The Mediocene

An international conference organized by the Internationales Kolleg für Kulturtechnikforschung und Medienphilosophie Weimar (IKKM)

May 31–June 2, 2017, Festsaal im Goethehaus, Weimar, Germany

The concept of the Mediocene, which this conference seeks to introduce and elaborate on, sees media and medial processes as epoch-making. As a determining force, they leave their permanent imprint on the world, affecting animate and inanimate nature alike – human existence, technology, society and the arts as well as the shape, organization and history of the global habitat itself.
According to the thesis of the Anthropocene, which has been subject of controversial debates for the past years, the history of the earth has recently been under the impact of the human species, dominating the planet’s living conditions from atmosphere to geology by its actions and particularly by its technology. The concept of the Mediocene decenters the anthropocentric implication of the Anthropocene, directing the focus away from the human as the exceptional agency and towards a primordial agency of mediality. The Mediocene takes the notion of media-ecology, which has become so popular in recent times, to a deeper level. Life itself is short-circuited with the evolution of technical beings. Moreover, technical operations like signaling and data processing techniques such as copying, messaging, intercepting, cutting up, doubling, etc., seem to constitute an essential part of what is called “life”. The mode of existence within the Mediocene is a hybrid mode consisting of a recursive entanglement of ontology and epistemology. It thus takes into account the “ontographic” situation - which is itself part of the Mediocene - that the description of what is cannot be separated from that which is described. It pays tribute to the mediocenic insight that existence is and has always been a hybrid mix of being and technology.
A key factor in the formation of the Mediocene is the emergence of global media systems. Not only have they changed life on earth but they have also created an idea of the global in the first place, which, in turn, affects the globe itself, for instance with regard to economic practices. The discovery of electromagnetism and the covering of the globe with cable networks for telegraphy, telephony and worldwide computer communication have led to a globalized economic trade and a global exploitation of resources. Moreover, this process has induced a synchronization of almost all cultures and collectives on the planet, which, together with a worldwide collectivization and interdependence of cultural and natural processes, has been further extended by means of communication via radio waves, satellites and global positioning systems. Other examples are our further advances into outer space and the increasing interaction of the Earth with other celestial bodies. This expansion is particularly evidenced by the dense satellite belt around the globe, in which satellite technology opens up a medial habitat for communication, navigation, and meteorology, as well as the entertainment industry. Moreover, biological circumstances can be modeled as media effects, for instance when the insertion of artificial substances such as plastic into the earth’s cycle of materials leads to alterations of species as well as to modifications of their biotopes. In the Mediocene, medial processes also have a significant impact on human evolution – “human enhancement” and genetic modification being the most controversially discussed indicators.
This conference invites participants to reflect on the concept of the Mediocene and its various possible spheres by asking: What is the reciprocal relationship of nature and culture under media conditions? What part do media, medial practices, operations and processes play in the dissolution of the nature/culture dichotomy in the Mediocene? How can human existence, embedded in processes of communication and interaction, be described in the Mediocene? How does it relate to the non-human agents of nature, art and technology? How can a “sociology of the medial” be developed, which not only accounts for the necessary sociality of media, but which also expresses the mediality of the social? If we have always lived in the Mediocene, why and based on which media conditions do we only recognize this now? Is the digitization of all vital processes to be considered as an epochal change, a condition of knowledge, or just a phase within the Mediocene? How and by what means can the history of the Mediocene be written and rewritten? In what way might it affect (academic) knowledge itself?
The thesis of the Mediocene thus bases the questions of the conditions of existence on the planet on a relational and operational foundation. It calls for a renegotiation and a reconceptualization of the relationship of media, technology and nature, as well as of the place of the human and human life in relation to media and mediality.

Homepage of the Mediocene