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Conditions of Mediation

Phenomenological Perspectives on Media

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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Discussion

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Scott Rodgers: Thank you Graham, Lisa, and Paddy for really interesting opening remarks. I think they’ve introduced many themes, yet also have much in common. I’d like to invite the keynotes to add comments or ask questions of one another to which you may each respond. We’ll keep it relatively brief so we then have time to open up opportunities for questions from the floor.

Graham Harman: Let me first ask a practical question of Lisa. There were some gaps on the map: some of them were obviously Appalachia, but what were the other gaps? Why were there some areas such as Pennsylvania that often unexpectedly had no communications towers or anything else of that sort?

Lisa Parks: There might be different explanations for different gaps, but when you zoom in, it’s really challenging to load all of this broadcast infrastructure data into a single frame and sometimes there is a network delay. I interviewed the designers of the layer and they said it was almost impossible to design and that it would crash the system to simultaneously display all of the data in one frame. It is important to point out that there are infrastructure gaps throughout the country and concepts such as national or global coverage are myths. There are areas that are not integrated within local or national broadcast infrastructures, but pretty much all territory on earth sits within a satellite’s footprint.

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