Beyond Germany: German Media Theory in a Global Context
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When: 05/23/2019
10:00 AM
Where: Goethe Institut
1990 K st. NW (entrance 20th street)
Washington, District of Columbia 
United States
Contact: Wolfgang Suetzl

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23 May; 8:30 - 17:00

Attendees are responsible for their own transportation. Easily accessible by Metro.

Metro stations near the Goethe Institute would be Farragut North and Farragut West. 

OrganizersAndreas Ströhl, Wolfgang Suetzl, Bernhard Debatin

Division/Interest Group Affiliation(s)Philosophy Theory and Critique Division and Intercultural Communication Division

DescriptionBeyond Germany: German Media Theory in a Global Context  Pre-conference proposal for the 2019 ICA annual conference, Washington, D.C. Sponsored by the Goethe Institute, Washington, D.C., and Ohio University Just as “French Theory” became a catchphrase (and the source of controversy) in American critical theory in the 1980s, “German media theory” has come to signify a specific way of understanding and theorizing the media that draws on a rich heritage of continental literary studies and philosophy. Over the past decade, German media studies—Medienwissenschaft— has experienced a rapid growth. Currently, more than fifty media studies programs are being offered at German universities. This growth has been accompanied by reflective enquiries regarding specific methodological and philosophical identity, including the question, “what’s German about German media theory?” asked by philosopher Claus Pias in his 2015 essay. Is there a German Sonderweg, others asked, a way of studying the media that is particular to German-speaking theorists?  As part of this development, the relationship between a German approach to media studies, and approaches more common in North America and the Anglophone parts of the world, has been studied in greater detail. The history of German intellectual emigration to America from the 1930s on, in many cases forced by the Nazi persecution of Jewish and Marxist writers, stood at the outset of a complex and fecund intellectual exchange. While German-speaking émigrés such Paul Lazarsfeld and Edward Bernays had a significant impact on the evolution of American mass communication scholarship, the exiled Frankfurt School scholars, having witnessed the Nazi use of the mass media for propaganda, were developing a radical criticism of media as technologies of power: Adorno’s culture industry and Günther Anders’ criticism of television are cases in point. They were at the basis of a widespread media pessimism among Germans, who today retain a more cautious and skeptical approach to social and emerging media, as well as placing a greater importance on privacy protection.  Today, names such as media studies pioneer Friedrich Kittler, or contemporary scholars such as Siegfried Zielinski or Sybille Krämer still stand for a way of doing pursuing an approach to media studies that continues to engage with literary studies and philosophy, and considers itself distinct from mass communication studies, and more as a discursive strategy than a discipline (Pias). But the boundaries around “German” are no longer a simple matter of language and nationality. Many works of theorists writing in German and/or working in Germany are available in translation in dozens of languages, including Chinese, Portuguese, Korean, Japanese, Russian, etc., These writings have become easily accessible to scholars beyond the established transatlantic trading route of ideas. Other German-language theorists, for instance, Vilém Flusser in the 1980s and currently, Byung-Chul Han, have completely done away with of the adjective “German,” pluralizing it and making its meaning a matter of translation theory and cultural hybridity.  Against this background, this conference invites international communication scholars to offer perspectives on the ways in which German-language media theories have communicated beyond the boundaries of both Germany and North America.  How is German media theory being read, adopted, and translated by scholars in other parts of the world? How is this translational context influencing whatever “Germanness” remains in German media theory? What is the significance of such theorizing in the context of transnational theory debates? What is the contribution of a German way of media studies in a critical understanding of emerging media and of current issues in social media, artificial intelligence, etc.? What kind of contributions to media ethics and policy making are emerging from such a transcultural and translational view on German media theory?  We invite all scholars with an interest in these and related questions to submit their contributions for this one-day pre-conference, held at the Goethe Institute, Washtington, D.C. Conference organizers: Andreas Ströhl, Goethe Institute; Wolfgang Suetzl, School of Media Arts & Studies, Ohio U, Bernhard Debatin, Scripps School of Journalism, Ohio U