From Intermediality to Intermateriality: Actor-Network Theory as a “Translation” of Post-Essentialist Media Studies

From Intermediality to Intermateriality: Actor-Network Theory as a “Translation” of Post-Essentialist Media Studies

Andrea Seier (University of Vienna, Austria)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0616-4.ch003
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This chapter discusses Actor-Network Theory in the context of post-essentialist theories in Media Studies. In doing so, the similarities and differences between different models and concepts will be taken into consideration, such as dispositive, assemblage and actant networks. The chapter argues that instead of replacing models of micro-political analysis of media with ANT, it should rather be combined with such in a productive way. This argument will be put to the test by using the example of the remote control.
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Post-Structuralist Media Studies And Medial Logic

The assumption that media are more than neutral transmitters between sender and receiver and that they play a distinct part in the process of transmission and mediation is central to Actor-Network Theory, although it is not specific to this model of theory. This assumption has been discussed at length in Media Studies – often in the context of medial logic – and can, to some extent, be considered its starting point. Analyzing the role media plays in the processes of cultural production of meaning is the core business of a branch of Cultural Media Studies that examines media as intersections of technical devices, cultural artifacts, and social relationships.

Thereby, medial logics are both presupposed and epistemologically relativized, as the observation is reliant on media itself. Thus, the focus of such an observation is placed less on the “characteristics” of media and more on what can be made perceivable and describable from a difference-theoretical perspective on the basis of media comparisons. Consequently, the “logic of media” is relative and can be determined “intermedially” only. Sybille Krämer (2003) referred to this circumstance as epistemic intermediality2 and thus provided an important component for a de-essentialist way of thinking about media, which was developed further in different directions. In this context mention should be made of both the emergence of media characteristics in the course of their description and the treatment of processes of transmission and mediation as constituting factors, which also makes reference to theories of performativity. In this respect, transmissions are not exclusively considered medial realizations (e.g., of messages or contents), but instead are regarded as productions, embodiments, or translations.3 Thus, a central aspect of a specific branch of Cultural Media Studies is formulated that has been inspired by post-structuralism since the 1990s. Following this academic perspective, media do not necessarily have to be the starting point of research in Media Studies. Instead the focus is shifted to the processes of mediatization or remediatization, which, depending on the specific theoretical approach, can be specified as restaging, embodiment, iteration, or transcription – as coming into being or becoming form.

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