This essay traces the advances in time axis manipulation brought about by the media switches from symbolic mediation (alphabet) to analogue recording (phonography and cinematography) and digital processing (computers). Special emphasis is on the mathematical dimension of the final stage. The Fourier transform enables the conversion of sound events into periodicities with numerical values that can then be manipulated and converted back into sound events, even if there was no original source involved. The media access frequencies and operate at speeds beyond all human thresholds. Kittler argues that the resulting ability to subvert and simulate human perception is the very definition of technical media.
Real Time Analysis, Time Axis Manipulation
Friedrich Kittler (1943–2011) studied German, philosophy, and romance studies at the University of Freiburg. He completed his PhD in 1976 and his habilitation, “Discourse Networks,” in 1984. He was professor of German at the Ruhr University in Bochum (1987–93) and subsequently appointed the chair in media aesthetics and history at the Humboldt University in Berlin (1993–2008). The key representative of German media theory, Kittler was at the forefront of the German reception of French poststructuralism and is now considered one of the most important media theorists. His studies range from the early Greek vowel alphabet to computer hardware. Several of his books have been widely translated, including Discourse Networks 1800/1900 (1985); Gramophone, Film, Typewriter (1986); and Optical Media (1999).