Thursday, 30 June 2011

Energetics of Tesla

After being recently occupied with waste and energy – not least to inspiration from reading lots of Sean Cubitt, and of course other great texts – these passages from a Nikola Tesla talk from 1893 seemed resonate really well with current discussions concerning post-CO2-economies. In short, we are now starting to understand that the 1990s started (marketing) hype about post-atom and hence post-co2 based mode of production is completely false, and the immateriality of digital technologies is embedded in a very energy-heavy infrastructure (see Cubitt, Hassan and Volkmer in Media, Culture & Society).

Tesla is talking in his great speech first of the primary significance of the eye for our being in the world, and then continuing how this is reliant on light – some beautiful passages concerning light’s importance there. For Tesla the eye and light make human beings the species they are – light is their specification. Yet he does this in a manner that is evolutionary, admitting that other species might have different organs for same purposes, but it is the eye that makes us man: the specific relation to the world it affords us. And indeed, this specificity of man is related to the world of physics through light, and its vibrant manner. “There is no death of matter, for throughout the infinite universe, all has to move, to vibrate, that is, to live.” (300)

He quickly however continues to talk about its material basis in waves, and hence connecting to other forms of wave-phenomena and “high frequency phenomena.” Here, he makes his move towards electricity, affiliating light with other vibrant forms of matter. What is curious is how he talks about energy economies indeed, and already then, starts talking about the post-CO2 worlds of electricity – and yet, in a manner that does not take us away from energy, but insists on alternative forms of energy production at the core of this new mediatic situation. Electricity is here the transporting force for such energy economies. And to emphasize, my interest is less in the accuracy/inaccuracy of his scientific reading, but in the vision that sees energy at the core of this coming cultural situation.

Therefore the phenomena of light and heat and others besides these, may be called electrical phenomena. Thus electrical science has become the mother science of all and its study has become all important. The day when we shall know exactly what "electricity" is, will chronicle an event probably greater, more important than any other recorded in the history of the human race. The time will come when the comfort, the very existence, perhaps, of man will depend upon that wonderful agent. For our existence and comfort we require heat, light and mechanical power. How do we now get all these? We get them from fuel, we get them by consuming material. What will man do when the forests disappear, when the coal fields are exhausted ? Only one thing, according to our present knowledge will remain; that is, to transmit power at great distances. Men will go to the waterfalls, to the tides, which are the stores of an infinitesimal part of Nature's immeasurable energy. There will they harness the energy and transmit the same to their settlements, to warm their homes by, to give them light, and to keep their obedient slaves, the machines, toiling. But how will they transmit this energy if not by electricity? Judge then, if the comfort, nay, the very existence, of man will not depend on electricity. I am aware that this view is not that of a practical engineer, but neither is it that of an illusionist, for it is certain, that power transmission, which at present is merely a stimulus to enterprise, will some day be a dire necessity. (Martin 1894: 301)


Martin, Thomas Commorford (1894) The Inventions, Researches and Writings of Nikola Tesla (New York: The Electrical Engineer/D. van Nostrand Company).

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Transmit, Process, Store: Launching Media Archaeology

It is indeed out! Media Archaeology: Approaches, Applications and Implications, edited by Erkki Huhtamo and myself, published by University of California Press sums up years of work on this project and also sums up a range of approaches that we have grown accustomed to call "media archaeology": from various traditions such as new film history, media arts as well as digital culture research, it has emerged as one synthetic approach to think old media and new media intertwined. Hence, we are celebrating its launch in Berlin (and further events are planned, hopefully one in the UK too).

Welcome to our July 15 event at Institute of Media Studies, Humboldt University in Berlin - where we are both celebrating the launch of Media Archaeology and even more importantly, processing (excuse the pun) the closing of a certain era of German media theory. The by now legendary address of Sophienstrasse 22 is closing down and the institutes are moving premises. This is the address where Friedrich Kittler worked, and a whole generation of German media theorists can consider their alma mater...


Goodbye Sophienstrasse - Book presentation Media Archaeology

On the 15th of July 2011, the time of the Institute for Media Studies at Sophienstraße 22a is coming to an end and together with the other institutes, we will relocate to the Pergamon Palais on Kupfergraben, on the site of Hegel's house. This transmission marks an occasion to bring together teachers, researchers, students and friends of Sophienstraße to process and store the times and ideas which emerged in this spot, in order to duly celebrate our farewell. Furthermore, we will present the new volume Media Archaeology, edited by our current research fellow Jussi Parikka together with Erkki Huhtamo.

We cordially invite you to join us in talks, discussion and celebration on Friday, July 15th 2011, starting 4 p.m. Berlin's best book store Pro qm will be present with a book table.


Location: Medientheater (ground floor of Sophienstrasse 22a):

4 p.m.
Welcome: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Ernst, Paul Feigelfeld und Dr. Jussi Parikka
4.15 - 5.45
Contributions by: Prof. Dr. Friedrich Kittler, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Ernst, Prof. Dr. Claus Pias, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Hagen

Book presentation "Media Archaeology" (University of California Press), edited by Jussi Parikka and Erkki Huhtamo. Talks and discussion with Jussi Parikka, Paul Demarinis, Claus Pias and Wolfgang Ernst.

Followed by drinks and music, until security shuts us down.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Kill the darling part 12: off with yet another quote

I am getting there, with the reduction of word count, but means that I need to shorten quotes. Hence, Sean Cubitt stays of course, but not the full quote from The Cinema Effect on the history of processes of perception:

There is a history of the processes of perception. The nineteenth century moved from the physics of light to the physiology of vision [Crary 1990]. The twentieth shifted from the physiological thesis of retinal retention to the cognitive thesis of the Phi effect, from the eye smoothing over the gaps to the brain interjecting the “missing” elements by intermittent images […] Looking back from the twenty-first century, film’s visual coherence depends on suturing light, eye, and brain, optics, physiology, and psyche—the ensemble of film theory calls the cinematic apparatus.” (Cubitt 2003: 66).