The mediatic turn: Exploring concepts for media pedagogy

  • Friesen N
  • Hug T
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The roots of terms such as ‘mediatization,’ ‘medialization,’ and ‘mediality’ can be traced back through much of the history of Western thought. This goes as far back as Aristotle’s consideration of various media of expression in the con- text of his Poetics; the question appears again (among other places) in Augustine’s discussion of the medial characteristics of the biblical “Word” in Book 11 of his Confessions. The question of media and the mediatic reemerges more recently in Peirce’s proto-semiotic theory, and again in Cassirer’s consideration of the fundamental mediality of culture and human knowing in Philosophy of Symbolic Forms (1953). However, it is with Marshall McLuhan’s more recent and famous claim that “the medium is the message” that the contemporary significance of media—and with it, of ‘mediatization,’ ‘medialization,’ and ‘mediality’—begins to take shape. Indeed, it is relatively uncontroversial in German-language media studies that with this declaration (and its exposition in The Gutenberg Galaxy and Understanding Media), McLuhan’s place was secured as “the founder and figure- head of modern media theory” (Margreiter 2007, p. 135): With the thesis that media themselves are the message, and the implied transition of research interests to mediatic forms, McLuhan himself actually created the terrain for an independent science of the media (Medienwissenschaft). (Leschke 2003, p. 245) The “transition of research to mediatic forms” invoked here by Leschke has been surprisingly interdisciplinary and widespread in German-language scholarship. Conspicuous attention to mediatic forms began in German literary theory (e.g., Kittler’s 1985 Aufschreibesysteme 1800/1900). It subsequently extended to philoso- phy (e.g., Hartmann’s 2000 Medienphilosophie), and it has recently been evident in cultural and historical studies as well (e.g., Giesecke 2002, 2007). It is our contention that these texts and others like them, and more impor- tantly, the theoretical and empirical developments they present, are not exhausted by the ideas such as mediality and mediatization. Instead, they are all illustrative of what can be called a mediatic turn. The phrase refers not simply to a recent trend in research and thinking, but something that can be articulated in the more foundational terms of a cultural or, indeed, an epistemological and existential condition or exigency. This chapter focuses on the mediatic turn as an empirical, sociocultural “event,” and also as a related development in theory and philosophy. The idea of such a “turn” serves as a way of developing an integrated perspective on concepts such as ‘mediation,’ ‘mediatization,’ ‘medialization,’ and ‘mediality.’ Giving special emphasis to theoretical developments in German-language dis- courses, this chapter then explores a number of consequences of these empirical and theoretical developments in the area of media literacy and education.

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  • Norm Friesen

  • Theo Hug

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