Humanist Discussion Group

Humanist Archives: Aug. 19, 2022, 7:35 a.m. Humanist 36.131 - Existential Media

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 36, No. 131.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                      Hosted by DH-Cologne
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    [1]    From: Charles Ess <>
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 36.130: pubs: Existential Media (151)

    [2]    From: James Rovira <>
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 36.130: pubs: Existential Media (28)

        Date: 2022-08-19 06:16:54+00:00
        From: Charles Ess <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 36.130: pubs: Existential Media

Dear Willard,

just to say that your intuitions are spot on.

I have much to say about the importance of this work, starting with how
it represents an extraordinary and vital synthesis of existential
approaches (in some ways as old as the Epic of Gilgamesh) with our lived
experiences within an enveloping media environment, in which we find
ourselves confronting "existential uncertainty, vulnerability as well as
potential fecundity" (as highlighted in Jaspers' notion of existenz).

To be sure, Amanda Lagerkvist builds on primary foundations in media
studies, such as John Durham Peters _The Marvelous Clouds: Toward a
Philosophy of Elemental Media (University of Chicago Press, 2015). And
while a few others have worked to bring existential approaches to bear
on contemporary technologies and the mediated lifeworlds those of us in
so-called developed countries find ourselves more or less fully
entrapped in (e.g., Hubert Dreyfus using Kierkegaard as well as
phenomenology more generally in the early 2000s) - no one to my
knowledge has developed such deeply informed, coherent and comprehensive
approaches and frameworks as Amanda Lagerkvist.

These frameworks and approaches are, hence, exceptionally rich in their
empirical grounding (e.g., the experiences of grief as mediated online)
and philosophical sources and insight. The resulting syntheses are
significant on several levels, starting with contributions to our
methods in philosophy _and_ media studies - specifically, what
Lagerkvist has developed as an existential media studies.

But most importantly, in my view - and like the existentialists
Lagerkvist draws from - this is above all a _practical_ book that helps
us confront in deeply _lived_ ways our mortality in a techno-cultural
environment that often seeks to seduce us with dreams of
computer-mediated immortality (e.g., Kurzweil & Co.). In good measure
thanks to the multiple experiences of Lagerkvists' research informants
as well as related research, the book further charts out multiple paths
through our engagements as mortals within these media environments.
This means that the book ultimately provides hope along with creative
and fruitful ways forward for how we might create and discern meaning as
part of thriving and good lives in contemporary media worlds.
It is, in short, an existential guide for the perplexed in 21st century
media environments. Much needed and to be recommended without reservation.

But, in the name of full disclosure: I've been an advisor on two
projects that Amanda Lagerkvist has led as PI since 2014 or so: these
have been the primary contexts and engagements that have now culminated
in the book. Hence occasionally the work reflects some of my own views
as well.

So, to quote Leonard Cohen: don't listen to me. Listen rather to Nick
Couldry and Zizi Papacharissi, pre-eminent scholars and voices in
contemporary media studies:

"Amanda Lagerkvist, an established scholar of media, memory and global
urban landscapes, in this book breaks radical new ground, both for
herself and for the whole field of media and communications research.
Reflecting deeply not just on the inheritance of existentialist
philosophy, but on the contemporary crises of climate change,
datafication and the global pandemic, Lagerkvist's writing is fresh,
precise and impassioned: this book urgently needs to be read." - Nick
Couldry, London School of Economics and Political Science

"We live through media and always have. Yet rarely do scholars take the
courageous and risky approach of Lagerkvist in explaining what media do
to how we understand our own existence. If Sartre were to write about
existentialism today, this is how he would write — or rather, he might
wish HE had written this. A deep and original account of how we through
media, come closer to and push away from the limits of human existence."
- Zizi Papacharissi, University of Illinois-Chicago

Many thanks for bringing this to our attention. I certainly encourage
humanists - digital and otherwise - to devote good time and reflection
to this book. They will be deeply rewarded.

All best,
- charles ess
Professor Emeritus
University of Oslo

3rd edition of Digital Media Ethics now available:

On 18/08/2022 10:03, Humanist wrote:
>                Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 36, No. 130.
>          Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
>                        Hosted by DH-Cologne
>                  Submit to:
>          Date: 2022-08-18 07:55:10+00:00
>          From: Willard McCarty <>
>          Subject: new book
> Let me cautiously recommend what looks at first glance to be an
> important new book: Amanda Lagerkvist, Existential Media: A Media Theory
> of the Limit Situation (Oxford, 2022).
> This from the OUP website:
>> Tied to the profundity of life and death, media are and have always
>> been existential. Yet, as they are deeply embedded in the lifeworld
>> on both individual and global scales, they currently capitalize on
>> human existence seemingly without limit, while being mythologized as
>> boundless harbingers of the future and as solutions to the
>> predicaments of a world now poised on the edge. In this situation it
>> is imperative to move beyond either the habitual or the sublime, to
>> recognize that media are in fact of limits—situated both in the
>> middle of our lives and at the limit they constitute the building
>> blocks and brinks of being.
>> In order to remedy the existential deficit in the field, in
>> Existential Media Amanda Lagerkvist revisits existential philosophy
>> through a reappreciation of Karl Jaspers philosophy, and of his
>> concept of the limit situation: those ultimate moments in life—of
>> loss, crisis and guilt—which we are called upon to seize. Introducing
>> the field of existential media studies in conversation with
>> disability studies, the new materialism and the environmental
>> humanities, the book offers a media theory of the limit situation
>> which brings limits, in all their shapes and forms, onto the radar
>> when we interrogate media. Lagerkvist argues that the present age of
>> deep techno-cultural saturation, and of escalating calamitous and
>> interrelated crises, is a digital limit situation, in which there are
>> profound stakes which heighten existential uncertainty, vulnerability
>> as well as potential fecundity. Placing the mourner—the coexister—at
>> the center of media studies, by entering into the slow fields of
>> mourning, commemorating and speaking to the dead in the online
>> environment, she brings out that existential media ambivalently offer
>> metric parameters, caring lifelines and transcendent experiences
>> which ultimately display post-interactive modes of being digital in
>> slowness, silence and waiting. The book ultimately calls forth a
>> different ethos which powerfully challenges ideals of limitlessness,
>> quantification and speed, and seeks out alternate intellectual and
>> ethical coordinates for reclaiming, imagining and anticipating a
>> responsible future with existential media.
> Comments welcome, of course.
> Yours,
> WM
> --
> Willard McCarty,
> Professor emeritus, King's College London;
> Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews;  Humanist

        Date: 2022-08-18 12:31:38+00:00
        From: James Rovira <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 36.130: pubs: Existential Media

I think anything that reminds us of limits in our humanity, technology, and
media is a good thing. But I think the modifier "existential" is misplaced
by being put before "media": the media itself is not existential. The
acting and thinking subject is being encouraged to consider media
existentially. This is a quibble, of course: it seems like the point is to
place the subject at the center of media studies rather than the media, as
any existential work should do. But since it appears in the title, it's a
quibble worth mentioning.

I do some parallel conceptualizing in *Women in Rock/Women in
Romanticism (forthcoming October 2022, Routledge). In chapter 1, 
I describe the line starting with Beethoven's Fifth that extends through 
Hoffmann to Schopenhauer, then consider all of that in the light of British 
Romanticism and late 20th century women rock musicians. I do so to define 
Romanticism in a way that extends to the 20th century and that enfolds rock 
music and women's experiences. I believe that I demonstrate that these three 
-- Romanticism, music, and women -- are indeed deeply bound together, 
culturally and conceptually, in a way that extends to the present.

One idea I emphasize is that Romanticism -- which by the way I think,
through Kierkegaard, is the father and mother of existentialism -- is an
impulse or feeling experienced by the subject, not a quality of the object.
So when Hoffmann describes his reaction to Beethoven's Fifth, he's not
necessarily making a stable, communicable, or necessarily significant
comment about the qualities of the work itself. The Romantic element is the
experience. The emphasis is reoriented to the subject.

Jim R

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