Cultural techniques

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From the German term Kulturtechniken, which may be rendered in English as cultural techniques, cultural technologies, cultural technics, or culturing techniques.

Kulturtechniken is a concept linked to developments in Germanophone media theory in the previous decade (2000s). Emerging in the late 19th century in the domain of agricultural engineering, the notion of cultural techniques was later employed to describe the interactions between humans and media, and, most recently, to "account for basic operations and differentiations that give rise to an array of conceptual and ontological entities which are said to constitute culture." As Geoffrey Winthrop-Young further argues in a thematic issue of Theory, Culture & Society, "cultural techniques [..] transcend the confines of literary studies, media theory and cultural studies and enter the domain of philosophy and anthropology." (2013: 5)

The concept is often explained through a now canonical passage by cultural historian Thomas Macho:

"Cultural techniques – such as writing, reading, painting, counting, making music – are always older than the concepts that are generated from them. People wrote long before they conceptualized writing or alphabets; millennia passed before pictures and statues gave rise to the concept of the image; and until today, people sing or make music without knowing anything about tones or musical notation systems. Counting, too, is older than the notion of numbers. To be sure, most cultures counted or performed certain mathematical operations; but they did not necessarily derive from this a concept of number." (Macho, 2003: 179)

The introduction of the concept into media theory is intertwined with the work of Friedrich Kittler and the Hermann von Helmholtz-Zentrum für Kulturtechnik, an interdisciplinary academic institute founded in 1999 by eight professors from Berlin universities. The following years saw numerous, largely German publications, notably in the special book series of major humanities publishers (Wilhelm Fink, diaphanes). An English volume on cultural techniques is forthcoming from Fordham University Press.

Key terms[edit]

colere, culture, Cultur, Kultur, techné, technique, Technik





Book series[edit]

Jochen Brüning, Eberhard Knobloch (eds.), Die mathematischen Wurzeln der Kultur, 2005, PDF, JPG.
Wolfgang Ernst, Friedrich Kittler (eds.), Die Geburt des Vokalalphabets aus dem Geist der Poesie, 2006, PDF, JPG.
Kulturtechnik (Fink) [2]
Daidalia - Studien und Materialien zur Geschichte und Theorie der Kulturtechniken (diaphanes) [13]

Edited by Bernhard Siegert and Daniel Gethmann.

  • Hubert Damisch, Der Ursprung der Perspektive: Perspektive als Kulturtechnik und als Denkmodell, Zürich: diaphanes, 2010, 448 pp. ISBN 978-3-03734-087-5. Translated from the French by Heinz Jatho. [14] (German)
  • Antonia von Schöning, Die Administration der Dinge. Technik und Imagination im Paris des 19. Jahrhunderts, Zürich: diaphanes, 2018, 304 pp. ISBN 978-3-03580-050-0. [15] (German)
  • Harun Maye, Blättern/Zapping. Studien zur Kulturtechnik der Stellenlektüre seit dem 18. Jahrhundert, Zürich: diaphanes, 2019, 400 pp. ISBN 978-3-03734-951-9. [16] (German)
  • Daniel Gethmann, Feld: Modelle, Begriffe und architektonische Raumkonzepte, Zürich: diaphanes, 2020, 328 pp. ISBN 978-3-03580-213-9. [17] (German)

More books[edit]

  • Jürgen Barkhoff, Hartmut Böhme, Jeanne Riou (eds.), Netzwerke: Eine Kulturtechnik der Moderne, Cologne/Weimar/Vienna: Böhlau, 2004. [18] (German)
  • Carolin Meister, Legenden. Zur Sichtbarkeit der Bildbeschreibung, Zürich: diaphanes, 2005, 224 pp. ISBN 978-3-935300-96-4. [19] (German)
  • Sebastian Gießmann, Netze und Netzwerke. Archäologie einer Kulturtechnik, 1740-1840, Bielefeld: transcript, 2006, 114 pp. ISBN 978-3899424386. (German)
  • Tobias Nanz, Bernhard Siegert (eds.), ex machina. Beiträge zur Geschichte der Kulturtechniken, Weimar: VDG, 2006, 321 pp. [20] (German)
  • Christian Holtorf, Claus Pias (eds.), Escape!: Computerspiele als Kulturtechnik, Cologne: Böhlau, 2007. TOC. (German)
  • Daniel Gethmann, Susanne Hauser (eds.), Kulturtechnik Entwerfen. Praktiken, Konzepte und Medien in Architektur und Design Science, Bielefeld: transcript, 2009. Introduction. (German)
  • Ulrike Bergermann et al (eds.), Das Planetarische: Kultur-Technik-Medien im postglobalen Zeitalter, Munich: Fink, 2010. (German)
  • Tobias Nanz, Grenzverkehr. Eine Mediengeschichte der Diplomatie, Zürich: diaphanes, 2010, 224 pp. ISBN 978-3-03734-105-6. [21] (German)
  • Tobias Nanz, Armin Schäfer (eds.), Kulturtechniken des Barock, Berlin: Kadmos, 2013, 245 pp. ISBN 978-3-86599-184-3. [22] (German)
  • Gert Hasenhütl, Politik und Poetik des Entwerfens. Kulturtechnik der Handzeichnung, Vienna, 2013. (German)
  • Bernhard Siegert, Cultural Techniques: Grids, Filters, Doors, and Other Articulations of the Real, trans. Geoffrey Winthrop-Young, Fordham University Press, 2014, 288 pp. Reviews: Geoghegan (Paragraph), Young (NMS). (English)
  • Liam Cole Young, List Cultures: Knowledge and Poetics from Mesopotamia to BuzzFeed, Amsterdam University Press, 2017. Open Access. (English)
  • List of books on IKKM Weimar, List of books on GTK Weimar.

Journal issues and Special sections[edit]

Zeitschrift für Medien- und Kulturforschung 1: Kulturtechnik, 2010, Log.
Theory, Culture & Society 30(6), Special Issue: Cultural Techniques, 2013, Log.
  • Zeitschrift für Medien- und Kulturforschung 1: "Kulturtechnik", eds. Lorenz Engell and Bernhard Siegert, Hamburg: Felix Meiner, 2010. [23] (German)
    • Lorenz Engell, Bernhard Siegert, "Editorial", pp 5–9.
    • Erhard Schüttpelz, "Körpertechniken", pp 101–120.
    • Harun Maye, "Was ist eine Kulturtechnik?", pp 121–136.
    • Wolfgang Schäffner, "Elemente architektonischer Medien", pp 137–149.
    • Bernhard Siegert, "Türen. Zur Materialität des Symbolischen", pp 151–170.
    • Cornelia Vismann, "Kulturtechniken und Souveränität", pp 171–181.
    • Manfred Schneider, "Die Hand und die Technik. Eine Fundamentalcheirologie", pp 183–200.
    • Susan Leigh Star, "Residual Categories: Silence, Absence and Being an Other", pp 201–219.

Book chapters, Papers, Articles, Interviews[edit]

Primary references[edit]

Kulturtechnik as agricultural engineering
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Dunckelberg, 2 Vols., Encyclopädie und Methodologie der Culturtechnik. Zum Gebrauch an landwirthschaftlichen und technischen Lehranstalten, Braunschweig: Bieweg, 1883. (German)
  • Emil Perels, Abhandlungen über Kulturtechnik, Jena, 1889. (German)
  • Christian August Vogler, Grundlehren der Kulturtechnik, 2 Vols., Berlin, 1898. The book counts chemistry, mineralogy, botany, mechanics, hydraulics, economics, water management, manufacturing, and law among the constituents of Kulturtechnik. (German)
Philosophy of technology and Media anthropology
  • Marcell Mauss, "Les techniques du corps", Journal de Psychologie 32:3-4 (Mar-Apr 1936), pp 271-293; repr. in Mauss, Sociologie et anthropologie, 1950; 1973. Paper presented at the Société de Psychologie, 17 May 1934. [29] [30] (French)
  • Martin Heidegger, "Die Frage nach der Technik", in Die Künste im technischen Zeitalter. Dritte Folge des Jahrbuchs Gestalt und Gedanke, ed. Bayerischen Akademie der Schönen Kunste, Munich: Oldenbourg, 1954, pp 70-108; reprinted in Heidegger, Vorträge und Aufsätze, Pfullingen: Günther Neske, 1954, pp 9-40; reprinted in Heidegger, Die Technik und die Kehre, Pfullingen: Günther Neske, 1962, pp 5-36 ("Die Kehre" appears there on 37-47); reprinted in Heidegger, Gesamtausgabe: I. Abt. Bd. 7: Vorträge und Aufsätze, Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 2000, pp 5-36 ("Das Ding" appears there on pp 165-187). (German) In the 1962 book, the following prefatory note appears regarding two essays, "Die Frage nach der Technik" [The Question Concerning Technology] and "Die Kehre" [The Turning]: "Under the title 'Insight into That Which Is', the author gave, on 1 December 1949, in the Club at Bremen, four lectures, which were repeated without alterations on 25-26 March 1950 at Bühlerhöhe. The titles were 'Das Ding' [The Thing], 'Das Gestell' [En­framing], 'Die Gefahr' [The Danger], 'Die Kehre' [The Turning]. The first lecture was given in an expanded version on 6 June 1950, before the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts. The second lecture was given on 18 November 1955, also in an expanded version, under the title 'The Question Concerning Tech­nology' in the series entitled The Arts in the Technological Age. The present volume repeats this text unaltered. The third lecture remains still unpublished. The fourth lecture, 'The Turning', is published here for the first time according to the first unaltered version."
  • André Leroi-Gourhan, Le geste et la parole: Technique et langage & La mémoire et les rythmes, 2 vols., Paris: Albin Michel, 1964-65. (French)
Kulturtechnik in elementary pedagogy
  • Angela Fritz, Alexandra Suess, Lesen: Die Bedeutung der Kulturtechnik Lesen für den Gesellschaftlichen Kommunikationsprozess, Konstanz: Universitats Verlag, 1986, 180 pp. ISBN 387940299X. (German)

See also[edit]