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REVIEWS FRIEDRICH A. KITTLER. Gramophone, Film, Typewriter. Trans., with an Introduction, by Geoffrey Winthrop-Young and Michael Wutz. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1999. xii + 315 pp. First published in German in 1986 as Grammophon Film Typewriter, this book analyzes the shift from the hegemony of the printed word to the emergence of new media technologies relating to the communication and storage ofdata. Its author is a professor of aesthetics and media studies at the Institute for Aesthetics and Cultural Studies at Humboldt University in Berlin. In this book he continues and elaborates the second part ofAufschreibesysteme 1800/1900 (1985), which appeared in German only a year before Grammophon Film Typewriter, but has been available in translation for more than a decade (Discourse Networks, 1800/1900 [1990]). It is unfortunate that Gramophone, Film, Typewriter has onlyjust appeared in English translation, because, in many respects, its treatment ofthe social impact ofmedia technologies is much more interesting, particularly for those concerned with intersections between comparative literature, critical/literary theory and media studies. It is also a book which will have a major impact on the future ofnew media studies. In some ways, both of Kittler's books lie squarely in the tradition of firstgeneration media studies. But in others, it is an imaginative break, more in line with contemporary American work in media studies and critical theory. First-generation media studies are usually said to start with Walter Benjamin's justly celebrated "The Work ofArt in the Age ofMechanical Reproduction" (1936). Harold Innis's Empire and Communications (1950) and Bias ofCommunication (1951) kept up the momentum until 1962 when, within one year, five pioneering works on oral communication appeared: Eric Havelock's Preface to Plato, Claude Levi-Strauss's La Pensée sauvage, Marshall McLuhan's Gutenberg Galaxy, Ernst Mayr's Animal Species and Evolution, and Jack Goody and Ian Watt's "The Consequences of Literacy." Kittler's books, like these five, resist disciplinary boundaries and reveal the extraordinary diversity ofmedia theorists. However, his work breaks radically from its predecessors by combining discourse analysis (à la Foucault) and structuralist psychoanalysis (à la Lacan) with more standard first-generation media studies (primarily McLuhan). Consequently, Kittler reveals both how far media studies have come since Benjamin's famous essay, and the profound debt that they owe to twentieth-century critical and literary theory. In the latter regard, Kittler's work may be associated with a number ofAmericans , who have also explored modem media technology through the lens ofFrench poststructuralism. For example, Gregory Ulmer's Applied Grammatology: Post(e)Pedagogyfrom Jacques Derrida to Joseph Beuys (1985) argues that Derrida's grammatology reflects the internalization ofelectronic media; Mark Poster's TAe Mode ofInformation: Poststructuralism andSocial Context (1990) links Foucault's analysis ofsurveillance techniques to databases and electronic control procedures; and George Landow's Hypertext: The Convergence ofContemporary Critical Theory and Technology (1992) connects hypertextuality with Derridean decentering and Barthesian notions of textuality. Kittler, however, deepens these links: the introduction of the typewriter, for example, connects with the introduction of structuralism, and structuralists such as Foucault who neglect these connections should be criticized. One overarching thesis of this book is that media determine our critical theories. Kittler's intellectual career falls into three periods: during the 1970s his focus was discourse analysis; in the 1980s, he worked on the technologizing ofdiscourse Vol. 25 (2001): 176 ??? COHPAnATIST by electronic media; and in the 1990s, his attention turned to the technologizing of discourse by digital media. For Kittler, a discourse network is the "network of technologies and institutions that allow a given culture to select, store, and produce relevant data" (Discourse Networks 369). Discourse analysis regards discourses as "material communicative events in historically contingent, interdiscursive networks that link writers, archivists, addresses, and interpreters" (xxii). It also reveals regularities in discourses that indicate the specific rules programming what people can say and write. Moreover, Kittler's discourse indicates that given the "growing social complexity and expanding communicative networks ofthe early 1800s, standardized interpretation appears to have been possible, and, indeed, even more desirable"—social complexity was to be offset by interpretive homogenization (xxii). The aim ofKittler's media discourse analysis is "to combine a 'Foucauldian' analysis of historically contingent rules and regulations, which allow...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-0887
Print ISSN
0195-7678
Pages
pp. 176-178
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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