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Tristan Theilmann Finding the Way over the North Atlantic Ridge German Theory and American Practice of Geomedia

Since we have been interacting with a gigantic, global, disorganized but incessantly expanding mass of “born-digital” data and cultural content in the last decade, German media theory has lost its inter national supremacy. Is it impossible to track the profound structural change from “New Media” to “More Media” with traditional methods of media and cultural analysis? Or, did German media studies miss the ongoing reconstitution, namely two complementary drives that are currently determining the fields of research at the international level - on the one hand, the social and cultural practices acting on their media and, on the other, the media acting on their practices? In fact, German media studies has not performed a praxeological turn yet. Instead, most researchers are still caught in a “Kittler cave,” while all other disciplines are increasingly investigating medial or mediatized phenomena, with highly differentiated connections between place and cyberspace at center stage. Thus, social sciences like science and technology studies (STS) or geography are developing new praxeological methods for analysis and historicization in order to grasp the cultural effects of the digitalized presence and the constantly fluctuating character of digital artefacts. Furthermore, German media studies has refused to diagnose a spatial turn within its discipline. Even if time-axis manipulation is only possible when there is an occupation of place first, new media have been associated with a growing sense of dislocation over a long period of time. However, contrary to the assumption of an erosion of a “sense of place,” Anglo-American phenome nological studies on mobile media practices show a trend toward re-enacting the importance of place as a geo-imaginary and socio-cultural precept. Thus, to talk about global and mobile media today necessitates the discussion of locality. While geography tries to characterize the mixing of code, data, and physical place as “DigiPlace” or “cyber place,” cultural and media studies refer to “location-based media” or “locative media.” However, the interweaving of both “location-based/locative media” and “cyber/digital places” is underway. A suitable umbrella term for both areas is “geomedia, or, as a discipline whose history is constituted in Germany, “media geography.” Given its transport-scientific tradition, the geography of media can be traced back as far as the found ing father of scientific geography, Carl Ritter, who was thinking about the spatial effects of telegraphy very early on. Ritter derives from his essay “Ueber das historische Element in der geographischen Wissenschaft (1833)” the requirement for medial changes to cartographic spatial descriptions, “for example, through several transparent globular disks that slide across each other and can be moved back and forth.” Media geography, such as it is more than 150 years later, seems to have moved sub stantially closer to this research aim. Google Earth or Google Maps exemplifies a version of this strategy, using one media format as an interface to another. In this case, a map serves as an interface to a media collection. However, German media studies need to import a theory of media practice that has been further developed in an international context. As such, actor-network theory constitutes a theoretical framework for media geography and space-biased media studies, as it tends to conceptualize places prior to the network of heterogeneous agents. It reveals itself to be a suitable heuristic for the subject area of geomedia as, on one hand, the actor-media theory permits the sketching of locative media as a kind of manifestation of what Bruno Latour means by the “Internet of Things”—by geotagging objects instead of people and having these objects tell us their stories, locative media create an awareness of the genealogy of actants and agen cies. On the other hand, the actor-network theory puts us in a position whereby mediated localities can be described as if there were nothing more in the territory than what is on the map—or, more concisely, using the words of November, Camacho-Hübner, and Latour (2010): “the territory is the map.” Geomedia seems to reconfigure our understanding of mapping in the manner that the mimetic interpretation of maps recedes behind the navigational use of digital maps and globes. Once the mapping impulse is reinterpreted in the navigational way, there is no projection of a territory or of a Euclidian space any more. With the digital ubiquity of mapping, we are entering a new “Transatlantic territory,” bearing in mind that there is nothing in the notion of territory that is not in the medium.