Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Good Germans

In "Whereabouts of German Media Theory" in Zero Comments, Geert Lovink argues that more German media theory should be translated into English in order to elevate the field of "media studies" with perspectives from German "media philosophy" to speak more broadly to themes and issues in the humanities more generally. As he points out, significant works by Kittler, Siegert, Flusser, Luhmann, and Theweleit are not currently available in English.

Unfortunately, for the "media philosophy" problem, those who participate in international conferences also see the talking at cross-purposes that Lovink describes in the second chapter of his book. As an attendee at last year's interesting but sometimes fragmented "Philosophy of Computer Games" conference organized by Espen Aarseth, I was often struck by the disciplinary divides between philosophers and game studies researchers that were even more obvious than the linguistic divisions between the attendees.

It's interesting that Lovink also refuses to define the term "medium" too precisely beyond characterizing his subject matter as a "raw mix of sociological, philosophical, and semiotic questions that deal with the problems of our technologically advanced culture."

Yet, for a theorist so interested in systems analysis and labor politics, Lovink is surprisingly uninterested in the practical obstacles to the task of the translator and the institutional pressures on media scholars to produce original scholarly monographs, which are so valued for tenure and promotion, rather than translations of the work of others that do little to advance an American academic career.

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