Communication, Technology, Temporality

  • Mark A. Martinez (University of Minnesota - Twin Cities)


This paper proposes a media studies that foregrounds technological objects as communicative and historical agents. Specifically, I take the digital computer as a powerful catalyst of crises in communication theories and certain key features of modernity. Finally, the computer is the motor of “New Media” which is at once a set of technologies, a historical epoch, and a field of knowledge. As such the computer shapes “the new” and “the future” as History pushes its origins further in the past and its convergent quality pushes its future as a predominate medium. As treatment of information and interface suggest, communication theories observe computers, and technologies generally, for the mediated languages they either afford or foreclose to us. My project describes the figures information and interface for the different ways they can be thought of as aspects of communication. I treat information not as semantic meaning, formal or discursive language, but rather as a physical organism. Similarly an interface is not a relationship between a screen and a human visual intelligence, but is instead a reciprocal, affective and physical process of contact. I illustrate that historically there have been conceptions of information and interface complimentary to mine, fleeting as they have been in the face of a dominant temporality of mediation. I begin with a theoretically informed approach to media history, and extend it to a new theory of communication. In doing so I discuss a model of time common to popular, scientific, and critical conceptions of media technologies especially in theories of computer technology. This is a predominate model with particular rules of temporal change and causality for thinking about mediation, and limits the conditions of possibility for knowledge production about communication. I suggest a new model of time as integral to any event of observation and analysis, and that human mediation does not exhaust the possibilities within this temporality.

In attempting to think past a merely human scale of time, my project interfaces with other non-totalizing, anti-anthropocentric philosophies, but begins from modernist and humanist understandings of temporality as opposed to subjectivity. Methodologically, my theory of temporality provides a shift in historical narrative, one that eschews famous inventors, threads of technological or epistemological progress, or other teleological constructions. Epistemologically, this temporality indicates that mediation is an event that occurs among various types of organisms of multiple temporalities. This allows precise interrogation of human notions inflected with time: duration, suspension, desire, fear, and imagination.

Ethically, scaling time beyond the human gives a novel form of alterity articulated as the different ways in which we use time to capture the other within theories of communication and history.

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Keywords: Historiography, Philosophy, Nonhuman

How to Cite:

Martinez, M. A., (2012) “Communication, Technology, Temporality”, communication +1 1(1). doi:

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Published on
29 Aug 2012
Peer Reviewed