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Amodern 9: Techniques and Technologies
April 2020

Historical Dictionary of Media Usage

CONCEPTUAL HISTORY AS HISTORY OF USAGE

Heiko Christians

Concerning Didactics

In 1938, the renowned New York publishing company William Morrow printed an extensive study of the history of revolution by the scholar of constitutional law, sociology and history Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, who in 1933 had been driven out of Germany.1 With the title Out of Revolution: An Autobiography of Western Man, Rosenstock-Huessy aimed at nothing less than to lay the foundation for a “dictionary of Europe’s cultural and political language.”2 The project’s rationale as he stated it to his contemporaries appeared somewhat peculiar at the time: “This is of immediate practical importance in the days of radio.”3

Rosenstock-Huessy had written the book as symbol and program of his arrival in the New World. With it, however, he had also opened a new chapter of universal historical scholarship at the same historical moment as the American naval and economic historian Robert G. Albion had introduced for the first time – for purely didactic reasons, as he himself emphasized – the phrase of the communication revolution: “in helping the student to visualize and coordinate historical movements and influences.”4

The predecessor to Out of Revolution, which was still published in Germany in 1931, had swiftly proven to be untranslatable in the New World on the grounds of Europe’s radically changed cultural and political contexts. 5 But the theoretical context had also changed in the interim between 1931 and 1938, as the author self-critically noted: “though treating the same problem with the old method of the romantic historical school.”6 Very broadly speaking, in the new book, national character (Volkscharakter) was supplanted in theoretical terms by the dictionary. In excurses that are still fascinating today, Rosenstock-Huessy introduces the American reader to the political, social and aesthetic dimensions of the history of language and ideas for such fundamental European semantic fields as révolution – revolts revolutionary, mundus – West – western world, topic – consideration – debate – discussion, polis – policy – police oder countryside – country – county.7 But the author situated – as had Robert G. Albion – the basic political vocabulary within a media environment specific to each field: “Each inspired form of society must reshape its environment before it can begin to influence the world.”8

 

Epochs or Media Environment?

The embedding of a basic political vocabulary in environments shaped by media – beginning with Harold A. Innis’s Oxford course of lectures Empire and Communications in the late 1940’s – eventually became, in our day, part of the media-conscious standard repertoire of cultural studies, sociology and political science.9 Hardly any study can get by anymore without the introductory note that “we now live in a world articulated differently by states and by media in different national and regional contexts.”10

Yet in actual fact it remains as difficult as ever to establish productive, nuanced relationships between political and cultural processes (such as nation-building or globalization) and specific media practices and infrastructures. In 1983, more than thirty years after Harold A. Innis and almost twenty years after Marshall McLuhan’s classic study of The Gutenberg Galaxy, Benedict Anderson penned with his Imagined Communities one of the very few successful books on the media structures, practices and processualities that underpin such large political movements.11

The fact that political culture and the culture of the novel can be linked together in the mediating mode of individual reading (enabled by mass-scale production), for example, was something Anderson impressively demonstrated using the example of the emergence of the state and nation of Indonesia. The standardization of a trans-regional standard language through printing, and the simultaneous opening of an imaginary national space in the reader’s consciousness through the identification with a hero, who representatively perceives this space and “wanders through” it, were the constituents of a novel view of nationalism that Anderson established with recourse to McLuhan. Continuing Innis’ work, McLuhan had already established in 1964 that “political unification of populations by means of vernacular and language groupings” was unthinkable before “printing turned each vernacular into an extensive mass medium.”12 One senses the theoretical difficulties with which a similarly ambitious view of the present-day, diffuse-dialectical process-like nature of globalization, and the media practices in the context of the world wide web must struggle.

The relatively low number of such studies to date finds its explanation in the following: successful media technologies/formats and the manners and forms of their use cannot simply be aligned with epochal, religious, political or philosophical ideas and the concepts that denote those ideas.

Recently, Kurt Flasch determined both to his and our astonishment that various respected, large-scale historical projects on the early modern period refrained entirely from mentioning Johannes Gutenberg and printing.13 Substantive descriptors for approaches (Haltungen) or even mechanical innovations clearly fix epochs with greater ease than verbalized practices in these structures. Yet attention paid to forms of use and manners of interaction (Umgangsweisen) facilitates a new permeability of “eras”: “We would,” writes Lothar Müller, “better comprehend media history better if we abandoned the inflexible opposition of book culture and internet. And instead would begin to trace the lines of connection between the cultural techniques of digitalization and of paper technology”.14

 

An Example

Taking, for instance, as a starting point the concepts of “emulation” (Nachfolge) or copying (imitatio) on the one hand, and of “imitation” (Nachahmung) on the other, we can (too) quickly arrange the field of possible materials and contexts in accordance with religious and secular historical periods: on the one side, the devoutly spiritual and above all handwritten emulation of the middle ages – and on the other, the already-industrialized 19th century’s social assimilation and outdoing via imitation, as has been comprehensively analyzed in the works of René Girard.15 If, in the mean- time, we take as the starting point the practice of the so-called identificatory use of media, such as the practice of “empathizing (while reading) with someone else’s perspective,” then we often glimpse a similar practice at the heart of completely different concepts of epochal goals. A report of Claude Lanzmann about his own reading of Sartre has recently showcased this in a striking way: “To us, at the age of twenty, Les Chemins de la liberté was a “literary injunction” that clamored to be imitated – in the same way that St François de Sales spoke about The Imitation of Christ, the height of devotion. Les Chemins de la liberté required action, our action.”16

 

Foundational Concepts

After World War II it was outstanding scholars in the German-speaking world who through projects in the different disciplines began to systematically and comprehensively elaborate upon Rosenstock-Huessy’s proposals. Almost at the same time as the appearance of Out of Revolution, at the end of the 1930’s, the historian Otto Brunner conceptualized the outline of what were to become the eight ingenious volumes of the Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe (Fundamental Concepts of History), which only first began appearing in 1972.17 He was first supported after the war by Werner Conze, who – between 1951 and 1957, i.e., at the same time as the regular visiting professor Rosenstock-Huessys – was working at the University of Münster.18 Conze lectured on modern American history, Rosenstock-Huessy on the “laws of the Christian Era.”19

The individual articles of the Fundamental Historical Concepts were conceptualized so as to be short, yet eminently substantial monographs on each respective entry. Manfred Riedel’s article “Gesellschaft, Gemeinschaft” (“society, community”) alone replaces the content of entire libraries.20 Arguably, its most famous predecessor can be found in Ferdinand Tönnies’ entry “Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft” for the Handwörterbuch der Soziologie (Concise Dictionary of Sociology), published by Alfred Vierkandt in 1931.21 It was above all this asymmetrical “counter-terminology” of cultural semantics – developed by Reinhard Koselleck, the third editor of Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe, as a result of his analysis of Ferdinand Tōnnies’ and Carl Schmitt’s writings at the end of the 1960s – that presupposes a specific propulsive force and activity of terminologies themselves.22 Consideration of the power of media practices to build and divide communities nonetheless was as absent here as elsewhere.23

 

Beyond the Specialist Dictionary and Pure Theory

In this same period Joachim Ritter started the Historische Wörterbuch der Philosophie (Historical Dictionary of Philosophy), which likewise to this date has found no equal.24 Here as well, comprehensive histories of concepts came into being. Our dictionary cannot even come close to accomplishing for its province what the previously named works achieved for their own, even though we seek to focus on the length and penetrative intensity of their articles. If we, however – as in our own list – find in the Historical Dictionary of Philosophy an entry for “repetition” (Wiederholung), then we must be able to show how we differentiate ourselves from it.25 We seek to accomplish this in the realization that – for example, in the case of “repetition” – the substantive tagging of a practice can often enough seduce one into merely assembling a paraphrasing chronological exegesis of prominent theories or passages on the topic “from Kierkegaard to Deleuze.” These then in each case seem to belong to certain epochs, to whose established premises of exegesis they then can the more easily be subsumed. By contrast, with the verbal form of usage we focus those aspects of repetition that reflect common features of current and historical discussions, but yet just as clearly mark technical differences under the influence of media in use – thus going beyond the specialist dictionary and pure theory.

A “dictionary” aimed explicitly at media is of course nothing new, there exist for example a (dual-language) Fachwörterbuch Hörfunk und Fernsehen / Dictionary of Radio and Technical Terms, a Media and Communication Dictionary and a Dictionary of Communication and Media Studies26 For some time, many publications in media studies have gone ahead and provided themselves with an extensive “glossary.”27 But what is to be said in the case of dictionaries and handbooks with as many as 500 entries spanning 300 pages that are not even differentiated by categories? What of the case of specialist lexicons, when they join and mix together articles on theories, schools of theory, names of authors, institutions and names of consortia or stars in the tightest amount of space? What benefit do they offer – beyond the opportunity for quick informative consultation – when one seeks in them a cohesive historical knowledge of central, established and developing media structures and practices?

Naturally these are rhetorical questions, but what at least should be retained from them is what, up to this point, has been lacking: a dictionary that compartmentalizes “media” systematically and conceptually in view of the forms and operations of their use. In this manner a certain effect can be achieved: media activities which normally appear to be completely subsumed in the currency of a specific technical standard (or alternatively are considered obsolete) regain their history (their presence/present). An approach via forms of practice helps to avoid projecting onto the semantic field preconceived theoretical or historical contours and prematurely constructing epochs from such results.

Perhaps, on the one hand, the form of the article as an approach centred on media practices and their history presents an alternative to elaborate monographs or heterogeneous compilations and to the innumerable introductory surveys of classics, theories and concepts, on the other. Often these take neither the level of application nor the historical groundwork of their (secondary) interest in “media” particularly seriously – for no other reason than to avoid an overly dense and consistent paraphrase of a selected “theory” captured in the chapters of a work. The focus of such texts repeatedly seems to fall almost reflexively, on the theory(ies) or current research contexts that function as a common denominator, as the sole source providing meaning to the objects of study. Theories still appear to possess a greater orientation value than forms of practice, because they provide, through the names of their founders, markings on the ethico-political map of the sciences. These markings certainly ease decision-making in the bewildering jungle of methods, theories and turns. 28

Yet we still have to come to terms with a second, initially obvious alternative: what about a universal or at least synoptically constructed extensive total history of media (Gesamtmediengeschichte) or chronicle; and what about an institutional or structural history?29 We fear that there is at most marginal space here for that what it is that this dictionary especially seeks to do justice to: the historical perspective of central media practices.30 We have therefore decided upon a hybrid form between the exalted Enlightenment tradition of the Dictionnaire and a “theory (entangled) in stories,” to paraphrase Wilhelm Schapps’ well-known formula.31 Such case studies and theory-stories, anchored in a popular formula of usage, manage to avoid a “pure history of theory.”32 The strict juxtaposition of user and medium, of theory and subject domain, of usage and device, of history and presence as well as of history and stories is thus eliminated: “From this perspective,” writes the historian Michel de Certau in 1987, “learned discourse no longer differentiates itself from the verbose narratives of our everyday-historiography. It belongs to that system which, with the help of “stories,” organizes social communication and the habitability of the present.”33

 

On Usage (Gebrauch)

At this juncture, it is necessary to situate the concept of usage (Gebrauch). To be sure, there are writings here and there which explicitly highlight the concept of “media usage” (Mediengebrauch) in their title, yet they do so without expanding it into a comprehensive conceptual view of media.34 Similarly, the concepts of practice (Praktik)35, of (media-)utilization (Nutzung)36 or (cultural-)techniques37 do not guarantee sufficient freedom from the preliminaries of an overarching theoretical structure or from an abstractedness that would still permit them to approach these “phantoms” (M. de Certeau) in the most dynamic and impartial manner possible. The parameters of the question are thus determined – as so often happens – already in part by how language is used. The concept of media usage is thus linked to a question that raises itself periodically whenever dealing with media and life in media environments are to be more closely analyzed. In his posthumously published sociology Man and the Crowd (El Hombre y La Gente). José Ortega y Gasset spoke of an “ocean of usages […] they are, sensu stricto, our environment or social environment.”38 For environments (Umwelten) shaped increasingly by media technology the concept of custom (Brauch) and usage (Gebrauch) is particularly well suited in as much as it has experienced a powerful and still ongoing formalization in the direction of usage (Gebrauch). This formalization can be traced back to the work of Max Weber, above all to WIRTSCHAFT UND GESELLSCHAFT (ECONOMY AND SOCIETY): “If an orientation to- ward social action occurs regularly,” Weber writes in 1921, “it will be called usage [Brauch] insofar as the probability of its existence within a group is based on nothing but actual practice. A usage will be called a custom [Sitte] if the practice has become inculcated [Eingelebtheit].”39

In 1947, Theodor Geiger took this concept in his Preliminary Studies for a Sociology of Law (VORSTUDIEN ZU EINER SOZIOLOGIE DES RECHTS) and described (guided by Max Weber) custom (Sitte) and usage (Brauch) as “purposive (goal-directed) models of behavior [Gebarensmodelle] that regulate conduct and orientation in each specific milieu.”40 When we single out Weber’s mi- nor terms of regularity, practice (Übung) and embeddedness or inculcation and add to them Geiger’s concepts of model, orientation and milieu, an ascending series of concepts forms that spontaneously describe technical environments and their rote-regular realization in usage (Gebrauch). This description was first realized in 1957 in the industrial sociological study Technik und Industriearbeit (Technology and Industrial Labor) which had been conceived on a broad empirical basis by a team headed by the sociologist Heinrich Popitz. Between 1953 and 1954, they delivered – financed by the Rockefeller Foundation and advised by Walther G. Hoffmann, Carl Jantke and Reinhart Koselleck – a painstaking analysis of “labor as behavior (Verhalten) in relation to the technical object” and as its “individual degree of habituation” using the example of the increasing mechanization of the iron and steel-making industry.41

Only a few years later, the analysis of labor as “behavior in relation to the technical object” was to be revised once again. The still-ongoing development of a mechanical environment in the direction of a technical infrastructure was established early. And in this technical infrastructure, “already a minimal contact – indeed even a tele-contact – is able to set into motion the possibilities that have been given to the computer by the most advanced technology.”42

The limits of the category of habituation were established equally precociously in this same context. The concept of habituation also came under discussion because of a debate surrounding the old concepts Brauch and Gebrauch. 43 Together with the new category of Verbrauch (“wastage” or “consumption”) fielded under the heading of “waste economy” – these concepts were at the heart of what became a bitter dispute on both sides of the Atlantic regarding the correct characterization of “Western civilization,” which some political thinkers sought to safeguard from becoming totally submerged in categories of consumption: “the world, the house,” wrote Hannah Arendt in 1958, “that man himself builds on earth, fashioning it from the materials that the nature of the earth places in his hands, consists not of goods to be used up and consumed, but rather of objects and things that can be used.”44

Twenty years later, Michel de Certeau explained the connection between Brauch (custom) and Gebrauch (use) once again, with a decided emphasis on a critique of consumerist society. At the same time, however, he attempted to explain the originally folkloristic concept of Brauch by virtue of its proximity to Gebrauch. With this at very least he acted as an important stimulus for the present dictionary:

These techniques of use […] I designate as usages, even though the word most often describes stereotyped procedures adopted and reproduced by a group, its “mores and customs.” The problem lies in the ambiguity of the word, since it is precisely a matter of recognizing in these “usages” actions […] that have their own formality and inventiveness, and that tacitly organize the ant-like labor of consumption.45

 

“Natural” Technology

Weber’s, Geiger’s and Popitz’ concept of habituation was first taken up as a fully established discipline by German ethnology in the process of modernizing itself during the 1960’s.46 The promising concept of forms of usage had previously been transferred into the ideologically dead branch of Volksform.47 Out of political Brauchtumskunde (the study of folkloric customs) emerged a modern Gebrauchskunde as well as technology studies.48 Weber’s distinction between Übung (practice) und Eingelebtheit (embeddedness) was now consolidated in an especially productive fashion in order to analyze the naturalness and environmental character (Umwelthaftigkeit) of the new technology. “We suddenly realize”, writes the founder of modern ethnology (as ethnography of everyday life) in Germany, Hermann Bausinger,

that technology seems “natural” not because we master it completely, but because of habituation and use. Now it becomes apparent that we do not understand the technical process. A child is frightened the first time it presses a button on the radio and hears music. Once it has become used to this response, it is just as frightened when for some reason the response does not occur. Everyone is put into the position of this child when a familiar technical process, which is basically not understood, is interrupted for any reason.49

Let us seize upon Bausinger’s idea of the environment-constituting inculcated opacity of media technology in use.50 The question that raises itself here anew is itself an old one: whether one merely operates or uses technical media or whether the interaction with media – similar to the interaction with people – forges the essence, the character, the genre.51

The concentration on usage obstructs the old reflex action of sweepingly classifying media along demarcation lines lacking in practical relevance. These lines had up to now separated progressiveness (as interactivity, for example) from harmfulness (as passive irrigation). A central difference grounded in the culture industry would thus be off the table. But what possibilities, feedback and determinations do the thoughts and actions of those people experience who expose themselves – playfully, euphorically, unconsciously, soberly, or for-profit – daily to technology, i.e., media technology?

Present-day developments such as the modern 3D movie theater or the touchscreen capable of being projected onto arbitrary surfaces present us with the prospect of a (new) embodiment of media usage that appears to be directly connected to the ease of use demonstrated by users daily, world-wide and by the millions, if, for example, the issue of creating a virtual identity in social networks is at stake. As one is nowadays aware, this ease of use has a flip side: The loss of control over uploaded data is an ever-present threat. The user’s dismay over this loss, however, continues to manifest itself suddenly. The media usage is in reality not an isolated and temporary utilization of a technical device; rather it interconnects or entangles the user in technical infrastructures that increasingly enter the users’ consciousness as a powerful but vulnerable anonymous logistic service for data and merchandise.

In the absence of self-evident operations, it suddenly becomes palpable that we have long been completely dependent upon a perfectly organized “supply chain” which shapes our lives – from private travel planning to the market movements of entire national economies. Logistics are for this reason the DNA of a globalized world.52

Cultural studies – and this is why a daily periodical, as a medium updated constantly, is cited here – has been slow to keep up with analyses of these situations.53 Media usage as but semiconscious, practiced and ultimately taken-for-granted routine of interaction with constantly changing technical environments is, according to the perspective of cultural studies, a culture-endowing stabilizing model of behavior (Gebarensmodell) for man. That the newest generation of computer technology has brought back the use of quasi-natural gestures such as pointing, dragging and reshaping seems like an ironic throwback to anthropology on the part of hyper-technology. Developments take place here at such tearing speed that concepts for these forms of use hardly establish themselves anymore: the gentle, apportioning, wiping or dragging movement of a fingertip on the display of iPhones has yet to make up a stable concept, and has yet to this date to receive a consistent designation: “our certainties are constituent parts of our bodies.”54 It thus becomes all the more of a necessity for these gestures, technologies, interactions to be made describable and historicized.55 There needs to be a differentiation between the overpowering environment and the countless individuals, practices, routines, layers and processes that neither threaten anonymity nor promise intimacy, but rather ensure descriptiveness. Our dictionary seeks to energize the descriptiveness of cultural and media studies, viz. that which makes the phantoms (M. de Certeau) of usages transparent and connects us with the environment, and with which we constitute our environments in adherence to an ineluctable material dialectic.

 

Anecdotes and Case Studies

The elimination of established differences enhances the value of the anecdotal.56 Thus, for the former artillery officer Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, it is far more than a detail that, after their victory in Petrograd on November 7th, 1917, the Bolsheviks began using the (re-)conquered radio station Tsarskoye-Selo on November 12th to “radio their leading articles ‘to all.'”57 For Rosenstock-Huessy, this is a logical measure from the standpoint of media strategy, one that recurred constantly in a long series of revolutionary historical contexts: “The Russian broadcasts of 1917‚ to all men are no more universal than the Lutheran pamphlets written for all Christians or the English Great Remonstrance addressed to the public.”58 This detail of the Russian Revolution is incidentally so important to the author of Out of Revolution that he was to bring it out again twenty years later – only a few years before his death – in order to build on it and to derive from it the (concept of the) “public sphere” (Öffentlichkeit) as media practice:

When in 1917 the Bolsheviks broadcast their radio messages to everyone into the world; when during the collapse in 1918/19 the German radio operators demanded a proper under- secretary for broadcasting [Funkerstaatssekretärs] and threatened to strike to force the issue, the human language did not withdraw into the individual; rather a new means of multiplication was placed alongside the book, becoming “politically” important.59

This new post of “undersecretary for broadcasting” was filled on April 1st, 1921 by Hans Bredow, an engineer and department head of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (Reichspostministerium) who was later to become chairman of the National Broadcasting Corporation (Reichs-Rundfunk-Gesellschaft). In that very same year, he coined the term “Rundfunk” (broadcasting).60 But what ultimately becomes apparent is that this history — reconstructed out of various anecdotal components — of how the newspaper office saw itself being replaced by radio communication, was understood in a downright McLuhanesque manner by several Bolshevik theorists, actors and practitioners themselves. A faster, more effective medium always has as its content another, older and slower one, with the faster one having appropriated the slower principle as “means of free transformation” – or in the even simpler words of Lenin, one had created a “newspaper without paper,” as he was to write in a short letter of February 2nd, 1920 to the former czarist signal officer and director of the radio laboratory in Nizhniy Novgorod, Mikhail Aleksandrovitch Bonch-Bruevich:

I take this opportunity to express deep gratitude and sympathy in connection with the great work in radio invention which you are carrying out. The newspaper without paper and unbounded by distance which you are creating will be a great deed. I promise you all and every kind of assistance in this and similar endeavors.61

 

Stories about Words and Things

The Leipzig sociologist and historian Hans Freyer taught as an emeritus between 1953 and 1963 (and thus contemporaneously with Conze and Rosenstock-Huessy) at the University of Münster. Approaching industrial society from a conservative viewpoint (and at the same time alongside Rosenstock-Huessy as another German pioneer of industry sociology62 ), he coined, in 1959, the culture-critical formula of the growing dominance of technical categories in the life-world of industrial society in order to analyze the etymological and semantic dynamic specific to this word field in greater detail.

In the process, Freyer first considered the word schalten (to switch, toggle) and in doing so shifted, at an already initial stage, towards the active verbal mode we favor in an historical dictionary of media usage. “Only 150 years ago, [schalten] was still linked to walten [to rule, prevail],” he begins, in order to precede (vorschalten) his observations with a reading of the classics,

the subject of a directing and reigning [eines Schaltens und Waltens] was for instance the demure housewife in Schiller’s Song of the Bell, and in this case one did not direct just anything, rather one directed somewhere, within somewhere, in a sphere of activity, in a space of responsibility. These days the verb schalten is clearly transitive and centered on technical activities. […] The second, correlative process, likewise underway in all modern languages, is that words with origins in technology reach well beyond it and then for instance can be used to describe psychological states, moral attitudes, and social relationships and situations as well. Examples include Einstellung, Leerlauf, Friktion, ankurbeln, auslösen, and there are hundreds of others. Both processes can incidentally also pervade and overlay one another.63

Twenty years later, the Austro-Croatian philosopher Ivan Illich would call these correlative processes of language reorganization in (highly-)technical surroundings “technical creolization.”64 Nevertheless, he once again stressed “keywords,” to which he ascribed – such as in the case of the word “transport” – the designation “basic needs” (Grundbedürfnisse), suggesting that such terms conveyed the “appearance of common sense.”65 Conspicuously inscribed in both observations is a culture-critical caveat.66

We do not seek to deny the productive power of this intellectual tradition, but we also believe that we are dealing here with the specific productivity of a broadly ramified discourse concerning industrial and postindustrial societies that should be continued now in a way that keeps with the times.


  1. Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy (1888–1973) held the chair for Rechtsgeschichte, Bürgerliches Handels- und Arbeitsrecht from 1923 until 1933 at the University of Breslau. After an interim position in 1934 as Kuno Francke Lecturer in German Art and Culture at Harvard University he taught social philosophy from 1935 until his retirement in 1957 at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. 

  2. Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Out of Revolution Autobiography of Western Man (New York: 1938). 

  3. Rosenstock-Huessy, Out of Revolution, 11. 

  4. Robert G. Albion, “The Communication Revolution,” The American Historical Review 37.4. (1932), 718. Later he would put his understanding in more concrete terms: “This “revolution,” which began in the England of George III with canals and turnpikes, later developed the steamboat, railway, telegraph, cable, telephone, automobile, and airplane, and still continues with radio and television.” See Walter P. Hall and Robert G. Albion, A History of England and the British Empire (Boston: 1937) 506. 

  5. Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Die europäischen Revolutionen: Volkscharaktere und Staatenbildung (Jena: 1931). 

  6. Rosenstock-Huessy, Out of Revolution, 11. 

  7. Rosenstock-Huessy, Out of Revolution, 11. 

  8. Rosenstock-Huessy, Out of Revolution, 291. This is a fundamental idea that was influentially propagated by Marshall McLuhan and that today – treated with similar breadth – can be found for instance in Terence P Moran, Introduction to the History of Communication: Evolutions and Revolutions (New York: 2010). 

  9. Harold A. Innis, Empire and Communications (Oxford: 1950). Innis served during World War I in the Canadian army as radio operator for the artillery. For his biography and for the history (and the flop) of his Beit-Lectures held at Oxford University in 1948. See Alexander John Watson, Marginal Man: The Dark Vision of Harold Innis (Toronto: 2007). 

  10. English cited from Arjun Appadurai, Fear of Small Numbers: An Essay on the Geography of Anger, 1. For German see Appadurai: Die Geographie des Zorns, 13. 

  11. Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy (Toronto: 1962). Marshall McLuhan was a colleague of Harold Innis at the University of Toronto and wrote in 1964 the preface to the second edition of Innis’ 1951 work The Bias of Communications. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: 1983).  

  12. English cited from Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, 161. For German see: McLuhan: Die magischen Kanäle. Understanding Media (Dusseldorf: 1968), 193. 

  13. Kurt Flasch, “Ideen und Medien. Oder: Gehört Gutenberg in die Geschichte der Philosophie?” in Gutenberg-Jahrbuch (2000), 27. 

  14. Lothar Müller, “Stiller Teilhaber. Das Papier und die moderne Welt,” Neue Gesellschaft. Frankfurter Hefte 3 (2011), 66. See also the chapters “Parchment and Paper” and “Paper and the Printing Press,” in Innis, Empire and Communications, 141–217. For an implementation under the sign of the metaphor navigation in the information flood between Bücher-Bildung and “surfing the internet,” cf. Bickenbach and Maye, Metapher Internet

  15. See: René Girard, Deceit, Desire, and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure (Baltimore: 1976).  

  16. English cited from Claude Lanzmann, The Patagonian Hare. For German see Lanzmann: Der patagonische Hase: Erinnerungen (Reinbek b. Hamburg: 2010), 198. 

  17. Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe: Historisches Lexikon zur politisch-sozialen Sprache in Deutschland (Stuttgart: 1972–1997). Cf. Horn Melton: “Otto Brunner und die ideologischen Ursprünge der Begriffsgeschichtem” in: Joas/Vogt (Eds.): Begriffene Geschichte, 124. 

  18. Jan Eike Dunkhase, Werner Conze: Ein deutscher Historiker im 20. Jahrhundert (Göttingen: 2010), 68–75. 

  19. See: Rosenstock-Huessy, Die Gesetze der christlichen Zeitrechnung and Das Geheimnis der Universität

  20. See: Manfred Riedel, “Gemeinschaft,” in Brunner et al. (eds.): Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe (Stuttgart: 1975), 801–862. 

  21. Ferdinand Tönnies, “Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft,” in: Vierkandt (ed.): Handwörterbuch der Soziologie, 180–191. Not to be underestimated in importance for the prehistory of the named dictionary projects are Heinrich Wölfflin’s Kunstgeschlichtliche Grundbegriffe from 1915. These call in the introduction for a “refinement of conceptual tools” in a manner schooled by Alois Riegl’s 1901 monograph on the “Late Roman Art Industry.”  

  22. See: Reinhard Koselleck, Zur historisch-politischen Semantik asymmetrischer Gegenbegriffe, in Weinrich (ed.): Positionender Negativität, 65–104. See on this topic Mehring, Begriffsgeschichte mit Carl Schmitt, in: Joas and Vogt (eds.), Begriffene Geschichte, 156, and Hermann Lübbe, “Begriffsgeschichte als dialektischer Prozess,” in Archiv für Begriffsgeschichte XIX, 8–15. Nearly parallel to this development, Raymond Williams developed another outline of concept history for the Anglophone world under the title Culture and Society [Williams: Gesellschaftstheorie als Begriffsgeschichte.], which was transformed already significantly earlier into a media historical position. 

  23. See: Reinhard Koselleck, “Hinweise auf die temporalen Strukturen begriffsgeschichtlichen Wandels,” in Bödeker, Begriffsgeschichte, 31–47. 

  24. Joachim Ritter, Karlfried Gründer, Gottfried Gabriel (eds.), Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie. Completely revised edition of Rudolf Eisler, Wörterbuch der philosophischen Begriffe, 12 vols. (Basel: 1971-2005). 

  25. See: Michael Theunissen and Helmut Hühn, “Wiederholung,” in Ritter 12, 738–746. 

  26. Herbert Tillmann (ed.), Fachwörterbuch Hörfunk und Fernsehen / Dictionary of Radio and Television Terms (Berlin: 1992); Sharon Kleinman, The Media and Communication Dictionary: A Guide for Students, Educators, and Professionals (New York: 2011); James Watson and Anne Hill (eds.): A Dictionary of Communication and Media Studies (London: 1984). 

  27. See: Arthur Engelbert, Global Images, 109–171. 

  28. On these turns there are likewise in the meantime handbooks just as for individual “classics”: See for example Doris Bachmann-Medick, Cultural Turns and Parr (ed.), The Deleuze Dictionary Revisited Edition

  29. See: Joachim Felix Leonhard et al. (eds.), Medienwissenschaft; Hans-Bredow-Institut (ed.), Internationales Handbuch Medien, and Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann et al. (eds.): Fischer Lexikon Publizistik. See also Hörisch, Der Sinn und die Sinne; Hans H. Hiebel et al. (eds.), Große Medienchronik; Harro Segeberg (ed.), Mediengeschichte des Films

  30. See: Nikolaus Wegmann, “Der Original-Ton,” in Maye et al. (eds.): Original / Ton: Zur Mediengeschichte des O-Tons, (Konstanz: 2007), 15–24. 

  31. See: Wilhelm Schapp, Philosophie der Geschichten (Leer: 1959). 

  32. See: Hermann Lübbe, “Geschichten” in Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie, vol. 3 (Basel: 1974), 403. On the “case study” see Christina Bartz. “Publizistische Fallgeschichten,” in: Imela Schneider/Ibid (ed.): Formationen der Mediennutzung I: Medienereignisse, 35–43; Nicolas Pethes, “Vom Einzelfall zur Menschheit,” in: Blaseio/Pompe/Ruchatz (eds.): Popularisierung und Popularität, 63–92; Neumeyer, “Schwarze Seelen,” in: IASL, 101–132. 

  33. Michel de Certeau, Theoretische Fiktionen, 66. 

  34. See: Detlev Schöttker (ed.), Mediengebrauch und Erfahrungswandel or Wolfram Nitsch and Bernhard Teuber (eds.), Vom Flugblatt zum Feuilleton

  35. The concept of media practices invokes, on the one hand, the complex and demanding discourse theoretical works of Michel Foucault and emphasizes, on the other hand, a potential of media to expand the established modern concept of art and to permanently affiliate one’s own theoretical work with the experimental aesthetics of the performative arts. In such a case, however, theory becomes a concept of media design (Mediengestaltung) and explicitly committed to artistic criteria. No longer does it exclusively seek to implement scholarly interests. The register of the traditions is exchanged. Corresponding conceptualizations in research and teaching are then called experimental media studies or artistic research. 

  36. See: Imela Schneider (ed.), Formationen der Mediennutzung. The concept of Mediennutzung suggests a kind of goal-oriented realization of a (show-)business calculation by means of media, or attempts alternatively precisely with the sober (non-judgmental) semantics of Nutzung (utilization) to establish a special objectivity of the perspective on media situations. The concept is – not unlike here – often to be sure first set off against other word traditions, but frequently finds its observational limits in the fixation on the relationship and the processuality of understanding between the subject and the individual medium

  37. As an approximate synonym of “body techniques” (Marcel Mauss) the concept of cultural techniques on the one hand attempts to re-anthropologize media studies, and on the other is not exclusively obligated to contextualize media use in terms of cultural history or case studies, but rather derives it from basic cultural operations such as arithmetic, writing or drawing See: Erhard Schüttpelz, “Die medienanthropologische Kehre der Kulturtechniken,” in Engell/Siegert/Vogl (Ed.): Archiv für Mediengeschichte, 87–110. Siegert argues against this in: “Cacography or Communication? Cultural Techniques in German Media Studies.” In: greyroom, pp. 27–47. A recapitulation of the concept has already been provided by Harun Maye: Was ist eine Kulturtechnik? In: ZMK, pp. 121–135]. Strictly speaking, then, this renders the approach incompatible with the purpose of the present project, which does not investigate fixed sets of arithmetic operations or writing dispositives underlying different cultures, but rather aims at a polyphonic media cultural history saturated with materials. 

  38. José Ortega y Gasset, Der Mensch und die Leute, 263. 

  39. English cited from Max Weber, Economy and Society [1922] 1978, 320. “Eine tatsächlich bestehende Chance einer Regelmäßigkeit der Einstellung sozialen Handelns soll heißen Brauch, wenn und soweit die Chance ihres Bestehens innerhalb eines Kreises von Menschen lediglich durch tatsächliche Übung gegeben ist. Brauch soll heißen Sitte, wenn die tatsächliche Übung auf langer Eingelebtheit beruht.” Max Weber, Soziologische Grundbegriffe, 51. 

  40. Cited after Gottfried Korff, “Kultur,” in: Hermann Bausinger et al.: Grundzüge der Volkskunde (Darmstadt: 1978), 25. See on this topic Theodor Geiger, Vorstudien zu einer Soziologie des Rechts (1947), 95. 

  41. See: Heinrich Popitz et al. (ed.), Technik und Industriearbeit, VI, 112, 121. 

  42. Abraham Moles, “Design und Immaterialität,” in Rötzer (ed.): Digitaler Schein: Ästhetik der elektronischen Medien (Frankfurt/M.: 1991), 169. 

  43. The antecedent concept of “habitus” has been situated in the history of philosophy by Josef Piper. See: Pieper, Tugendlehre als Aussage über den Menschen.  

  44. Hannah Arendt, Vita activa oder Vom tätigen Leben, 158. 

  45. Translated from Michel de Certeau, L’Invention du quotidien, 52. For German see Certeau, Die Kunst des Handelns, 79. An overview of the considerable research on Brauch and Gebräuche in German ethnology is provided by Gerhard Heilfurth, “Volkskunde,” in: König (ed.): Handbuch der empirischen Sozialforschung, 181. 

  46. It is imperative to also mention Hans-Dieter Bahrs pioneering study Über den Umgang mit Maschinen (Tübingen: 1983). 

  47. See: Walter Dexel, Deutsches Handwerksgut, 12. 

  48. See the homepage Kulturwissenschaftliche Technikforschung: http://technikforschung.twoday.net/ [last accessed on 27.06.2013], and the wonderful text by Fickers: “Design als ‘mediating interface,'” in Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte, 99–213, at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/bewi.200701252/pdf [last accessed on 01.07.2013]. 

  49. English cited from Hermann Bausinger, Folk Culture in a World of Technology, 25. In the original German: “Es wird dann plötzlich klar, daß die “Natürlichkeit” der Technik nicht daraus entsteht, daß man diese völlig beherrschte, sondern daß sie Ergebnis der Gewöhnung und des Umgangs ist. Jetzt zeigt es sich, daß man den technischen Ablauf nicht durchschaut. Ein Kind erschrickt, wenn es zum erstenmal die Taste des Rundfunkgeräts drückt und Musik antwortet; aber nachdem es sich an diese Antwort gewöhnt hat, erschrickt es ebenso, wenn sie einmal aus irgendwelchen Gründen ausbleibt. In der Lage dieses Kindes befindet sich jeder, sobald ein gewohnter technischer Vorgang, den er im Grunde nicht versteht, aus irgendeiner Ursache unterbrochen wird.” Bausinger: Volkskultur in der technischen Welt, 43. The same thought (developed using the same example medium) can already be found in Walter Hagemann, Vom Mythos der Masse, 292. 

  50. For the concept of Umwelt see the excerpt from an unfortunately unpublished 1950 lecture by Joseph Piepers, “Welt und Umwelt,” in Schriften zur Philosophischen Anthropologie und Ethik: Grundstrukturen menschlicher Existenz, 180–206. 

  51. Astonishingly, the long-established discipline of environmental history has scarcely begun to accept the environment as one increasingly shaped and constituted by media technology. See, for instance, I. G. Simmons, Global Environmental History; Stephen Mosley, The Environment in World History ; Joachim Radkau, Natur und Macht

  52. The original German: “In der Abwesenheit des selbstverständlichen Funktionierens wird plötzlich spürbar, dass wir längst vollständig abhängig sind von einer perfekt organisierten “Supply Chain,” die unser Leben prägt – von der privaten Reiseplanung bis zu den Marktbewegungen ganzer Volkswirtschaften. Die Logistik ist deshalb die DNA einer globalisierten Welt.” Cited from Lutz Engelke/Anja Osswald, “Pantarhei – alles fließt,” in Die Welt (12.11.2011),  2. On the current state of research itself see Neubert: “The End of the Line,” in Bublitz et al. (eds.), Unsichtbare Hände Automatismen in Medien-, Technik- und Diskursgeschichte, pp. 191–214; Dommann, “Handling, Flowcharts, Logistik,” in Zürcher Jahrbuch für Wissensgeschichte, 75–103. 

  53. See, however, Laack, “Infrastrukturen,” in: König (Ed.): Alltagsdinge, 81–91. 

  54. G. Gebauer, Hand und Gewißheit. In: Kamper/Wulf (Eds.): Das Schwinden der Sinne, 248. On this topic see as well: Martin Stingelin/Matthias Thiele (Eds.): Portable Media; Bernhard Robben/Heidi Schelhowe (Eds.): Begreifbare Interaktionen

  55. For a descriptive application see Vilém Flusser, Gesten: Versuch einer Phänomenologie (Frankfurt/M.: 1994). 

  56. See: Volker Weber, Anekdote: Die andere Geschichte (Tübingen: 1993). 

  57. Valeriu Marcu, Lenin: Dreißig Jahre Russland (Leipzig: 1927), 274. On the (still) “morse-alphabetic” radio-message from November 1917 see Dominik Schrage, “Anonymes Publikum,” in Politiken der Medien, 179. The addressing of the radio message “To Everyone! To Everyone!” is analyzed from a media historical perspective by Imela Schneider, “Radiophone Praktiken des (Selbst-)Regierens in der Weimarer Republik,” in Ibid/Otto (eds.): Formationen der Mediennutzung II: Strategien der Verdatung, 37. 

  58. Rosenstock-Huessy, Out of Revolution, 467. 

  59. Original citation: “Als die Bolschewiki 1917 ihre Funksprüche an Alle in die Welt funkten, als die deutschen Funker 1918/19 beim Zusammenbruch einen eigenen Funkerstaatssekretär verlangten und zu seiner Erzwingung mit dem Streik drohten, da trat nicht die menschliche Sprache in den einzelnen zurück; vielmehr wurde ein neues Vervielfältigungsmittel dem Buche angereiht und wurde “politisch” wichtig.” See: Rosenstock-Huessy, Buch und Funk, 253. 

  60. For more on this topic see Winfried Lerg, Rundfunkpolitik in der Weimarer Republik (München: 1980), 38. An informative and comprehensive understanding of radio technology and warfare in World War I is provided by Stefan Kaufmann, Kommunikationstechnik und Kriegsführung 1815–1945: Stufen telemedialer Rüstung (München: 1996), 260–278. 

  61. English translation cited from Radio Engineering & Electronic Physics, Vol. 14, 2. German cited from: Lenin, Briefe, 134. For more on Mikhail Aleksandrovitch Bonch-Bruevich (1888–1940) see the article of the same name in Kurt Jäger (Ed.): Lexikon der Elektrotechniker, 49. 

  62. See: Eugen Rosenstock, Der Lebensraum des Industriearbeiters (1922). In: Fürstenberg, Friedrich (Hrsg.): Industriesoziologie I: Vorläufer und Frühzeit 1835–1934, 2. erg. u. verm. Aufl., Neuwied (1966), 219–228. 

  63. Original citation: “das Subjekt eines Schaltens und Waltens war etwa die züchtige Hausfrau in Schillers Lied von der Glocke, und jedenfalls schaltete man nicht irgend etwas, sondern man schaltete irgendwo, irgendworin, in einem Tätigkeitsbereich, im Raum einer Verantwortung. Heute ist das Verbum schalten klar transitiv geworden, und es hat sich auf technische Verrichtungen konzentriert. […] Der andere, korrelative Prozeß, gleichfalls in allen heutigen Sprachen im Gang, besteht darin, daß Worte, die in der Technik ihren Ursprung haben, weit über sie hinausgreifen und dann z. B. auch seelische Zustände, sittliche Haltungen, soziale Beziehungen und Verhältnisse bezeichnen kön- nen. So etwa Einstellung, Leerlauf, Friktion, ankurbeln, auslösen und hundert andere. Beide Prozesse können sich übrigen auch durchdringen und überlagern.” Hans Freyer, Über das Dominantwerden technischer Kategorien in der Lebenswelt der industriellen Gesellschaft (1959), 131. 

  64. For Ivan Illich’s scholarly biography see Martina Kaller-Dietrich: Ivan Illich (1926–2002): Sein Leben, sein Denken (Wien: 2007). One problematic continuation of Illich’s work (among others) can be found in Uwe Pörksen, Plastikwörter: Die Sprache einer internationalen Diktatur (Stuttgart: 1988). 

  65. Ivan Illich, Genus: Zu einer historischen Kritik der Gleichheit (Reinbek b. Hamburg: 1983), 12. 

  66. The two texts by Illich and Freyer have more in common – regarding the conditions of their emergence as well – than one might at first suspect. Freyer’s collected “Gedanken zur Industriegesellschaft” were first issued in 1970. Illich’s analysis of “transport” as one of the “keywords” of industrialization goes back to his comprehensive analysis of transportation as a ‘technology with a high energy consumption’, which he developed in his text “Energie und Gerechtigkeit” in 1970 and 1971 at the Center for Intercultural Documentation in Cuernavaca (Mexico) and first published in 1973 in Le Monde. See: Ivan Illich: Energie und Gerechtigkeit. In: Ibid: Fortschrittsmythen, S. 73–112. Illichs second substantial text from this period, Tools for Conviviality (1973), suggests a common source for Freyer and his reflections on “Technik und Industrialisierung”: Lewis Mumford’s material-rich book Technics and Civilization (1934) and his late work The Myth of the Machine, which was issued between 1967 und 1970. Cf. Illich, Selbstbegrenzung, 53. 


Translated by Carolina Malagon and John Bednarz

Article: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Image: "Intereactions," (Screenshots) by Eric Schmaltz with Kevin McPhee and Graeme Ring (2017).