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The entelechies of media: Formal and material causality in media ecology

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Examining Marshall McLuhan’s idiosyncratic adoption of the Aristotelian concept of formal cause, this article contends that McLuhan’s emphasis upon form, and his refusal to engage with the question of materiality, traps his theory within a hylomorphic schema that considers mediation only in terms of its effects upon an audience, thus failing to take into account the configurational attributes of hardware itself. Comparing McLuhan’s media theory to that of Friedrich Kittler, it is argued that the latter offers a valuable rejoinder to such formalism, allowing us to properly consider both the formal and material qualities of media in the digital age.
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Keywords: Friedrich Kittler; Marshall McLuhan; audiences; form; materiality; media archaeology

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: The University of Melbourne

Publication date: 01 December 2014

More about this publication?
  • EME explores the relationships between media, technology, symbolic form, communication, consciousness, and culture. Its scope is interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary. Media ecology provides a rich philosophical, historical and practical context for studying our increasingly technological and mediated society and culture with an emphasis on historical context.
    Media ecology scholarship emphasizes a humanistic approach to understanding media, communication, and technology, with special emphasis on the ways in which we have been and continue to be shaped and influenced by our inventions and innovation. The Media ecology approach is predicated on understanding that media, symbols, and technologies play a leading role in human affairs, and function as largely invisible environments affecting the way we think, feel, act, and organize ourselves collectively.
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