Notes for Friedrich Kittler Optical Media



Kittler diverges from culture studies based media studies by invoking requirement of understanding design; at the same time, he later reaches (in 2008 Code) a resigned position suggesting avoidance.

(32) The only thing that remains is to take the concept of media from there – in a step also beyond McLuhan – to where it is most at home: the field of physics in general and telecommunications in particular.
(32) Second, the consequence of employing the media concept of telecommunications is that media studies cannot be limited solely to the study of media that (to be brief and clear) have a public, civilian, peaceful, democratic, and paying audience.

Permissible to talk about technical details as long as dealing with early instances on account of their manageable complexity; how does this mesh with multiple generations of technologies, where for instance we do want to talk about object oriented design, but must therefore tarry in very advanced versus original electronic computing machinery: the good old dilemma at the heart of the philosophy of computing that has been the subject of my thoughts for years.

Include technical knowledge in literary studies bordering history of science and technology with sensitivity to level of complexity.

(33) I will therefore focus on the history of technology and will not exclude comments on patent specifications if only, at the very least, to convey a certain know-how. . . . For didactic reasons, it is advisable to present solutions to complicated technical problems at the moment they first emerged, as they are therefore in a condition where they are still easily comprehensible and apperceptible basic circuits, which the inventors themselves must first convert from everyday language into sketches of technical plans, so to speak. In contrast, a television appliance in its contemporary, practically finished form has been through so many development teams and laboratories that it is impossible for anyone to account for all of its individual parts any more.

How does media provide models and metaphors for smell, or is that why we lack knowledge of it?

(34) First, technology and the body: the naked thesis, to place it immediately up front, would read as follows: we knew nothing about our senses until media provided models and metaphors.
(34) And lo and behold: a definition of the soul was immediately offered by the wax slate, that
tabula rasa upon which the Greeks etched their notes and correspondence with their slate pencils.

The easy reach is that today the it is a computer, as souls and everything else converges digitally.

(35) In any case, it is evident: in 1900, the soul suddenly stopped being a memory in the form of wax slates or books, as Plato describes it; rather, it was technically advanced and transformed into a motion picture.
(36) In other words, technical media are models of the so-called human precisely because they were developed strategically to override the senses.

Illusions of art versus simulations of technical media an important thesis for texts and technology studies: would Hayles agree with this point even though she disagrees with what Kittler does with it?

(38) The thesis would thus be that traditional arts, which were crafts according to the Greek concept, only produced illusions or fictions, but not simulations like technical media. Everything that was style or code in the arts registered a distinction that is quite the opposite of technical standards.

Blame Virilio for Kittler focus on war steering all things.

(41-42) In other words, the concept of information itself has a military, strategic component. . . . French architecture and military theorist Paul Virilio has made this point quite clearly, especially in the case of optical media.

Just as identity of senders and receivers irrelevant (humans, gods, technical devices, how about animals), Shannons generic treatment of media, and therefore also of all media content, from holy writings to philosophy to pornography to encoded sound recording to program source code.

(44) According to the mathematical theory of communication, it is completely unimportant what kinds of entities serve as data sources that transmit a message and data sinks that receive a message, which has humans or gods or technical devices.
(46) What one sees in the end is therefore only the outer onion skin of an entire series of conjuring tricks that must first be invented, calculated, and optimized, and Shannon drew up formulas for precisely these calculations, which can be applied to absolutely all technical media in general.

2.1 Camera Obscura and Linear Perspective
2.1.1 Prehistory

The organization of this book, like Wittgenstein, lends itself to CSS formalization of heading styles, OHCO favorable.

Ontology influenced by popular culture practices, what will become media technologies: wax writing slate, camera obscura onward.

(49) Because moving images could not be stored in his own time, Plato equated the immortal and therefore self-storing soul with a wax writing slate, the medium of his own philosophy.
(60) The answer, which resolves all three of these questions at the same time, is that Brunelleschi employed a camera obscura. He was therefore the missing link between Roger Bacon in the fourteenth century and Leonardo da Vinci in the sixteenth.
(61) But the painters of the Quattrocento and the following centuries were very frequently ordered to paint what did not exist: God, saints, and the beauty of earthly rulers. The simple question for Brunelleschi's successors, therefore, was how to take the geometrical automatism of the
camera obscura and transfer it to other media.


3.2.4 Sound Film

Credit Wagner for darkening auditorium and noise-like music: by technological principle of continuous, seamless transition from one dominant technology to another, for example from light bulb to CRT to LCD, made possible through designed compatibilities (for example, sharing common protocol definitions in /etc/services from TCP/IPv4 through HTTP, HTML, XML, and so on, and common languages like C, C++, Perl, PHP, shell).

(190-191) Wagner not only invented the darkening of the auditorium, but also a kind of music that was itself noise. . . . In a word: World War I transformed Edison's simple light bulb into the electron tube, which made the live musical accompaniment of [this technical wonder] silent films obsolete. I am interested in the historical development of this technical wonder because the tube allowed for the possibility of synchronized film soundtracks and television up to the present day. It was not replaced until the development of contemporary LCD displays and other semiconductor technologies.

Kittler sees inevitable submersion of human being into machine operation; see GFT and Code for other allusions to this technological determinism depicting the type of operations possible to thought (machinic and human) as another unknown known we can learn.

(191-192) He [Ferdinand Braun] deflected the electron beam inside the tube with electromagnets, which were in turn attached to general alternating voltage of the Strasbourg power grid, and sent it to a phosphorescent screen. The controlled beam – the last and most precise variant of the actively armed eye – the inscribed the visible graphic sine wave of an alternating power supply on the screen. Braun had invented the oscilloscope. . . . You will notice that the television played back equations rather than film characters when it first began with Ferdinand Braun. It will possibly do so again at the end.

Electronic control by Braun tube leading to triode, artificial of Greek of technology: consider thyristor.

(192) Braun's tube was not crucial for film and radio technology, however, but rather another tube variant: the so-called triode. . . . Two inputs were needed along with a general ground return, and it was therefore called a triode or three-way in the artificial Greek of technology. . . control. . . . Thus, the electron tube first decoupled the concept of power from that of physical effort. . . . negative feedback can be generated by leading the output signal, which for physical reasons is always delayed for fractions of a microsecond, back to the control circuit. . . . In other words, it becomes a high-frequency transmitter, which must then only be couple with a low-frequency amplifying tube in order to send radio or television signals.