[iDC] Alan's questions about media theory/ies

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Tue Jul 21 23:36:55 UTC 2009

On Tue, 21 Jul 2009, Mark Edward Cote wrote:

> 1.
> most relevant to questions of mediation is stiegler's 'technics and
> time' wherein he posits a constitutive relationship b/n the human and
> technology. this is based largely on the work of french
> paleo-anthropologist andre leroi-gourhan who posited that the
> distinguishing characteristic of homo habilis (the first 'human' or
> homo) was precisely its ability to make (not just use) rudimentary stone
> tools. for leroi-gourhan this sets off a transductive relationship b/n
> the tools and the distinctive neurological development of the human.
> stiegler refers to this recursive relationship as epiphylogenesis, a
> form of emergent causality whereby tools effect the biological process
> of evolution which equally impacts upon the development of technics. in
> other words, we only ever became 'human' when we became able to use
> tools.

I wonder about this, since some bird species make tool, and chimpanzees 
have been seen to make mortar and pestles. I worry about any sort of 
reductionism - i.e. "_this_" is the distinguishing characteristic - which 
has ranged from furlessness to composition of urine to opposable thumb to 
gesture to language, as if a version of cause-and-effect can be 
established as fundamental.
> in short, tools (technics, technology) were always already part of the
> process of exteriorization for the human. this brings us back to
> mediation. what i find compelling about this perspective is how it
> further deconstructs the human subject of modernity. as i framed it in a
> recent conference paper, 'we have never been human.' that is the human
> is an originary assemblage of the body and technology; a structural
> coupling of the human and its environment.
> perhaps of interest to readers here is that such tools/technics also
> include media artifacts, writ-large--from orality to literacy to digital
> distributed networks. as such, antagonisms themselves are only ever
> manifested recursively in the structural couplings of the human and
> environment. from this theoretical perspective, mediation is a
> constitutive element of our existence.
Just wanted to point out that Merlin Donald has been writing on this and 
other related themes for a while now - I've found his work on exteriority 
of mind of great interest.

One final point - can someone provide a definition of "mediation" we might 
agree on? I find the concept confusing (but then I find a lot of concepts, 
including "concept," confusing.)

- Alan, thanks

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