Heiko Christians is professor in media studies and cultural history at University of Potsdam. His upcoming book is Wilhelm Meisters Erbe. Deutsche Bildungsidee und globale Digitalisierung. Eine Inventur (Böhlau Verlag, 2020).
Authors | Heiko Christians
Articles on Amodern by Heiko Christians
Concepts of things come with an implied usage of those things. If, in this way, one understands language not as the original source of meaning and being, but as a vivid source of information on the continuous interplay between the usage of words and things, then language constitutes an important point of reference for media studies. Media usage has enmeshed the modern subject ever more tightly in its industrial environments – environments that were once described as “secondary systems.” Today, we experience forms of the technization of our environments that render the distinction of primary and secondary factors virtually impossible. Therefore, the etymologies of media usages, and likewise a technologically informed conceptual history, cannot be summarized, kept at bay, or arrested by means of theory. Instead, they want to be narrated in an open-ended array of case stories. These illustrative case stories interrelate, just like the things and activities described in them. As such, they promise to cast a new light on categories like contemporaneity and functioning, but also usage and object.
A “Historical Dictionary of Media Usage” that takes itself seriously will have something to say on its own intended use. Translated from the Historisches Wörterbuch des Mediengebrauchs – a recent encyclopedic publication from Germany – these “Instructions for Use” consider the dictionary’s functionality in its own historical context and introduce the uniform heuristic structure that organizes its entries.