18 marzo, 2009

Call for Papers: DFG Symposion in Media Studies

Call for Papers:  DFG Symposion in Media Studies
Date: 21.-24.September 2009
Location: 'Kutschstall im Haus der Brandenburgisch-Preußischen 
14467 Potsdam, Schlossstrasse 12, Germany

Topic: Media programs and the program of media

In 2009, the first in an open-ended series of Symposia in Media 
Studies organized at the behest of the DFG, the Deutsche 
Forschungsgesellschaft (German national society for scientific 
research), will be held in Potsdam. In the coming years, Symposia in 
Media Studies will be held every second year. The idea of the Symposia 
is to foster the develompent of Media Studies (Medienwissenschaft) in 
Germany as part of the humanities through a debate about key issues in 
current and future research.

Participants are required to:

- hand in an abstract for a contribution to one of the four thematic 
sections listed below (1 page) by March 31, 2009.
- submit the written manuscript of their contribution (no more than 30 
pages) by June 30, 2009.
- act as respondents to one of the other contributions to the Symposion
- participate in discussions for the duration of the Symposion
- Further questions, as well as paper proposals, should be addressed 
to: Prof. Dr. Joachim Paech (Jopaech@aol.com)

Correspondence address:

Prof. Dr. Dieter Mersch
Universität Potsdam
Institut für Künste und Medien
Am Neuen Palais 10
14469 Potsdam
Tel: 0331 977 4160
mailto: dmersch@uni-potsdam.de

The first Symposion in Media Studies will addresss the topic of Media 
Programs. The concept of program opens up a variety of productive 
avenues for approaches to the concept of media itself. Traditionally, 
programs have been understood as structures, patterns or forms of 
temporal and discursive ordering in the arts and the mass media. 
Programming situates media devices between symbolic and technical 
registers. Anything that can be organized and articulated in a force 
field of medium and form may be called programmable. We have now 
reached a point where even live forms seem programmable, requiring an 
approach to questions of program and programming that addresses issues 
of gender and power along with issues of medium, form and technology. 
Accordingly, the concept of program may be seen as programmatic for 
media studies in general, a platform for a continuous reassessment of 
the discipline in its relationship to the arts as well as other 
disciplines in- and outside of the humanities.

Dividing the rich and field of connections between program and medium 
into four major areas of inquiry, the Symposion proposes a two-day 
schedule of four panels with four contributions per panel. The opening 
night will be dedicated to a commented musical performance. In 
addition, the Symposion will be accompanied by a thematic exhibition 
of programs and artefacts relating to questions of programming in the 
domain of music, curated by Elena Ungeheuer.

Section 1: Programs (Reponsible: Joachim Paech, Konstanz)

Section 1 focuses on programs as devices for announcing and 
structuring religious, political, artistic and mass-mediated events. 
Time and again, chiliastic expectations and political promises have 
been laid down in the form of programs. Programs articulate claims to 
power. Mechanically programmed production processes provide a model 
for marketing programs such as catalogs and other forms of inventory. 
Artists use programs to differentiate their work, museums present art 
in the form of programs and programmatic catalogs. Transitory art 
forms such as theater, film and music vitally depend on programs for 
their presentation. Mass media distribute content through programs 
that identify genres and formats and create patterns that help 
audiences identify their content of coice. In fact, mass media depend 
on programs so much that it is hard to imagine such media without 
programs. Thus, radio and television appear in temporal sequences of 
various forms of output, while printe programs make broadcast programs 
accessible by transferring the temporal sequence into the spatial 
layout of the printed schedule. The task of program schedules is to 
reduce the improbability for a specific program to find ist audience 
and to increase the probability that the reception and consumption of 
a program at a given place and a given time actually takes place. In 
that persepctive, programs are transformations or, to borrow Luhmann's 
definition of the term, "media" with specific operational tasks in the 
process of mediated communication. The history of programs is largely 
written by and with an eye to specific institutions (churches, 
politicl parties, coroporations, groups of artists, etc.). Programs 
thus raise a complex set of questions: How do programs organize socio-
cultural processes that in turn produce new programs? How do - 
religious, political, artistic and mass media - programs structure 
events that only become readable and perceptible as events through 
programs? How have programs evolved over time in specific artistic and 
mass media contexts? Is the program of Modernity a media program, and 
how does the program in modernity affect, and inform, isues of gender? 
Insystematic perspective this section focuses on approaches that study 
the relationship between program and medium with an eye to the 
question of  how media "program" the forms in which they appear, i.e. 
whether through an articulation of independent elements in the sense 
of Luhmann, or otherwise.

Section 2: What is programming? (responsible: Hartmut Winkler, 

Programming, understood as an activity, first brings to mind the 
computer. People tell computers what to do. Computing presupposes 
programming. But do programs necessarily have to be written by humans? 
Programming always already involves programs, and some programs act on 
their own. It is no coincidence that some types of computer programs 
are called "software agents". But if programs are symbolic constructs, 
how can we analyzes them in terms of their "performance"?

But it is not jus the software, but the technological basis, the 
hardware, that raises some fundamenal issues. Taking the "Berlin key" 
as his example, Bruno Latour showed that material objects presuppose 
and induce specific patterns of actions. Should technology best be 
understood as a form of programming, then? Do material objects 
determine patterns of use? If so, technological hardware would 
actually be proramming the user rather than the other way around. And 
how do we account for the unforeseen consequences of technology and 
its uses? How does programming relate to intention and factual outome?

More generally, the question of programming raises the question of 
agency and of the validity of theoretical models of social action and 
competence. How can we discuss programming in terms of power? How 
powerful is the programmer? It is no coincidence that computer 
programs always take the form of imperatives. Program and execution 
are separate areas. Cybernetics as a discipline or a field makes 
claims of "control" and "steering" even through its title. Does the 
question of programming imply a return of the old logic of maser and 
servant, of intellectual and physical labor? But then again, agency 
appears to be distributed and even dispersed between humans and 

And finally, expanding the view to include other media: Are programs 
in media other than the computer necessarily related to specific roles 
and assignments in terms of agency? Are there counter-programs that 
question and undermine the power claims related to, and implied in, 

And finally it seems as if programming did not necessarily require 
consciousness and planning. Are there unconscious forms of 
"programming", such as convention and habit? Are genes a form of 
programming? Are humans programmed by their instincts? If so, how? Is 
programming a metaphor for biological processes, or is there a 
litteral sense to the application of "programming" to "nature"? And 
how do the semiotic and technical devices of programming feed back 
into the unconscious registers of programming?

Section 3: What can be programmed? (responsible: Lorenz Engell, Weimar)

"Only worlds that we can foresee can be programmed. Only worlds that 
can be programmed can be construed and inhabited in a humane 
fashion." (Max Bense, 1969)

Today, we can probably no longer wholeheartedly subscirbe to Max 
Benses decisive statement, and the wording of the phrase certainly 
raises questions. Despite all the current talk about the "programm of 
life", any direct identification of the "humane" with the 
"programmable" would raise significant objections. But the 
idenditifaction of "programmable" and "foreseeable" seems equally 
questionable, if not out of date. We have long reach a state where 
computer programs systematically generate unforseen outcomes that 
transcend the framework of structured necessity. And finally we should 
not neglect the fact that constructing and programming are two 
substantially different ways of world-making, as different as ruse is 
from knowledge. Rather than being identical, they intersect and, 
perhaps, complement each other. But the deeper meaning of Bense's 
statement lies in its value as a polemical document. Bense's statement 
reminds us that, at one point in history, programming was a heroic 
mode of defense against a wild, unforeseeable, uncontrollable and 
inhumane world, a world that needed to be brought under control, much 
as, or so Bense continues, the metaphorical needed to be brought under 
the control of mathematics and the problematic under the control of 
the systematic.

But whatever became of this wild world and Bense's heroic gesture of 
defense in the last fourty-plus years? We can no longer easily 
determine the boundaries of the programmable. For some time now, for 
instance, the systematic, the inhabitable world, and the program of 
intelligence have themselves become the problem, and metaphors now 
emerge from mathematics rather than being reigned in by mathematics. 
The unforeseeable and the inhumane have long become programmable. 
Experiments in programmed creativity make it to museums as easily as 
artefacts that keep on insisting on the resilience and the very 
materiality of the material. Even in politics and the economy, in 
pleasure and love, we tend to carefully delineate and preserve, as if 
we did not know better, residual spheres of non-programmable emergence 
and contingency. The concept of the game has become the very essence 
of the program. But if that is true what, then, is the specific 
status, technologically, ontologically, and aesthetically, of the 
programmable? What does the programmable diverge from, how and in 
relation to what does it unfold?

Or have we reached a stage where we can no longer define the 
programmable by delineating its outer reaches? If so, the world of the 
programmable could only be analyzed in terms of its internal 
structures and elements, as a juxataposition and opposition of 
different competing programs whose interaction and mutual production 
would form a kind of immanent outside of the programmable within the 
world of the program itself. What kind of a world would this be?

But then again, we can try to understand programming as a form of 
ordering in a double sense. What we need to study, then, are orderings 
of orderings, or rather of orders that have to be followed, that 
generate consequences and thus create linear time and feedback.  The 
key to an understanding of the programmable, then, would be 
temporality and temporalization, and the programmable would find its 
boundary in that which resists temporalization, the fleeting instant 
and the eternal. Accordingly, we would need to contrast program and 
project and study their relationship. Spatial orderings could appear 
to be forms of programs, of programming behavior and movement, but 
they would still function as supplements, or complements, to the 

But then, the reverse is possible, too: Only programs are 
programmable. Only that which already has the form of a program before 
being programmed can be programmed. If programs function as forms, 
i.e. as articulations of independent events, then programs depend on 
media in and through which they articulate a chain of events. But 
then, media have always already pre-structured these events, however 
loosely. Accordingly, media and programs may be differenciated, but 
they can still be seamlessly converted into each other. If so, the 
perparatory production of programmability would constitute the key 
function of media. The programmable would be nothing less than 
mediality itself, and vice versa.

Section 4: The Research Program of Media Studies [Medienwissenschaft] 
(responsible: John Durham Peters (Department of Communication 
Studies), University of Iowa, USA)

Media Studies has a long past but a short history, as Ebbinghaus 
supposedly once said of psychology.  Precipitously coming together in 
the late twentieth century, the academic field of media studies has 
been fiercely interdisciplinary in its ambitions and voracious in its 
interdisciplinary borrowings.  For some of its practitioners, media 
studies is not just one among many competing fields: it is a new meta-
field that promises to engulf and govern several older fields by 
bringing together the natural and the social sciences, the humanities 
and the fine arts, mathematics and philosophy.  On some campuses 
around the world, departments of media studies recreate the 
intellectual and disciplinary diversity once found across several 
faculties.  If media are indeed fundamental to political and cognitive 
order, then media studies endorses a vision of history, culture, and 
society that promises to rewrite our understanding of the past, 
present, and future.

The last thing to be secured in a science is its foundation, quipped 
Alfred North Whitehead, and media studies has reached a point in which 
it needs to shore up and secure its intellectual resources and 
disciplinary identity.  This section proposes to make a critical 
inventory of the traditions and opportunities as well as pitfalls 
found in the new blossoming of media studies.  To what extent is there 
a canon of media studies?  What are its central methods and 
questions?  What is the legitimacy of the practice of rereading older 
authors and texts, retroactively baptizing them as media scholars?  To 
what degree are different traditions of scholarship ripe for 
interdisciplinary dialogue with media studies?  To what degree can 
media studies in the German language exist apart from its strong 
philological method and philosophical inheritance?  To what degree may 
we incorporate diverse intellectual traditions into the ambit of media 
studies-such as German idealism, psychoanalysis, American pragmatism, 
the Frankfurter Schule, Canadian political economy, art history, the 
sociology of media and Publizistik, Foucaultian archaeology, feminist 
and critical race analysis, etc.?  To what degree is the intellectual 
heritage of media studies a wish-list or fantasy of noble ancestors?  
What principles can help produce a useable past for media studies that 
is equal to the ambition and intellectual excitement of the field?

Some specific areas for consideration:

Classics: orality and literacy, the Homer problem,
Comparative religion: ritual practice as cosmological media
History: the record and its transmission as a media problem
Literature: the seedbed of modern media studies
Law: inscription, filing, and documentation practices
Mathematics: paper-machines as the context of mathematical production
Medicine: the body as fundamental datum of media studies
Music: performance, notation, and reproduction
Theology: "media salutis"