Shane Denson, “On NOT Imagining Media Change”

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Abstract for Shane Denson’s talk at the symposium “Imagining Media Change” (June 13, 2013, Leibniz Universität Hannover):

On NOT Imagining Media Change

Shane Denson

There are many ways in which we imagine media change and technological transformation; foremost among them, in the modern era, are popular and commercial visions of the future – from science-fiction narratives to advertisements for the latest gadget guaranteed to change your life. However, if we suppose that human agencies are inextricably tied to, and in part enabled by, the material infrastructure of a media-technological environment, then our imaginations – as they are focused, reflected, or courted in representational media – must be seen to lag behind infrastructural shifts, which would sweep our imagining subjectivities along with them. If, that is, our capacity to imagine media change is itself mediated through a changing media-technological environment, then certain aspects of media change must be categorically immune to imagination.

In this presentation, I will focus on this phenomenon of NOT imagining media change. I will outline a theoretical model according to which media change pertains not only to empirically determinate transformations in media-technical apparatuses and systems, but more broadly to the environmental substrate of discursive and phenomenological subjectivities. I will argue that a pre-reflective “anthropotechnical interface,” based in proprioceptive and visceral sensibilities, constitutes the primary site of media change. Accordingly, the embodied parameters of our imaginative faculties are themselves subject to radical transformation, such that both spectacular and unobtrusive changes in the media environment can occasion deep changes in our experiential frameworks – changes that elude representation and imagination.

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