Media Subjects: How Does Media Address the Individual?

Princeton-Weimar Summer School for Media Studies

German Department (Princeton University)
Internationales Kolleg für Kulturtechnikforschung und Medienphilosophie
(Bauhaus-Universität Weimar)

Princeton, NJ, June 14–20, 2020
Unfortunately, this year's summer school had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Princeton-Weimar Summer School for Media Studies – a collaboration between Bauhaus-Universität Weimar (Internationales Kolleg für Kulturtechnikforschung und Medienphilosophie, IKKM) and Princeton University (German Department) – returns to Princeton in 2020 for its tenth installment. The 2020 session will be devoted to re-considerations of the ways media addresses, formats, and brings about “media subjects.” How do new media phenomena require a reworking of older paradigms of the relationship between media and subjects? Might they suggest new paradigms altogether?

The 2020 Princeton-Weimar Summer School for Media Studies – which will be directed by Nikolaus Wegmann (Princeton) and Bernhard Siegert (Weimar) – will attempt to trade old against new conceptualizations of what can be called “media subjects”. We invite applications from outstanding doctoral students throughout the world in media studies and related fields such as film studies, literary studies, philosophy, art history, architecture, sociology, politics, the history of science and visual culture.

Katharina Rein, Moritz Hiller (Weimar), Austen Hinkley (Princeton) Please submit all inquiries to:

Annual Topic

The relationship between media and subject has long been approached with a critical attitude. Cultural critique (Kulturkritik) has understood media as endangering the sovereignty of the subject and causing its alienation. Foucauldian approaches to media studies have disputed the tacit assumption in Critical Theory of an a-historical subject, which was alienated from its authentic core of experience. By contrast, Foucauldian approaches understood the very formation of the subject through analyses of power and its technologies. These analyses of media have since been seen as an alternative to earlier models of humanistic thinking. Accordingly, media has often displaced the subject as the central term in theories of subjectivity.

The lasting impact of such critical approaches shows how relevant they still are. But from the advent of the personal computer, the rise of the internet, and the democratization of digital media, to the expansion of global networks of surveillance and marketing, to 21st century technologies like smartphones and other “smart” devices, the landscape of media has transformed radically since Foucault first published Discipline and Punish in 1975. It is possible that many of these new phenomena can be subsumed under older approaches to the study of media. They may even offer ways to rethink or update older approaches. But newer phenomena in the history of media may also give rise to new approaches to the study of media altogether. Such renegotiations can not only change our understanding of contemporary media, but also inform studies of a more historical nature as well.

How do new media phenomena require a reworking of older paradigms of the relationship between media and subjectivity? Might they suggest new paradigms altogether – like for instance media-ecology, or media-anthropology? How might such phenomena suggest renewed approaches to more historical media phenomena? Or can studies of historical media change how we understand contemporary phenomena? Phenomena that raise such questions could include but are not limited to:

● Digital self-documentation, “life logging,” blogging, and digital diaries
● Algorithms, quantification, and sharing of data; new paradigms of surveillance (e.g. consumer profiles, face recognition), the marriage of surveillance and the market
● The gig economy, the mediation and atomization of work relations
● The “smart home” and other “smart” devices, the penetration of media into everyday objects, the “internet of things”
● The navigation of virtual space, discourses of architecture and urban planning applied to digital media
● The idea of the “user”; user friendliness or unfriendliness; users as opposed to readers, viewers, etc.
● The database as a model for the organization of knowledge; the dehistoricization of the subject through media
● Gendered, gendering, or dis-gendering media
● Empowerment and disempowerment through social media, media as spaces of liberation or imprisonment
● Blockchain as promise of a peer-to-peer network of transactions or as neoliberal-anarchic media of bio-power
● Online anonymity versus “clout” and “influence”; memes, irony, trolling
● Media addiction and flight from media

The Princeton in Weimar 2020 Media Summer School invites proposals that account for such contemporary phenomena in their approaches to understanding the relationship between media and subject.