Erhard Schüttpelz Ehem. Senior Fellow

Oktober 2008 - März 2009

Research project

Cold Cultural Technologies

Schüttpelz’s research project at the IKKM addresses the “cold” realms of cultural technologies, that is, those technologies for which a history of technical progress or history of constant accumulation cannot be written and loses its validity in a cultural comparison. The project will therefore first address such technologies for which an accumulating history recedes in favour of a history of irregularly exact contingency: body technologies, ritual technologies, trance technologies, and related technologies. Second, the intention is to develop the “cold” realms by means of a theoretical dimension, which will be tantamount to a revision of common anthropological presumptions. The scope of "cold" contingency is often assessed as being smaller or as more homogeneous or as less arbitrary, which then comes down to an anthropological (or even biologically grounded) homogenization. By contrast, experts in cultural comparison tend, in their scientific practice, towards the heuristic view that the scope of “cold“ contingency is greater or, in other words, more arbitrary than that of “accumulating” technologies. In support of this view, there is also the historical argument that an “accumulating” history has a certain necessity for generating path dependencies that restrict the scope of subsequent decisions, while the “cold” technologies (as already formulated by Lévi-Strauss) occur again and again with the same creative force, which fluctuates between centuries-old refinement and rapid oblivion. (For example, the cave paintings of Lascaux, which an older prehistorical view regarded as an evolutionary stage in European and global creativity, have been demonstrated to be without predecessors and without successors, i.e. they have no place for modern prehistory in an accumulating history and in a European or global evolution of art, but are a striking example of the creativity of the ”cold“ realms of visualization technologies). The aim is to develop these reflections within a media-theoretical question: how can the relationship between ”hot“ (accumulating) and ”cold“ (non-accumulating) technologies be defined, and – a possible consequence – has a large part of what we call ”media“ ultimately come less from accumulating inventions than from compromises between the two realms of technologies?