New Book Announcement: Medium, Messenger, Transmission: An Approach to Media Philosophy by Sybille Krämer



Thank you to Martin Speer for bringing this to my attention and for providing the following text from the book’s Introduction:-

From the Introduction:

“Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan famously argued that the purpose of media studies was to make visible that which normally remains invisible ‒ namely, the effects of media technologies rather than the messages they convey. When he originally proposed this idea in the 1960s McLuhan was widely celebrated as the great prophet of the media age, but in the decades that followed his work gradually fell into disregard. In the 1970s, for example, Raymond Williams claimed that McLuhan’s ideas were ‘ludicrous’ and Hans Magnus Enzensberger dismissed him as a ‘charlatan’ who was ‘incapable of any theoretical construction’ and who wrote with ‘provocative idiocy’.

This tacit dismissal of McLuhan’s ideas was largely accepted until the late twentieth century, when there was renewed interest in his work among several German media theorists, such as Friedrich Kittler and Norbert Bolz. Unlike the critics associated with the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, who primarily focused on the content of media texts and the interpretive work performed by media audiences, these theorists applied epistemological and philosophical questions to the study of media, which was largely inspired by McLuhan’s famous claim that ‘the medium is the message’.

Kittler even argued that ‘[w]ithout this formula…media studies itself would not exist as such in isolation or with any methodological clarity’.

Kittler’s emphasis on the technical aspects of media gradually became fashionable in intellectual circles, and it is now widely known as ‘German media theory’. Some of the concepts and ideas that are common to both Canadian and German media theory include their focus on the materiality of communication, the notion of media as prosthetic technologies or ‘extensions of man’, the concept of media ecology, the impact of media technologies on the formation of subjectivity as well as the military applications of media technologies. Although German media theory has often been criticized for ignoring questions of content and reception and for promoting a kind of technological determinism (as was McLuhan and other critics associated with the Toronto School of Communication Theory), it has also been described as one of Germany’s most signif icant intellectual exports, and despite these criticisms the technical aspects of media have once again become a central issue in the humanities.”

Read the review of this book from Theory Culture & Society at

Book publication details are available here

This rich study provides a comprehensive introduction to media philosophy while offering a new perspective on the concept and function of transmission media in all systems of exchange. Krämer uses the figure of the messenger as a key metaphor, examining a diverse range of transmission events, including the circulation of money, translation of languages, angelic visitations, spread of infectious diseases, and processes of transference and counter-transference that occur during psychoanalysis.

One Response to “New Book Announcement: Medium, Messenger, Transmission: An Approach to Media Philosophy by Sybille Krämer”

  1. 1 Malcolm Dean

    I thought the Medium was the Messenger, and what happened to the Receiver?



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