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Conditions of Mediation

Phenomenological Perspectives on Media

Edited By Tim Markham and Scott Rodgers

Phenomenology has become one of the most important philosophical traditions underpinning recent theory and research on new media, whether or not the word is used explicitly. Conditions of Mediation brings together, for the first time in a single publication, the diversity of phenomenological media research—from social platforms and wearable media to diasporic identity formation and the ethics of consumer technologies.

The new orthodoxy in media studies emphasizes the experience of media—whether as forms, texts, technics or protocols—marking a departure from traditional approaches preoccupied with media content or its structural contexts. But phenomenologically informed approaches go beyond merely asking what people do with media. They ask a more profound question: what constitutes the conditions of mediated experience in the first place?

Beginning with an accessible introduction, this book invites readers to explore a wide range of phenomenological perspectives on media via two critical dialogues involving key thinkers alongside a series of theoretically sophisticated and empirically grounded chapters. In so doing, interdisciplinary media studies is brought into conversation with the work of philosophers such as Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, as well as phenomenologically-inspired thinkers such as Erving Goffman, Pierre Bourdieu, Tim Ingold, Henri Lefebvre, Friedrich Kittler, Marshall McLuhan and Bernard Stiegler.

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McLuhan and Phenomenology (Graham Harman)

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McLuhan and Phenomenology

Graham Harman

“McLuhan and phenomenology” is one of the most important themes I can think of for present-day philosophy, yet there are specific reasons why many people are not in a good position to see it. Today I will speak about some of the obstacles to appreciating both McLuhan and phenomenology in the early twenty-first century, and will also suggest it is urgent that we circumvent these obstacles so as to put philosophy on a new track. To do so, it will be necessary to begin with some remarks on the contemporary state of continental philosophy. Following this, I will turn to my main theme roughly halfway through.

Our dominant contemporary philosopher is still Immanuel Kant, even though he has been dead for more than two hundred years. What was most new in Kant, and what remains new even today, is the relation he emphasizes between depth and surface: the unknowable depth of the noumenal things-in-themselves, and the accessible phenomenal surface of the things-for-us. One of the major ways of responding to Kant has been to treat this problem repeatedly as a supposed pseudo-problem. The things-in-themselves are ridiculed even by many of Kant’s admirers, though this ongoing ridicule betrays the fact that everyone knows they must account for reality in some way. Otherwise they will end up endorsing a full-blown idealism à la George Berkeley, an idealism of a sort so extravagant that almost no one is willing to...

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