• "The World as Medium: A Whiteheadian Media Philosophy"

    Andrew Murphie (see profile)
    Philosophy, Digital media
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    Alfred North Whitehead, media change, algorithms, Media theory, New media
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    Contemporary media and world are often finding what seem to be strange continuities and overlaps. Direct, exploitable and constantly inventive continuities between media and world are now the rule, not the exception. Indeed, the overlap sometimes seems almost total. Yet I will suggest that what looks strange in such assemblages has always been the case. As Whitehead points out, the continuities are there because the entire world has always been a medium. At the same time, it is true that there are significant differences in the way that contemporary media capitalize on this. First, they possess more technical power to work within the entire world as medium. Second, they are premised on a kind of self-awareness of this media-world overlap. They increasingly diagram media/world relations in acceptance of world as medium and media as world. The chapter begins by discussing a worm-optogenetics-VR assemblage is an emblematic contemporary media assemblage. It has a degree of “self-awareness” about the power of the potential for feeling in making the world. Unhappily though, in this the worm-optogenics-VR assemblage provides a perfect technical diagram for contemporary control. It is a big step up from Bentham’s (Foucault’s) Panopticon toward a more effective society of control, or perhaps a step up again from that. It is at the same time “non-invasive” and invasive in the extreme. Whitehead’s simple idea—the world as medium— is the concern of the rest of this chapter. The idea of the world as medium gives a different, in many ways more effective way of grasping the situation that produces such dystopian events and of the politics that this involves. Luckily, however, it is an idea that is not restricted to dystopian instances such as the worms with which I have begun. There are many more positive examples of the contemporary realignment of media with the world as medium.
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    Last Updated:
    3 years ago


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