Mark B.N. Hansen on Media as Environment (for Life)

Delimination of Life: Mark B. Hansen (us) about his new work on subjectivity and experience in the wake of contemporary media from transmediale on Vimeo.

On Wednesday, April 25, 2012, the Film & TV Reading Group will meet at 6:00 pm in room 615 (Conti-Hochhaus) to discuss Mark Hansen’s article “Media Theory,” (from Theory, Culture & Society 23.2-3 (2006): 297-306). In this piece, Hansen importantly rethinks media beyond their apparatic, empirical determinations (devices, machines, storage media, etc.), instead conceiving media as “the environment for life.” The argument behind this approach is outlined in the paper’s abstract:

Poised on the cusp between phenomenology and materiality, media institute a theoretical oscillation that promises to displace the empirical-transcendental divide that has structured western meditation on thinking, including the thinking of technics. Because media give the infrastructure conditioning thought without ceasing to be empirical (i.e. without functioning as a transcendental condition), they form the basis for a complex hermeneutics that cannot avoid the task of accounting for its unthematizable infrastructural condition. Tracing the oscillation constitutive of such a hermeneutics as it serves variously to constitute media theory in the work of critics from McLuhan to Kittler, from Leroi-Gourhan to Stiegler, my interrogation ultimately conceptualizes the medium as an environment for life: by giving concrete form to ‘epiphylogenesis’ (the exteriorization of human evolution), concrete media find their most ‘originary’ function not as artifacts but via their participation in human technogenesis (our co-evolution with technics).

Hansen’s reconceptualization of media has been a key point of reference in my own attempts to theorize the ecology of “postnaturalism,” which turns on the notion of a constantly evolving “anthropotechnical interface.” One of the things that I tried to do in my engagement with Hansen’s thought was to expand it and to push the notion of media as environment beyond the qualification “for life,” arguing that media constitute the environment for agency in a broader sense, both living and non-living. One could say, in fact, that this is equivalent to saying that media constitute the environment period. And, interestingly, in the video above (from the transmediale 2011), we find Hansen working towards precisely this type of expanded approach: a non-anthropocentric, non-biocentric, positively cosmological notion of media.

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