am to 11 am at CAAD ETHZ.
Meetings are scheduled from Sept. 30th until the end of February 2015
(we will reserve flexibility to coordinate with upcoming events like the Seminarweek etc.)

First meeting on September 30th 9.30 am at CAAD ETHZ.
Please read the articles headed under „introduction“ for this meeting.


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(in the order to be followed in our meetings)

Introduction: Towards a Physics of Communication
Michel Serres, „Information and Thinking“ (10 pages)
Wolfgang Ernst, „Experimenting with Measuring Media“ (30 pages)
Mark Hansen, „Speculative Phenomenology of Microtemporal Operations“ (20 pages)
Vera Bühlmann, „Generic Mediality” (10 pages)
[all PDFs on the server]

Image, Form, and the Preservation of the Articulable
Eric Havelock, Preface to Plato (340 pages) [PDF on the server]

Economy and Politics with Preserved Articulations
Harold Innis, Empire and Communication (219 pages)

The Distinguished Origination of Artifacts in the Cultivation of Mediacy
Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media (300 pages) [PDF on the server]

Media Archaeology in the Electromagnetic Materiality of Imagination
Friedrich Kittler, Film Grammophone Typewriter (260 pages) [PDF on the server]

Rooting Inside of Time: An Impersonal and A-subjective Principle of Reason
Wolfgang Ernst, Digital Memory and the Archive (260 pages) [PDF on the server]