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Critical Terms for Media Studies

Communications, philosophy, film and video, digital culture: media studies straddles an astounding array of fields and disciplines and produces a vocabulary that is in equal parts rigorous and intuitive. Critical Terms for Media Studies defines, and at times, redefines, what this new and hybrid area aims to do, illuminating the key concepts behind its liveliest debates and most dynamic topics.

Part of a larger conversation that engages culture, technology, and politics, this exciting collection of essays explores our most critical language for dealing with the qualities and modes of contemporary media. Edited by two outstanding scholars in the field, W. J. T. Mitchell and Mark B. N. Hansen, the volume features works by a team of distinguished contributors. These essays, commissioned expressly for this volume, are organized into three interrelated groups: “Aesthetics” engages with terms that describe sensory experiences and judgments, “Technology” offers entry into a broad array of technological concepts, and “Society” opens up language describing the systems that allow a medium to function.

A compelling reference work for the twenty-first century and the media that form our experience within it, Critical Terms for Media Studies will engage and deepen any reader’s knowledge of one of our most important new fields.


“This volume of articles was far more than merely a reflection on a field of study. It was rather a strong statement about what that field could and should be, and a guide to how it might develop and what forms it might take.”

Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory

Critical Terms for Media Studies offers not simply a collection of critical terms, but a paradigm-shifting rethinking of the field itself. It represents an extremely important approach to media in the twenty-first century, one that will become increasingly relevant as the ubiquity of new media and new technologies make the questions it raises more and more pressing. The book is a definitive and defining statement about the future shape and direction of media studies.”

Charlie Gere, author of Digital Culture and Head of the Department of Media, Film, and Cultural Studies at Lancaster University

Table of Contents

Introduction W. J. T. Mitchell and Mark B. N. Hansen


1. Art Johanna Drucker

2. Body Bernadette Wegenstein

3. Image W. J. T. Mitchell

4. Materiality Bill Brown

5. Memory Bernard Stiegler, with an introduction by Mark B. N. Hansen

6. Senses Caroline Jones

7. Time and Space W. J. T. Mitchell and Mark B. N. Hansen


8. Biomedia Eugene Thacker

9. Communication Bruce Clarke

10. Cybernetics N. Katherine Hayles

11. Information Bruce Clarke

12. New Media Mark B. N. Hansen

13. Hardware/Software/Wetware Geoffrey Winthrop-Young

14. Technology John Johnston


15. Exchange David Graeber

16. Language Cary Wolfe

17. Law Peter Goodrich

18. Mass Media John Durham Peters

19. Networks Alexander R. Galloway

20. Systems David Wellbery

21. Writing Lydia H. Liu



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