Can we think of media models as techniques and technologies of thought? What would a media theory of thinking look like? In what ways can media technologies be said to model our thought? And is it possible to think outside or beyond the media models that are available to us?
My dissertation, tentatively titled Techniques and Technologies of Thought: A Short History of Media Models, will have as its focus an often-overlooked aspect of human thought: the ability to mentally extrapolate an abstract model from a tangible cultural technique in order to apply that model to a different domain. I call this process the production of a ‘media model.’ By media models I mean the ways in which, in conjunction to the development of new technologies and cultural techniques, we register the coming into being of new theoretical constructions (religious, mythological or scientific — depending on the contexts in question) that follow the same model. By setting forth the notion of media model my work will explore a wide range of cultural techniques and media operations in relation to corresponding theories of the human. I have two main goals for this work. The first goal is to map out some of the most relevant correspondences between models underlying technical innovations and models underlying coeval theoretical frameworks. The second goal is to sketch out a theory of media models that will prove useful across different disciplinary contexts, ranging from the study of ancient civilizations to media philosophical investigations of our contemporary media landscape.
Emilio Vavarella is an artist and PhD candidate in Film and Visual Studies and Critical Media Practice at Harvard University.