We Need to Talk About Heidegger

Essays Situating Martin Heidegger in Contemporary Media Studies

by Justin Michael Battin (Volume editor) German A. Duarte (Volume editor)
©2018 Monographs 316 Pages
Series: Literary and Cultural Theory, Volume 55


This collection assembles a number of chapters engaging different strands of Martin Heidegger’s philosophy in order to explore issues relevant to contemporary media studies. Following the release of Heidegger’s controversial Black Notebooks and the subsequent calls to abandon the philosopher, this book seeks to demonstrate why Heidegger, rather than be pushed aside and shunned by media practitioners, ought to be embraced by and further incorporated into the discipline, as he offers unique and often innovative pathways to address, and ultimately understand, our daily engagements with media-related phenomena.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • Series Title
  • Martin Heidegger and Media Studies
  • Introducing the Fractal Character of Dasein in the Digital Age
  • 1 Toward a topologic condition
  • 2 Wohnen in the topological space
  • 3 When subject and object differ from Dasein
  • 4 The medium is the space
  • 5 Replacing the alphabetic νῦν (now) for the video-electronic ἀεί (ever, unceasing)
  • 6 The limits of a mediated existence
  • 7 Digital Gegenstände
  • The Manual: Heidegger and Fundamental Oto-cheiro-logy I
  • 1 Announcement: media res and mediality
  • 2 A history of monstration and danger
  • 3 The singular hand and the typewriter
  • 4 The tool of tools: mnemotechnics and Gestell
  • 5 Nearness: the kairos of the cheir
  • Ereignis and Lichtung in the Production of a Galaxy Far Far Away
  • 1 Living in being (and with things): Ereignis and Lichtung
  • 2 The event of appropriation and engagement with things
  • 3 Conclusion
  • Feeling Photography: Exploring Care, Attunement, and Dwelling through the Work of Andre Kertész
  • 1 Experiencing photography, doing phenomenology
  • 2 André Kertész: a life
  • 3 The camera, the thing
  • 4 Feeling photography
  • 5 As above, so below
  • 6 Conclusion
  • Self-Understanding in the Age of the Selfie: Kierkegaard, Dreyfus, and Heidegger on Social Networks
  • Speaking the Unspeakable: Heidegger and Social Media’s ‘Mouseclick Solidarity’
  • 1 Introduction. The philosophical slug: philosophy doesn’t tweet well
  • 2 Mindless chatter on social media: speaking the unspeakable
  • 3 The essence of technology is nothing technological: the enframing qualities of social media
  • 4 Mouseclick-solidarity and the digital sublime
  • 5 Conclusion: the solidarity toolbox
  • Thinking Architecture through Heidegger’s Views
  • 1 Heidegger for architecture
  • 2 Revealing the existent (the concept of aletheia)
  • 3 Sculpting in time: from Michelangelo to Tarkovsky
  • 4 Dwelling in the cinematic frame
  • 5 Architecture practicing nostalgia
  • 6 Conclusion
  • Take a Wander in My Shoes: Of Zombeing, Twombs, and Equipmentality
  • 1 Equip-mentality/equipment-ality
  • 2 His head’s gone
  • 3 The Walking Dead and its equipmental turning toward Zombeing
  • 4 Zombeing and time
  • 5 Heidegger’s mishandling of zombies
  • Heidegger’s Topology in the World/s of Ubiquitous Computing
  • 1 Being-in(-the-world)
  • 2 Being-with
  • 3 Thingliness
  • 4 Ge-Stell
  • 5 Dwelling
  • 6 Conclusion: Toward a techno-social ontology of place/s
  • A Decisive Mediation: Heidegger, Media Studies, and Ethics*
  • 1 An epistemological problem: media
  • 2 A political problem: Heidegger
  • 3 Ethics as mediation
  • 4 A Decisive mediation
  • From Ontology to Organology: Heidegger and Stiegler on the Danger and Ambiguity of Technology and Technical Media
  • 1 Heidegger on the essence of technology
  • 2 The essence of modern technology as enframing
  • 3 The danger and the saving power of technology in Heidegger
  • 4 The ambiguity of technology in Heidegger
  • 5 Stiegler on the original technicity of being-there
  • 6 Retentional finitude and the original technicity of time
  • 7 Being-there as individuation and man as an organological being
  • 8 The human condition as original default and man as a pharmacological being
  • 9 Loss of the original default: organo-pharmacological reinterpretation of the danger
  • 10 The danger of technology as proletarianization and the ruination of the original default
  • 11 By way of a conclusion
  • Author Biographies


General Editor

Wojciech H. Kalaga


Justin Michael Battin and German A. Duarte


Media studies, much like critical theory, attempts to understand the effects of mass media on societies and to draw links between issues of representation, media artifacts, and, to echo Adorno, the culture industries, often with the intent of elucidating its potential as a hegemonic force. In 2007, David Morley suggested that the research output distributed under the designation of media studies had gradually become too idealist and exclusively concentrated on media itself, as both content and a dispositive.1 In his view, a non-media-centric form of media studies must emerge in order to return the discipline to, in his own words, “its full range of classical concerns.”2 Inspired by the time-space compression that has come to epitomize our contemporary social, economic, and political context, Morley suggested that a new paradigm for the discipline was needed, one that “attends more closely to its material as well as its symbolic dimensions.”3 Following this framework, Shaun Moores argues that media studies has become too captivated with symbolic representation and cognitive interpretation as its primary means of investigation,4 and echoes Morley’s call for more inclusive form of the discipline, one that seeks to engage with a diverse collection of discourses circulating across the social sciences. This solicitation for a materialist intervention unveiled an opening to allow what we feel was Heidegger’s inevitable entry into the discipline.

Considering that Heidegger often regarded as being one of the most relevant philosophers of the twentieth century, it is no surprise that he has already penetrated several fields of inquiry, namely cultural geography, social anthropology, and sociology, yet his oeuvre has yet to directly gain significant traction in the field of media studies. His absence could potentially be due to the field being spread, in part, out of two schools of thought, the Frankfurt School and Birmingham School, each of which strove to investigate myriad cultural and ←7 | 8→social issues via a rigorous reassessment of Marx. Each school was particularly interested in utilizing this renewed appreciation of Marxism in order to question the perpetuation of different inequalities across the commodity-driven, consumerist, post-industrial societies that solidly emerged following the conclusion of World War II and that initiated the transformation of capitalism into a force towards the production of meaning, the production of imaginary. Although media studies have become more open to varied forms of investigation, the discipline still heavily relies upon these roots. Somewhat paradoxically, despite Heidegger rarely being mentioned or called upon, those within the media studies discipline frequently draw from a cadre of thinkers whom have openly professed the fundamental importance of Heidegger with regards to the development of their own thought. Hannah Arendt, Pierre Bourdieu, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Herbert Marcuse and Bernard Stiegler are merely a few of the more notable examples. It is our position that if the media studies discipline is to revitalize its interdisciplinary roots, specifically to grapple with contemporary phenomena, identified by Krajina, Moores, and Morley as the linked mobilities of information, people and commodities, the articulation of material and virtual geographies, and the meaningfulness of everyday, embodied practices, then Heidegger must be warranted a place.5

The question of Heidegger’s value and place within the discipline has been tackled directly via Paul Taylor and David Gunkel in their recent Heidegger and the Media (2014). In their view, Media Studies and Communication Studies urgently need to take distance from the evaluation of the adequacy of a representation to the ‘primary’ reality. Instead, as noted by them, “more systematic attention is required to the ways in which the means of available communication participate in the uncovering and revealing of what is.”6 As noted by the authors, following in the footsteps of Carey, this means a change in the paradigm that would bring to the field of studies a different approach. In their words:

‘How do we do this? What are the differences between these forms? What are the historical and comparative variations in them? How do changes in communication technology influence what we can concretely create and apprehend? How do groups in ←8 | 9→society struggle over the definition of what is real?’ (Carey, in Gunkel and Taylor, 2014, p. 89).

In their view, Heidegger offers a decidedly fresh path to break away from the representation the discipline often relies upon. In many ways, it has become an anchor of sorts – providing a suitable foundation but prohibiting it from venturing into new territories. In addition, as remarked by Gunkel and Taylor, Heidegger’s analysis of the technological context could represent a fundamental theoretical tool that not only allows for us to better comprehend the condition of being in our digital media context, but above all, his philosophy allows us to highlight, and hopefully to avoid, a technological deterministic view. Indeed, as Gunkel and Taylor noted – through a remarkable comparative analysis, from which similarities and divergences between Heidegger and McLuhan’s theories emerge – the question of technology must return to the centre of the field of Media and Communication Studies through the concept of Dasein. In fact, the equation that Gunkel and Taylor propose (T = τ + λ) reconstructs the etymological dimension of the Greek word τέχνη (technē), and highlights the essence of technology (T), which is the sum of τέχνη and λόγος (logos). This interesting equation re-establishes technology’s fundamental relationship with λόγος, “the originary dimension of language that lays open the way to the being of things.”7 Consequently, by proposing this understanding of the technological component, and its indispensable relationship with the logos, the authors advocate for a Heideggerian basis in the arduous task of analyzing our current digital media condition. In fact, by recognizing the presence of the logos as inherent in the conception of technology, our understanding of technology acquires a different dimension in which technology is no longer understood as an ‘extension’ – or as a prosthesis added onto human faculties – but is instead seen as a projection or as an extension of Dasein.

It should be stated, also, that Taylor and Gunkel are not exclusive in their advocating of Heidegger. Friedrich Kittler, in particular, emphatically argued that only through Heidegger could a philosophical consciousness for technical media emerge. Moreover, in the mid-1990s, Paddy Scannell relied heavily on Heidegger’s thought to offer phenomenological insights into the dual sense of place that manifests while watching television. More recently, Shaun Moores has taken a Dreyfus-infused approach to Heidegger in order to raise awareness to the rather mundane and often overlooked tangible character of our daily media use, specifically to counter arguments that have disembodied online presence. ←9 | 10→Based on the aforementioned authors, it should be apparent that Heidegger does have a meaningful place in media studies, especially if one takes into account some fundamental convergences between Heidegger’s comprehension of media technologies and Marshall McLuhan’s theories, several of which have become cornerstones for the study of media.

In an attempt to build on the pathway laid down by these authors, this collection’s main aim is to shed additional light upon the value Heidegger’s philosophy may potentially add to contemporary media studies. Arguably, even if not referenced directly, Heidegger is a philosopher whose work pervades various media-related academic texts. Whether these investigations centre technological development, media practices, textual analysis, or embark with a political dimension, it is possible to trace and demonstrate the presence of a Heideggerian voice, echoing in the conceptual space of such texts. Therefore, the authors contributing to the volume collectively adopt the hypothesis of Heidegger-as-a-father-figure, whose influence, albeit indirect, is omnipresent in the intellectual substrate underlying many of present-day approaches to media studies. Our goal, thus, is to showcase a collection of complementary chapters that reveal the role Heidegger plays in media studies as well as elucidate new paths to which one can take by employing an explicit Heideggerian lens. Following the release of the Heidegger’s controversial Black Notebooks and the subsequent calls to abandon the philosopher,8 this book seeks to demonstrate why Heidegger, rather than be pushed aside and shunned by media studies practitioners, ought to be embraced and further incorporated into the discipline, as he offers unique, and often innovative, pathways to address, and ultimately understand, our daily engagements with media-related phenomena.

Chapter Summaries

I Introducing the Fractal Character of Dasein in the Digital Age

This opening chapter investigates the way in which the development of non-Euclidean geometries, particularly topology, contributed to the dissolving of both the Cartesian dualism thought-extension and the Cartesian cogito. After a brief survey on the main theories that posited the existence of a topologic condition (e.g. Bergson’s devenir, Poincaré’s Analisis Situs and Whitehead’s concrescence ←10 | 11→and bifurcation), the chapter suggests to understand the Heideggerian Dasein as the culmination of a process that recognizes existence under topological terms. It is to say, the Heideggerian Dasein, in this chapter, is seen as a notion that displays a topological conception of the subject, which no longer represents the centre of the experience, a phenomenon that was already in nuce in Bergson, Poincaré, and Whitehead’s theories.

Particular attention has been given to the technological context in which these theories were developed. In this chapter, The Second Industrial Revolution is analyzed as a decisive phase of industrialization that represents the exaltation of fragmentation and seriality (e.g. interchangeable parts and the production line). However, after this initial stage, the Second Industrial Revolution transformed the machine into an autonomous form of praxis and determined the end of fragmentation and seriality as an episteme, replacing it by an incessant flux derived from electric technology. Starting from the recognition of this phenomenon, the chapter seeks to highlight the implications that emerged from the disappearance of the seriality that characterized the shift from one technological context to another. The investigation is built on the acknowledgment of the topologic nature of the Heideggerian Dasein and, through it, the chapter also deals with fundamental Heideggerian concepts, contextualizing them into our digital technological milieu. Particular interest is given to Heidegger’s understanding of technology, to the ways in which media technologies affect distances in space and time and the way modern technologies became instruments of reification of every form of information, placing the thing and thingness the middle of the philosophical thinking. To conclude, the chapter proposes an analysis of Heidegger’s oeuvre as a fundamental work from which new insights into the media condition – and into a possible current post-media condition – can emerge.

II The Manual: Heidegger and Fundamental Oto-chiero-logy I

This second chapter examines the function of the hand in Heidegger’s thought. The hand is more than a literary-theoretical trope. It points to the absent corporeality of Dasein, enabling a reconsideration of the notions of mediality—the total apparatus of mediation in the countless ways it conditions phenomenality and communication—and epochality—the unity of diverse theoretical figurations which define a given historic time. The hand, severed and singular, outlines the exceptionality of the human as a being of monstration, a sign which, through the use of the hand, signifies in turn.

This chapter follows closely this manual labour, which is constituted by the metaphysical proximity of the hand to logos in order to demonstrate the way in ←11 | 12→which this monstration—at once technology and inscription—announces from the outset an infinite danger. Profoundly attentive to this danger, Heidegger seeks the possibility of salvation in the exceptionality of the human hand, an exceptionality defined through a strenuous balancing act on the limits of technology. Accordingly, Heidegger outlines how the proper use of the hand, the use of a pen or a hammer, a tool or a machine, is threatened by the mere ‘mechanism’ of the typewriter. Nietzsche meets Heidegger at this juncture from the future. Through Derrida and Kittler, this chapter unravels the suppositions that support and limit the thought of Heidegger to show the constitutive technicity of thought, to call for a reinvention of the theoretical-corporeal hand, and re-signify the moment at which an epoch witnesses the closure of itself.

III Ereignis and Lichtung in the Production of a Galaxy Far Far Away

This chapter draws links between Ereignis and Lichtung, two concepts that regularly appear in Heidegger’s post-Being and Time output, in order to demonstrate how our living in being is made most evident to human beings when they engage with things in such a way that can illuminate their thingly nature. A human being’s meaningful and skillful engagement with things should prompt their temporal deliverance into a world that matters to them, where the nuances of their being-there unveils itself in a rather deliberate way. Moreover, such use of things should unveil the unique role human beings play in the manifestation of that world via their own motivational, pre-reflective, and improvised activities. The primary reason for focusing on and linking these two Heideggerian ideas is because they, when considered together, offer a path to revise within our everyday experience how immersive worlds not only become inhabitable and meaningful to human beings in a temporal fashion, but also how such immersive worlds can offer new avenues and levels of richness where human beings can revitalize a sense of individual creativity and their belongness with being.

A significant amount of Heidegger’s late work explicitly explored how the potential for such an understanding of human being had gradually begun to fade from possibility, as human beings had too often begun to move about in everyday life and attempt to inflict their will on things and environments for the sake of efficiency, thus removing the potential for hearing and responding to being’s call. Humans had, in Heidegger’s estimation, become engulfed in a state of enframing (Das Gestell). As Dreyfus suggests, accepting a world with Das Gestell as its foundation has sparked our being closed off from improvisation, individual exploration and creativity, and the benefits that manifest when working together alongside diverse and meaningful things.←12 | 13→

To illustrate this connection, this chapter specifically draws from the production processes of Disney’s Star Wars, three films that have been heralded for their return to a more tangible, traditional form of filmmaking, as well as a reliance on practices that both encourage and unveil the interconnected fabric between human beings, things, and worlds.

IV Feeling Photography: Exploring Care, Attunement, and Dwelling through the Work of Andre Kertész

This chapter questions the difference between a photographer and someone who merely carries a camera. For some, the difference is redundant: the continuing visual turn in the 21st century that has encouraged making photographs so ubiquitous has led to a world where we are all image takers. Advances in technology mean that most people have some form of image taking device with them at all times. However, just as access to a paintbrush does not make everyone an artist, the label of photographer denotes more than just access to technology. Using Heidegger’s concept of attunement, the authors argue that being a photographer goes beyond taking images. It is being alert to the sensibilities that the camera enables and makes visible: it is a particular worldview. Heidegger describes how technological orientation to the world (Gestell or Enframing) affects the possibility of an attunement with things that allows for a poetic revealing of entities, and reveals entities as resource. In photographic terms, such a worldview would be illustrated by screenic images that are used to accrue social capital. A poetic revealing of entities emerges from an event (Ereingis) where the key elements of world are gathered by a thing and Dasein can understand the world and other entities through taking things into care. In this case, we posit that some practices of photography can allow for a poetic revealing of the world (free from Gestell). This is a coming-forth of entities, making these entities visible within the image.

To illustrate this attunement and poetic revealing of everyday life, we consider the work of Andre Kertész. Kertész was a hugely prolific photographer throughout his life although he believed his work never received the merit it deserved, when he was alive. The images of Kertész reveal much about his position and view on the world, showing a deep attunement to the places he inhabited both in Europe and later in America. They detail an unflinching, surreal and curious gaze an understanding of the entities in the world. Kertész’s use of the camera and his being-in-the-world were clearly deeply entangled going far beyond simple image taking.

Heidegger’s original project was to understand being. Through the work of André Kertész this chapter argues that this understanding of being through ←13 | 14→photography is dependent upon proper dwelling in the world, and that dwelling is a relationship to things that allows for continued everyday elegiac encounters. Dwelling needs to be understood in reference not only to things but also to Dasein’s taking up of things into care. Dasein’s engagement with things is part of the clearing (Lichtung) away of ontheology and assessment of being as being. The clearing is the ground for Dasein’s understanding of the world and other entities, but Dasein’s access to that clearing is through its use of things in a manner that allows for the revealing of place to occur. In the context of Kertész’s practices and orientations with the camera, the authors argue it is the manner of use that is illustrative of Dasein’s attunement or dwelling and that the camera affords the visibility of entities as entities.

V Self-Understanding in the Age of the Selfie: Kierkegaard, Dreyfus, and Heidegger on Social Networks

This chapter draws on Hubert Dreyfus, Kierkegaard, and Heidegger to explore the self and its relationship to commitment and focal practices in the enframing, technological age, an era demarcated by an individual and cultural nihilistic leveling. The author explores how the understanding of self of the age of the selfie is no longer made intelligible to us as a self, but rather as an embodied self entangled with an online self that manifests as flexible, dynamic, and highly ordered, often for the sake of efficiency and, in some instances, for the accruement of social capital, both of which have significantly impacted a person’s engagement with focal practices and unconditional commitments.

Rather than hastily shun social networks, however, human beings must discover and allow for Gelassenheit, or releasement, as doing so will permit human beings to further understand the ordering power of social networks. This unique releasement towards social networks will equally permit an opening for human beings to find ways in which social networks both enable and sustain focal practices and commitments by harboring the power they have to gather, to connect us with both telepresent others and ourselves.

Among the most pressing tasks in the contemporary world is a human’s responsibility to discover how to engage with the omnipresent virtual landscape in such a way that allows for social networks to sustain and encourage unconditional commitments and enable focal practices that resist the efficiency of the technological epoch, and thus open a free relation with social networks and, by consequence, escape the cultural and individual leveling of contemporary nihilism. If human beings begin to approach social networks in the same vein as Heidegger has done with the Heidelberg Bridge, as locations brought ←14 | 15→about by a temporal gathering, then they can learn to regard them as divergent but interconnecting technological paths that, if experienced appropriately, will enable the embodied self to merge with the online self in a manner that encourages unconditional (virtual) commitments that can unveil, or open up, the world to our highest potentiality of being.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (November)
De-Mediation Dwelling Technology Topological Self Digital Condition Technological Determinism
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien. 2018. 316 p.

Biographical notes

Justin Michael Battin (Volume editor) German A. Duarte (Volume editor)

Justin Michael Battin is Assistant Professor of English Cultures and Literatures at the University of Silesia in Katowice. His research focuses on intersecting various strands of Heidegger’s philosophy with the everyday uses of mobile media technologies and mobile social media. German A. Duarte is Lecturer of Film and Media Studies at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano. His research interests include History of Media, Film History, Cybernetics, Cognitive-Cultural Economy and Philosophy.


Title: We Need to Talk About Heidegger
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