Sociology and Media Theory
The photographer’s architect – on the relationship between the photographs of Lucien Hervé and the architecture of Le Corbusier
Tutors: Prof. Martin Liebscher, Prof. Marc Ries
Ubiquity – constituting space in the context of information and communications technologies
Tutors: Prof. Marc Ries
Seen as a sort of hybrid, the two disciplines sociology and media theory are taught together. The hypothesis is that questions relating to social and media theory are reflected in each other, becoming more specific in the analysis of subject matter that is reciprocally relevant. The creation of social matters, of society, can be appreciated through certain constructions and experiences of the evident nature of sensory, aesthetic and medial realities. And the media forms of logic that serve as the apparatus become comprehensible first and foremost with regard to certain processes of social transformation. It is expected at all times that medial and social experiences are continued in and as a study program in a conceptual experience – as its necessary correspondence in analysis. Design practices and (their) theories are not understood as different or hierarchical in relation to one another, but as mutually dependent. In other words: Thought is what the designs, the aesthetic content and its form, and the theories, the conceptual content and its form, have in common. What we aim to do is find and portray its points of culmination.
1. Starting from particular widespread phenomena and methods of the mass media (such as the ubiquitous studio room, the portrait picture reinvented for the new media, the new and expanding narrative practiced in TV series and online forums) and of society (living, institutions, policies of affect) these individual cases will be examined in a kind of “parallel action” (Musil): A phenomenon and technique analysis is conducted on them and is introduced in powerful theories, which are related to specific characteristics of the cases. In terms of method this approach can be regarded as the formulation of speculative symmetries between empiricism/experience and theory/thought, which turn to the creation of a theoretical power of association on the part of those participating.
The range of integrated theories is open. Years of addressing media theory have demonstrated that this reveals a highly parasitic structure and that only in direct relation to other disciplines does it begin to represent a forceful element in an academic sense. For this reason it is necessary to take into account an extensive mixture of theories relating to the humanities and social and cultural sciences. Furthermore, in its short life span sociology has become divided into different, in some cases competing schools and currents, the exact perception and intellectual appropriation of which make the social body seem all the more attractive.
In seminars the potential that medial and social phenomena have for aesthetic and semantic expression is portrayed on an equal footing with the reception of theory, a merely illustrative, exemplary projection is avoided, concentration on the primarily sensory perception of the medialities and phenomenalities in each case promoted.
2. The method used for analyzing the media differentiates between the inherent logic of the phenomenon/medium in question, its mediality (i.e. the method of working peculiar to the medium, which is also capable of inducing singular medial phenomena), the system and power logic, which, starting from the state, the economy, latches on to the medial inherent logic and attempts to use it for its own purposes, and the logic of desire, those forms of desire spectators and users of the media create and know how to apply directly to medial inherent logic. This model can be used to transfer media phenomena in their frequently complex historical differentiation and application to theoretical landscapes, which in turn themselves favor this model.
3. Based on this structure, the compulsory basic-course seminar is a problem-oriented introduction to the history and systems of the theories of civil society and its media. The optional compulsory subject on the basic courses varies its topics in line with current crisis-ridden, confusing developments and concentrates on a theory segment. The seminar on the advanced courses is dedicated in each case to a field of research and radicalizes the abovementioned “speculative symmetries” into unprotected and hence open, experimental zones.
In the context of an art university the continual depiction of one’s own “lived” research seems meaningful, so as to enable analogies to artistic, creative research for those involved. The seminar comprises lecture segments, exchange of experiences, and debates. Breaking down the classic seminar and lecture structure in favor of a process-oriented portrayal of the topics divided into the analysis of “things”, images, and music, joint readings of text, inspiring contributions, self-questioning of the participants, and debates is an important concern. The aim is to open up to students different ways of thinking about a phenomenon, promoting the desire to try out contradictory forms of argumentation and to initiate the experience of a questioning “theoretical curiosity”. In addition, society and mass media are intended to be communicated as “material and a source of inspiration, as a field of social imagination and willful aesthetic transformations” (Niebuhr) in the creative environment of HfG Offenbach.