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The Unwritten History of Cold War Media Theory, Vol. 26 - 2019, No. 4

Guest Edited by Hannu Nieminen and Arvind Rajagopal

Philological Scripts in Cold War Media Theory

, pages: 375-390

The question of the scripts that preceded the theorisation of “media” in Cold War era West Germany has often been discussed in terms of the emergence of a novel philosophy of technology since the interwar period. The high-minded humanism of Dilthey's and Gadamer's “hermeneutics”—human minds at full capacity, in dialogue—was forced to admit that the crude material sites of textuality added and warped meanings. A reckoning with the technological advancements of the World Wars and the Cold War as their continuation is often credited with triggering this intellectual shift. One problem with this account is the simplistic construction of the supposedly superseded position. A less complacent historical examination would reveal that hermeneutics, when it was raised to philosophical dignity, was actually a cover for a fragile position. Nineteenth-century philology, as a field marked, in the period, by the rapid expansion of orientalist research, had crucially unsettled previous understandings of linguistic meaning. This unsettling resulted in notions that informed the historicised ontology, and other patterns of discourse, that continue to recur even in recent media theories. The article identifies some of these patterns and, using Friedrich Kittler and Günther Anders as case studies, tracks some of their manifestations.

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