Bernard's blog

Media of Philosophy II: Thinking with Technical Standards

I’ve just come back from a three-hour editing session with the Berlin-based video artist Antoine Desvigne. We’re collaborating on a video project based on the Skype-intervention Avital Ronell made in my course The Technologies and Media of Psychoanalysis in December. During that visit Ronell discussed The Telephone Book (1989), which examined how telephonic logic inflected National Socialism, Martin Heidegger’s philosophy, and the collaboration between the two. (I briefly discussed this project in a previous post entitled "Sein und Zeitschrift.") I had thought it’d be fun to discuss this book with Ronell nearly a quarter of a century after its publication, when technologies like the cell telephone and email have displaced the practical authority of earth-bound telephones.

The New Apparatus Theory

Photographische Apparate III. Source:

So my comrade in gadget theory, Grant Wythoff, and I have been bouncing notes back and forth for a year or so about the return of the apparatus to media theory. I suppose it'd be more precise to say it never left. But the sources for "apparatus theory" have shifted over the years. In the 1970s and early 80s work by Baudry, Comolli, Mulvey, etc. on film as an ideological apparatus (appareil/dispositif) swept film studies. In the last fifteen years however another, intersecting theory of the apparatus has taken hold in media studies, science studies, theories of digital cinema and so on. Notions of a productive, assembly-like apparatus (dispositif) put forth by Foucault, Lyotard, Agamben and Deleuze today dominate contemporary apparatus theories.

Kultur & Informatik Tagung

Alcatel Lucent Stiftung: Kultur und Informatik Tagung

Berlin hasn't exactly been a center of digital media theory in the traditional definition of these terms. Kittlerianism was more archaeological than presentist in its critical historiography. Even today, contemporary research on digital media happening in and around Berlin is as likely to ponder the politics of 19th c. physiology and 20th c. National Socialism as, say, internet protocols. That's ok. My own research has planted deep roots in that kind of historiographic program because I think there's all too much presentism in "new" media research. (I've long thought there's a good essay to be written on the place of the "neu" in Heidegger's diagnosis of Technik and Neuzeit.) Media archaeology comprises a partial response to that deficit of historical memory endemic to the flash of the new.

Latour, Globalization, and Politics

Latour. Diagrammatic politics?

While it is my goal to not turn this blog into a bulletin board for advertising random events, for the second time this week something on the HSK listserv popped out and I feel compelled to repost it here. Some political theorists at the Free University of Berlin are putting together a conference on Latour and empirical approaches to globalization that draw on actor-network theory. I've spent a lot of time thinking about the relations of actor-network theory to politics and I made a passing reference to my concerns about ANT as a technique of designating historical arrangements of power in my essay "From Information Theory to French Theory." But I've also heard a fair amount of unjustified opining about the absence of any politics in ANT as an approach.

Job in Digital Humanities (Klassik Stiftung Weimar)

Digitize this face: Schiller

This just in the Digital Humanities with a well known foundation holding the Goethe and Schiller archives just came over the HSK listserv. I bet you could a lot of great things there, and you're only a stone's throw frok the IKKM and other world-class institutes for media history and media theory.


1 Wiss. Mitarb. "Digital Humanities" (Klassik Stiftung

Klassik Stiftung Weimar, Weimar, 01.01.2014-31.08.2018
Bewerbungsschluss: 24.11.2013

Looking Through the Occult

Looking through the Occult: Instrumentation, Esotericism and Epistemology in the Nineteenth-Century. Humbold University / Univrsität

For the last year or so I've been co-organizing a conference entitled LOOKING THROUGH THE OCCULT: INSTRUMENTATION, ESOTERICISM, AND EPISTEMOLOGY IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY, a conference that ties together some themes from media archaeology, theology, and science studies. We've got a stellar lineup of scholars from Portugal, the Netherlands, Germany, the USA, Canada and farther afield flying in for the event which will be in a week and a half here in Berlin. This conference is sponsored by the Social Innovation through Nonhegemonic Knowledge Production network, a transnational research initiative bringing together scholars in religious studies, media studies, anthropology, the history of knowledge, and other disciplines.

Crowdsourced readings for the Psychoanalysis course

Often my syllabi have a collaborative component to their design. This takes two forms: (1) Their composition comes about through discussions with colleagues & students in person or via social networks, and (2) the contents of the course emphasize, where possible and appropriate, experimental forms of group work. In the case of my Media & Technologies of Psychoanalysis course, such a collaborative emphasis is of special pedagocal import. A premise of the course is that media and archival technologies facilitate distinct forms of memory, knowledge, and sociality. With the arrival of telephone, broadcasting, telegraphy and state postal systems, we not only new ways of knowing ourselves, but also "new selves" come into being.

Draft Syllabus for "The Media & Technologies of Psychoanalysis"

A month or two back I mentioned that I would be teaching a course on the media & technologies of psychoanalysis -- that is, the role of instruments, techniques, technologies,  notations, and diagrams in constituting the psyche and psychoanalytic knowledge. This course will be taught in the MA "Psychoanlytische Kulturwissenschaft" program co-administered by the Humboldt University of Beriln and the Berlin Institute for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. Participants will be include practicing psychoanalysts, psychiatrists, social workers, and psychologists.


Call for Papers: Politics and the Later Latour

Here's an oblique sort of followup on my "Afterlives" post: One needn't prod too hard in Latour, either, for finding a site where politics, ecology, and systems thought are caught up in a kind of epistemological strife. The CFP below could make for a great issue:



Call for Papers: Politics and the Later Latour


Global Discourse:

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Current Affairs and Applied Contemporary Thought


Volume 4: Issue 4

November 2014


Afterlives of Systems

My friends and colleagues here in Germany, Christina Vagt and Florian Sprenger, are co-editing an issue of the journal Communication+1 (where I happen to be an editorial advisor) on "Afterlives of Systems." The announcement is below, and also attached as a PDF. This project's intersections with the history of cybernetics appeal to me generally, but I'm specifically excited by its investigation of links between media theory and ecological studies. In the United States scholars including Bruce Clarke, Mark B. N. Hansen, Rob Mitchell, Alenda Chang, Tom Cohen, and J. Hillis Miller are among a diverse group of theorists who have prodded at intersections in medial and environmental analysis. Classic works in media theory have also broached (without quite systematizing) these links. For example, Harold Innis's account of time, space, and communications takes the conquering of the environment as a defining aspect of modern communications.


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