Friedrich Kittler: Gramophone, Film, Typewriter




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Friedrich Kittler: Gramophone, Film, Typewriter

Translators introduction

Media awakenings: the usual suspects


1960s interest in media

Focus on the materialities of communication: Lévi-Strauss, McLuhan, Mayr, Ong.

The material and technological aspects of communication > psychogenetic and sociogenetic impact of changing media ecologies.



Predecessors

Walter Benjarmin, Harold Innis. First attempts to outline the world history according to the developments of media technologies.

Kittler on mediality

to explain the how, what and why of media. The intrinsic technological logic of media.

Parallels to the work of McLuhan.

> Enzensberger

> Baudrillard: a media theory inspired by structuralism and semiotics.



Intellectual trajectory

Reconceptualize the media issue in terms of recent theoretical developments, ‘French theory’.

Combination of discourse analysis, structuralist psychoanalysis and first-generation media theory.

> Media discourse analysis

‘Lacancan and Derridada’: the French across the Rhine


Late 1970s: post-structuralism in Germany

Reluctantly received.

Resistance from the Left: Irrationalismusvorwurf.

Resistance from the Right and Center, German traditional hermeneutics.


Revisiting French post-structuralism

Kittler: moves Lacan into the post-hermeneutic realm of information theory.

Parallels to the American association of French post-structuralims and new literary theory: Landow, Ultmer. Poster on Foucaul’s surveillance techniques.

‘What hypertext and hypermedia are to post-structuralism, cybernetics was to structuralism and semiotics’ (p: xix).

Re-read pages xix and xx: difficult


Discourse networks: from mother tongues to matters of inscription


Kittler’s intellectual career

1970s: discourse analysis

1980s: the technologizing of discourse by electronic media.

1990s: digitalization.

Discourse Network (1990)


1980s: media and discourse analysis

begins by registering texts as material communicative events in historically, interdiscursive networks that link writers, archivists, addresses and interpreters. Exhibit regularities that point to rules programming what people can say and write.

Standardized interpretation

possible in the early 1800s. People were programmed to operate upon media in ways that enabled them to elide the materialities of communication. But media have their own biases and messages that must be taken into account.

How do media operate upon people.

Discourse-analysis with media-technological feet.


The discursive field of 1800

Described in terms of the spiritualized oralization of language.

Muttermund.

Writing as the sole, linear channel for processing and storing information.


Phonography and film

Sounds and pictures were given their appropriate channels > differentiation of data streams and the virtual abolition of the Gutenberg Galaxy.

Discourse network of 1900

Demystifies the animating function of Woman and the conception of language as naturalized inner voice.

Writers increasingly aware of the materiality of language and communication.


Marshall McNietzsche: the advent of the electric trinity


Gramophone, Film, Typewriter

Detailed accounts of the ruptures brought about by the differentiation of media and communication technologies.

Post-Gutenberg methods

Record visual and acoustic effects of the real.

Kittler relates phonography, cinematography and typing to Lacan’s registers of the real, the imaginary and the symbolic.

Coincidence of psycho-analysis and Edisonian technology.


Nietzsche

Unser Schreibzeug arbeitet mit an unseren Gedanken.

Kittler’s reading of Nietzsche

- technologically informed, post-structuralist reading.

Key-concepts such as Subject, Authorship, Truth as effects that arises from and proceeds to cover up underlying discursive operations and materialities. Kittler: these effects are bracketed through a shift of focus toward certain external points – in particular bodies, margins, power structures, and media technologies (p: xxix).



> Turing world

The third stage of Kittler’s intellectural career.

Reintegration of differentiated media technologies and communication channels by the computer; the medium to end all media.



Only connect: theory in the age of intelligent machines

1. Back to the ends of Man

Kittler’s rhetoric as a throwback to the heady days of militant anti-humanism.

‘Der sogenannte Mensch is about to disappear as a cognitive and self-determining agent and be subsumed by the march of technological auto-sophistication.

> Disenchantment


2. The stop and go of history

Obvious technological determinism.

Kittler emphasises technological breakthroughs on the expense of other causative factors.

But: our situation can determine our media >


Technomaterialism

Dialectic exchange between the media-technological base and the discursive superstructure > conflicts and tensions that result in transformations at the level of media.

3. Arms and no man

Fetishism of technological innovations produced by military applications.

4. Hail the conquering engineer

Engineers (Edison, Muybridge, Mary, Lumière) have made a world in which technology reigns supreme.

5. Reactionary postmodernism?

Unquestioning admiration of (media)-technological innovations. But with Kittler, there is traditional right-wing rhetoric of soul, Volk.

Somewhat determination to sever the connection between technological and social advancement; install Technology as the new, authentic subject of history.


Introduction


Kittler on convergence

Book published in 1986.

Entertainment media as a by-product of war technology.

On digitalisation of media: will erase the concept of medium.


On McLuhan

Accurate understanding of McLuhan’s the medium’s content is always another medium?

Prior to the electrification of media

Mechanical apparatuses: silent film, phonograph/gramophone

“We need a coincidence in the Lacanian sense: that something ceases not to write itself” (page: 3).



Storage technologies

Record and reproduce the time flow of acoustic and optical data. Autonomous ears and eyes. “Media define what really is.”

Text and scores

Based on a writing system whose time is symbolic (Lacan). The bottleneck of the signifier. But not possible to encode real time.

Foucault: “the last historian or the first archaeologist. Writing as a communication medium. History as “wavelike successions of words.”



The regime of the symbolic

Only what is written exists (beyond time?),

But does Kittler claim that writing is more symbolic than photographs, gramophones, computers?

“the body, which did not cease not to write itself, left strangely unavoidable traces.” (page 8).


Memory capacity

Before optical and acoustic storage media, words and books strongly connected to human memory capacity.

The need for the powers of hallucination.



Reproductive power of media

Not only resembling the object, but guarantee the resemblance < a product of the object. A reproduction authenticated by the object itself. Refers to the bodily real, escapes all symbolic grids.

Typewriters

1865/1868

Thus a historical synchronicity in the development of the typewriter, phonograph and cinema – separated optical, acoustic and written data flows, autonomous.



(to again be recombined with electronic media),

Lacan’s “methodological distinction”

The real; the imaginary; the symbolic

- as the theory or historical effect of that differentiation.

The symbolic encompasses linguistic signs in their materiality and technicity.

The imaginary – the optical illusion of cinema.

“Of the real nothing more can be brought to light than what Lacan presupposes – that is, nothing.”


Modern psychoanalysis

Distinctions of media technology – methodological distinctions of psychoanalysis.

This is where the phonograph fits in: the real has the status of the phonograph.



The McLuhanesque Kittler

The technological differentiation of optics, acoustics and writing > the essence of Man escapes into apparatuses. Machines take over functions of the central nervous system.

Clear differentiation of (the so-called) Man into physiology and information technology.



1950 Alan Turing

“Computing machinery and intelligence”.

“All data streams flow into a state n of Turing’s universal machine.” (page 19).








Gramophone


1877: Edison’s phonograph

(record and play)

records overtones: (frequency) vibrations per second.



Frequency

  • Time as an independent variable.

  • Quantifies movements too fast for the human eye.

  • The real takes the place of the symbolic.

Synthetic production of frequencies

Noise as a scientific research object

Mechanical language reproduction > automata.



1857: Scott’s phonautograph

The first machine to record sound: i.e. converting sound into visible traces.

“Thus came into being autographs or handwritings of a data stream that heretofore had not ceased not to write itself”. (page 26).

> Phonetics and speech physiology.


> Edison’s phonograph

A result of the synthetic production of frequencies combined with their analyses.

“A telegraph as an artificial mouth, a telephone as an artificial ear- the stage was set for the phonograph. Functions of the central nervous system had been technologically implemented”. (page 28).



Jean-Marie Guyau: Memory and phonograph

Uses the phonograph as a metaphor for the human mental abilities. Delboeuf: “The soul is the notebook of phonographic recordings.” The analogy between the phonograph and the human brain.

Time axis reversals

> allow ears to hear the unheard-of:

Kittler seems to emphasize both with the phonograph and film/cinema that these apparatuses make sensible, reality beyond our directly perceived reality.

> Psychoanalysis

How is this relevant for Kittler’s history of the phonograph?

“And lyrics fulfilled what psychoanalysis – originating not coincidentally at the same time – saw as the essence of desire: hallucinatory wish fulfilment”. (page 37).

Freud on hallucinations: memory as sensory perception and psychic apparatus as its own simulacrum.


Rainer Maria Rilke, “Primal sound” (1919)

Of the similarities between the skull, more precisely the coronal suture of the skull and the wavy line engraving needle of the phonograph. The skull reduced to a cerebral container. The coronal suture as a writing of the real.

Writing without a subject

Since the invention of the phonograph.

Lothar (1924)

The relationship between noise and signals.

Our capacity for illusion > forget about the mechanical interference.



Shannon and Turing’s vocoder

(1942-1945). Encodes any given data stream A with the envelope curves of another sound sequence B. Modulates one signal with another.

What significance does Kittler mean the vocoder has?



Maurice Renard: “Death and the shell” (1907)

Again, a story showing how technological media apparatuses like the phonograph extend our senses. Bringing us voices of the dead. Also, the analogy of the phonograph and the seashell. But why does Kittler include this story?

“Once technological media guarantee the similarity of the dead to stored data by turning them into the latter’s mechanical product, the boundaries of the body, death and lust, leave the most indelible traces”. (page 55).



Rewriting eroticism

Under the conditions of gramophony and telephony. How? Why? What sense does these paragraphs make?

> psychoanalysis?

Partial objects that can be separated from the body and excite desires prior to sexual differentiation: breast, mouth, feces (Freud). Lacan added: the gaze and the voice > psychoanalysis in the media age: cinema restores the disembodied gaze; the telephone restores the disembodied voice.

Does this make any sense and how?



Friedlander: “Goethe speaks into the phonograph” (1916)

Intriguing short story. Seems to make sense, and again illustrates the connection between the phonograph and the reality beyond our senses (prior in time. Thus the common time-space distance.

Flesh and machines

In the founding days of media technology: Implementing the function of the central nervous system into the media technologies – reconstructing bodily functions.

> Scott’s phonautograph

> Bell’s telephone

The interchangeability of an instrument both as a transmitter and a receiver.

Anatomical and technical reconstructions of language.


Saussure’s linguistics

Based on the difference between langue and parole/language and speech.

> speech analyses and production without the flesh?

“A Turing machine no longer needs artificial flesh. The analogue signal is simply digitized”. (page 75).

> Foucault: The archaeology of knowledge based on Saussure: a finite body of rules that authorizes an infinite number of performances. Discursive events however as limited (to the linguistic context).



Philosophy and media technology

Back to Friedlander: inspired by the technified version of Kant’s pure forms of intuition (sense knowledge). Spatial and temporal forms of intuition.

Friedlander’s philosophy follows in the wake of media technology.



Otto Wiener: the extension of senses

(1900): The extension of our senses by instruments.

Declares the Kantian notions of a priori perception of time and space as unnecessary. Media render Man.



Nietzsche on poetry

A mnemotechnology : “it was noticed that men remember a verse much better than ordinary speech” (79).

A solution that came about under oral conditions > increased the storage capacity.

(writing did not change this).


Technological sound storage

Obliterated the necessities of poetry as memory.

Technology triumphs over mnemotechnology.

> “Records turn and turn until phonographic inscriptions inscribe themselves into brain physiology” (80).


High and low culture

With the invention of technical sound storage > the new lyrics of hits and charts. High and low culture as the two options of modern media.

Science: the third party

Technological media register distinguishing particulars (again then the real beyond our senses (and memory?)).

The shift in technologies of power follows the switch from writing to media. Limited self-control in the public (media) reality. Data and signs beyond our control.

> Science is for the first time in possession of a machine that records noises regardless of so-called meaning. Writing: always (un)intentional selections of meaning.


The epoch of nonsense

“Mechanization relieves people of their memories and permits a linguistic hodgepodge”. (86)

> psychoanalysis

Talking cure, unconscious cerebration. Segmentation of speech. Uncovering minor symptoms in the flow of speech.

Psychoanalytic case studies as media technologies < consciousness and memory as mutually exclusive. ??

Psychoanalysis as phonograph (sort of), as writing interposes itself between the unconscious and its storage.

“Only psychoanalysis can write what does not cease not to write itself” (94).



Sound storage and transmission as mass media

The record mass market. Mass-produced sound storage + mass-produced communication + recording media > global ascendancy.

The uniting of the phonograph and the radio.



The radio

Kittler couples the development with the world war

Realism in sound

Coupled with WWII.

Development of hi-fi: frequency reaching both limits of the audibility range.

> The principle of feedback

> The development of stereo records (EMI 1957).



1966: Yellow submarine

The coincidence of hypnosis and recording technology

Hypnotic sound detection: Hi-fi stereophony simulating any acoustic space: real space or psychedelic spaces.



The FM vs. AM radio

FM: technical superiority and relative cheapness as an investment medium.

Multiplexing via FM: broadcast separate signals simultaneously > hi-fi via radio.

Here also coupled with military innovations.



The magnetophone
The tape decks

Germany WWII. “Part of the cultural SS”. Motorized and mobilized audiotape.

Revolutionized secret transmissions.

Inaugurated the musical-acoustic present. Storage, transmission and empires of simulation: can execute any possible manipulation of data.

Audiotapes modernized sound production.

Made music consumers mobile, automobile.


Manipulation

Audiotapes make the unmanipulable manipulable.

Studio manipulations.

Burrough’s tape cut-up technique


Rock music

“Play to the powers that be their own melody”(110).

Cut-ups: interceptions, chopping, feedback, amplification.








Film


Manipulation

“(…) cinema has been the manipulation of optic nerves and their time” (115). E.g. flash-like images of coca-ads in feature-films.

Cuts from beginning

Cinema began with reels, cuts and splices (as opposed to sound recording).

1878: Edward Muybridge

Serial photographs > animal motion, later human motion.

Individually and sequentially positioned cameras.

> Thus, what invention did in fact mark the beginning of film.


Making of films

nothing but cutting and splicing: chopping up of continuous motion/history before the lens.

Thus, cuts an fundamental difference from acoustic data storage. Inaugurated the difference between the imaginary and the real (phonograph as recording of the real, although a reality beyond our senses). “Phonography and feature film correspond to one another as do the real and the imaginary” (119).



Theoretical preconditions for the invention of cinema

not merely celluloid

postulation of caesuras (break, pause)

> research on the 1) stroboscopic effect and 2) afterimages


1) Afterimages

Goethe, Fechner, Nietzsche

The physiological theory of perception as applied perceptual practise.

Edgar Morin: “respond to the projection screen like a retina inverted to the outside that is remotely connected to the brain.” (121). Each image leaves an after-image.


2) The stroboscopic effect

Transforms the continuous flow of movement into interferences. Discontinuity > second and imaginary continuity.

Faraday: theory of alternating current

“Chopping and cutting in the real, fusion and flow in the imaginary.”


Marey: the chronophotographic gun,

Camera shaped like a rifle that records twelve successive photographs per second.

Kittler again couples the development of media technologies to war:



War and film

“the history of the movie camera thus coincides with the history of automatic weapons” (124).

The power of images and film as a form of reconnaissance and persuasion.

Ernst Jünger

“When war and cinema coincide, a communications zone becomes the front, the medium of propaganda becomes perception, and the movie theatre of Douchy the scheme or schemes for an otherwise invisible enemy” (132).



Dobbelgänger

“Two parts of one force, fused into one body (Jünger)” (132). The meeting of an imaginary other > Lacan (1936): a mirror image that might restore the body back to wholeness.

Friedlander: “Fata morgana machine” (1920)

The fictional, resistant Minister of war: “war would become an impossibility that way” (135).

Dobbelgänger factory: film conditioned new bodies.

What is meant by these dobbeltgängers?


1891: Demeny

Photography of speech, with the use of Marey’s chronophotograph. Apparently exaggerated oral movements capturing what our eye cannot perceive.

Assignments from the French army: optimizing army movements.



Film and madness

“Film’s other subject”.

Storing and reproducing hysteria.

Psychoanalyses. Imitates the dobbelgänger film by translating it [what?] into words. The talking cure. “Literally, psychoanalysis means chopping up an internal film” (143). Freud unlocks images to decode the puzzles of their signifiers (and not to store them).

Hans Hennes: filming as the only apparatus able to capture precise observations that is not possible to see in real life.

“Once the filming is done, the pictures are available for reproduction” (145) > Film are more real than reality, their reproductions are productions.


The simulacrum of madness

< possible film tricks chopping up and reassembling body movements.

“The age of media (not just since Turing’s game of imitation) renders indistinguishable what is human and what is machine” (146).



Robert Wiene’s Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Follows cinematographically modernized psychiatry.

Indistinguishability between framed and framing story.

Storage technologies cannot and do not want to record the difference (between sane and insane?).


Film dobbelgängers

film filming itself. In the line of fire of technological media > Barbara La Marr in Arnold Bronnen’s novel. “Film transforms life into a form of trace detection” (150).

> undermines the mirror stage: “films anatomize the imaginary picture of the body that endows humans (in contrast to animals) with a borrowed I” (150). Film as the perfect mirror,



< as opposed to literature: not able to store bodies.

Film and fantasy

Film returned the imaginary, the fantasy to the world.

Based on the arguments of the dobbelgänger?

“the splitting of discourse into white noise and imagination, speech and dream” (154).

Heinz Ewers: The student of Prague (1913)

Paul Lindau: The other (1913)


Hugo Münsterberg

The photoplay: a psychological study (1916). Relates film and the central nervous system. Psychotechnology: describes the science of the soul as an experimental setup.

Afterimages and stroboscopic effects necessary but not enough > the creation of movement and life from the pictures on the screen. Assembles reality from psychological mechanism, film plays through what attention, memory, imagination and memory perform as unconscious acts. Film instantiates the neurological flow of data.



Henri Bergson

Creative evolution (1907): “We take snapshots, as it were, of the passing reality”, which – once it is “recomposed… artificially, “ like a film – yields the illusion of movement” (160).

Neurology and technological correlatives

1. Attention: Facts defined by their signal-to-noise ratio. “The close-up has objectified in our world of perception our mental act of attention” (162).

Béla Balázs

The cinematic montage > renders unconscious processes visually; the rhythm of montage reproduces the original speed of the process of association.

Trick-film, fantasy and dream

“Every dream becomes real”. How the camera can create magic, reverse action, turn flowers into girls.

> an imaginary beyond our direct sense of reality.

(today easily found in numerous music-videos).


Lacan’s theory
????

Media technologically differentiation



The real or even ‘knowledge’ as an impossibility. The imaginary as an optical trick . Materializing the imaginary?

“You are infinitely more than you can imagine, subjects of gadgets and instruments of all kinds – ranging from the microscope to radio and television – that will become elements of your being” (170).

The separation of the three dimensions of media (real, imaginary and symbolic?) separated in a technologically pure way.


> Media links

The distinct data flows of optics, acoustics and writing reunited. “The central nervous system was resurrected but as a Golem made of Golems” (170).

> Lacan’s seminars on connecting the real, the symbolic and the imaginary.

> The Internet as a relevant example?


The silent film

Technological handicaps as aesthetics. Resistance to the sound film in theories. “defensive measures against the approaching media links” (172).






Typewriter


Inverts gender

The convergence of a profession, a machine and a sex.

Inverted the gender of writing > inverts the material basis of literature.

Women as readers (but not writers) in the Guntenberg Galaxy. Writing is a job for men.


Typescript

Mechanising writing



Desexualising writing. Writing merely as word processing.

Requires redefined values. ‘Writing-machine’ as an impossible term in the age of Goethe.



Discourses in the age of Goethe

Authority and authorship, handwriting and re-reading, the narcissism of creation and reader obedience. ???

The collapse of this system required for writing-machines to develop.



De-spiritualization of the I and the I think?

The spirit and the ‘I think’ and the unity of apperception. The centre of Man. This had to be collapsed and was collapsed with the body and soul becoming the objects of scientific experiments. Psychophysics and psychotechnology > Nietzsche’s ‘humans are perhaps only thinking, writing, and speaking machines.’ (188).

Mechanical language

Language as a feedback loop of mechanical relays (pov. Brain physiology) > typewriter; the writing machine. The body and soul first had to be objects for research > the mechanical body.

Writing instruments with the speed of nervous pathways.



War context

Kittler again returns to the significance of war: Typwriting as a by-product of the American civil war.

“The typewriter became a discursive machine-gun” (‘191).



> women secretaries

Typewriters developed a profession of women secretaries. Near exponential growth in women typists. “Women were allowed to reign over text processing all by themselves. Since then, ‘discourse has been secondary’ and desexualised” (195).

Martin Heidegger on the hand and the typewriter

The relationship among Being, Man and typwriter.

The word is degraded to a mere means of communication (as opposed to what previously?). “(…) when writing was withdrawn from the origin of its essence, i.e., from the hand, and was transferred to the machine, a transformation occurred in the relation of Being to man” (1999). The typewriter changes the modern relation of the hand to writing (to the word, to the unconcealedness of Being).



Nietzsche

First to use a typewriter due to his near-blindness.

Writing technology changes our way of thoughts. Like with N’s change to aphorisms, telegram-style writing, puns. Made Nietzsche into a laconic.



Malling Hansen’s skrivekugle

Made to compensate for physiological deficiencies and to increase writing speed.

> McLuhan: fuses composition and publication.



Ecriture automatique

Nietzsche: “The eyes no longer have to do their work” (202).

De-masculinized

Mechanic writing refuses the phallocentrism of pens and quills. Feminization.

Lou von Salomé

Replaced his writing ball.

Nietzsche’s philosophy implemented the desexualization of writing and the university. ???



On the Genealogy of Morals


> aiming toward the creation of machine memory.

Presupposes the typwriter

“To make forgetful animals into human beings, a blind force strikes that dismembers and inscribes their bodies in the real, until pain itself brings forth a memory” (210).

Communication technologies forms humans.

??? Difficult pages


Literary desk couples

8 case studies to illustrate how women became important as typewriters. To strengthen the argument of the feminisation of writing.

> Make room for the woman author. Whereas women earlier had to be anonymous and use pseudonyms.

A desexualized writing profession > empowers the domain of text processing.

The Kafka and Felice Bauer story:



The effect of technology on writing

Also illustrated by a citation from T.S. Eliot: “that I am sloughing off all my long sentences which I used to dote upon” (229).

A new discourse?

With reference to Foucault’s methodological explanation.

“Singular and spatialized, material and standardized, stockpiles of signs indeed undermine so-called Man with his intentions and the so-called world with its meaning” (Kittler 229).

Alters the relationship of Being to Man (Heidegger and his student Foucault).


Carl Schmitt: “Die Buribunken” (1918)

The world history of inscription, “ein geschictsphilosophischer Versuch”. Buribunks: diary-typing machines.

> modern loop of endless replication.

“the desire to record every second of one’s existence for history, to immortalize oneself” [-> Lyotard].

Ferker. Be your own history, be accessible to your biographer.

Schnekke: “Auf einer Ebene, wo das in eine dinghafte Du-Welt sich projizierende Ich mit gewaltigem Rhytmus in das Welt-Ich zurückströmt, ist in der absoluten Hingabe aller Kräfte an das innerste Selbst und seine Identität die höchste Harmonie errungen” (Schmitt: 100).

Schnekke lives for, in and through his diary.



The Buribunkic cosmos

A collective organism of diaries.

The pertinent registry of diary-entries. Unlimited and infinitely understanding tolerance.



The outsiders

Outside of all discourse, no attention. Nonentities. “As if swallowed from the earth, nobody knows them anymore, nobody mentions them in their diaries, they are neither seen nor heard” (240).

Here it is almost impossible not to use blogs to think with.



The philosophy of Buribunks

“Iche denke, also bin ich; ich rede, also bin ich; ich schreibe, also bin ich; ich publiziere, also bin ich” (Schmitt: 103).

We understand ourselves as writing subjects. Writing history as history writes us.



The media system development

Kittler divides the history of media system into three parts:

1: American Civil War >: storage technologies for acoustics, optics and scripts: film, gramophone, typewriter.

2: WWI>: electric transmission technologies for each storage content:

3: WWII>: transferred the schematic of a typewriter to a technology of predictability.



Digitalization

All media back to basics.

From continuity to bits.



Kittler proposes that Turing’s machine, the computer, finally automate intelligent thinking? (As with the eye and the ear previously?).








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