Tweaking Enzenberger

September 10, 2008

In his “Constituents of a Theory of the Media,” in The Consciousness Industry (1974), Hans Magnus Enzenberger describes a new media (“satellites, color television, cable relay television, casettes, videotape, videotape recorders, video-phones, stereophony, laser techniques, electrostatic reproduction processes, electronic high-speed printing, composing and learning machines, microfiches with electronic access, printing by radio, time-sharing computers, data banks”), and proposes the necessary constituents for a revolution within and using these nifty new tools. What does he tell us that could be of use to our new media revolution (or lack thereof)? What are we missing? What didn’t we learn the last time around?

Enzenberger sees a political and corporate landscape bent on controlling communication through censorship, denial of education, and community.

The development from a mere distribution medium to a communication medium is technically not a problem. It is consciously prevented for understandable political reasons. (97)

Quarantine regulations for information, such as was promulgated by fascism and Stalinism, are only possible today at the cost of deliberate industrial regression. (99)

The question is not whether the media are manipulated, but who manipulates them. A revolutionary plan should not require the manipulators to disappear: on the contrary, it must make everyone a manipulator. (104)

The new media…make it possible for the first time to record historical material so that it can be reproduced at will. By making this material available for present-day purposes, they make it obvious to anyone using it that the writing of history is always manipulation. (106)

Any socialist strategy for the media must strive to end the isolation of the individual participants from the social learning and production processes…The question is why these means of production do not show up at factories, in schools, in the offices of the bureaucracy…(109)

The electronic media do not owe their irresistible power to any sleight-of-hand but to the elemental power of deep social needs which come through even in the present depraved from of these media. (111)