The terms “post-media”, “Post-Internet” and “post-digital” are popular yet confusing. Despite their similarity, they refer to greatly different, sometimes unrelated notions of “medium” and “media” that have historically coexisted in the arts and the humanities. On top of that, each of them refers to a different concept of “post” and to different traditions in contemporary arts and critical theory. Now that these schools converge, terminology often gets conflated without many people noticing. This lecture will attempt to cut through the mess.


To begin with a personal anecdote: In April 2015, I read an early version of this paper at Universität der Künste Berlin, as a joint lecture with media theoretician Paul Feigelfeld. The evening had been announced under the title “Post-digital […] sucks […]”, which enticed more than 1200 Facebook users to state that they would attend the event. In the end, about 200 people came, yet almost one third of them left the auditorium during our presentations when they realized that we were not really speaking about the currently booming contemporary art phenomenon known as “Post-Internet”.

The confusions are typical, and will likely also affect this publication. Do “post-digital” and “Post-Internet” stand for Hito Steyerl’s question whether the Internet is dead?1 Many of those who refer to Steyerl’s 2013 essay without the question mark, had only read its headline. Actually, Steyerl addressed changed circulation of images and the extension of the ‘Open Access’ principle from digital files to “water, energy, and Dom Pérignon champagne”. Are artists like Trevor Paglen, Laura Poitras, Holly Herndon and Metahaven, who reflect upon military and intelligence service Internet surveillance and collaborate with whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, “post-digital” or “Post-Internet”? Or is “Post-Internet” a contemporary art equivalent of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’s cultural and humanities section with its cultivated hatred against the monster Google? Are “post-digital”, “Post-Internet” and “post-media” artists in alliance with those radical ecologists who predict, in the light of population growth, climate change and financial crises, the near collapse of infrastructures which will sooner or later result in a collapse of the Internet?2

Few artists are radically post-digital in the sense of withdrawing from and boycotting electronic information technology: The British artist Heath Bunting who belonged to the first generation of 1990s net.art, and now teaches workshops for going off the electronic grid and changing one’s identity; the Danish-Faroese musician and performance artist Goodiepal; the French-Dutch artist and zine maker couple Woodstone Kugelblitz that lives and works with a 1920s printing press on a boat.

Heath Bunting began in the early 1990s as a graffiti and street artist who critically manipulated advertising and propaganda. Via setting up a pirate radio station and a self-run dial-up online community for art and hacker culture, he found his way to early net.art. The overcoupling subject of his work is public space, its control through state and corporate actors, and the possibilities to subvert that control. As early as in 1998, Bunting considered the Internet no longer an alternative medium, but a commercialized space that had become threatened by the “financial dictates” of the (then-new) Internet companies like Yahoo as much as, in former times, through the police seizing servers.3 Bunting radically turned towards offline projects in which he and his collaborators disrupted, among others, video surveillance of public spaces and private shops, created a self-organized postal system and removed border marks between countries. Since 2001, Bunting has been teaching workshops in many European countries on climbing and trespassing fences, buildings, monuments and sculptures. In Bunting’s work, appropriation of public space is neither a symbolic gesture, nor an individualized piece of performance art, but a collective act in which the distinction of art and non-art, artist and public is irrelevant.

In 2004, Bunting began his Status Project, a systematic research into all control systems that ordinary citizens are exposed to. For this purpose, Bunting created complex diagrams of the processes and bureaucracies with which identities are determined, for example through the synchronization of private company and state-run databases in the Schengen area of the European Union. On the basis of these analyses, Bunting developed a toolkit of tricks with which everyone can create their new identity and gradually legalize it, starting with phone subscriptions and electricity bills to obtaining a valid passport. Bunting teaches this knowledge in subcultural spaces and art centers. Expecting the near collapse of all capitalist systems including the money system and electronic infrastructures, Bunting - like Goodiepal - radically avoids the use of mobile phones, debit and credit cards and all other common technologies that leave traces in databases.

Despite its name, “Post-Internet” has nothing in common with Bunting’s and Goodiepal’s anti positions. The art under this label mostly reflects a contemporary visual culture shaped by the commercial Internet. In 2014, artist Amalia Ulman reached more than 65,000 followers with performance “Excellences & Perfections” on the social network Instagram. Most of them did not realize that the performance had been staged and took the online narrative for real. Ulman summarizes the plot as follows:

“The provincial girl moves to the big city, wants to be a model, wants money, splits up with her high-school boyfriend, wants to change her lifestyle, enjoys singledom, runs out of money because she doesn’t have a job, because she is too self-absorbed in her narcissism, she starts going on seeking-arrangement dates, gets a sugar daddy, gets depressed, starts doing more drugs, gets a boob job because her sugar daddy makes her feel insecure about her body, and also he pays for it, she goes through a breakdown, redemption takes place, the crazy bitch apologizes, the dumb blonde turns brunette and goes back home. Probably goes to rehab, then she is grounded at her family house.

Ulman tells this story in opulently arranged smartphone photographsimages, with carefully selected costumes, make-up and interiors. Her template was the actual social media communication of women who let themselves support by “sugardaddies”. The artist therefore calls her project a piece of practical research into social status, cultural capital and the supposed authenticity of social media communication.

Why does this pure Internet performance count as “Post-Internet”? Ulman’s work differs from typical net and media art in several ways. The medium she uses is neither “new”, nor does the artist investigate or disrupt its aesthetics and technology. Her staging is not about new, media-specific forms of narration either. Instead, she uses the Internet as a conventional, everyday mass medium, in a highly competent and effective manner. “Excellences & Perfections” can therefore be better compared with Cindy Sherman’s self-portraits than with classical net art. In the 1980s, Sherman reflected the mass media visual culture of her time by appropriating the language of Hollywood films and glamour magazine photography. Today, social media have become the dominant fashion and lifestyle vehicles and therefore provide the appropriate context for Ulman’s storytelling.

The characteristics of Ulman’s work apply more broadly to “Post-Internet” art: Instead of leaving, as its name suggests, the Internet behind, it is quite on the contrary art under the contemporary visual-cultural and attention-economical conditions created by the Internet. Unlike 1970s video art and 1990s net.art, “Post-Internet” art rarely experiments with the configurations of its medium, but takes it as it has been pre-formatted by Google, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr & Co. The “Post” prefix therefore does not denote a historical, but a quotidian “after” the Internet: postcoital instead of postmortem. In 2005, American artist Marisa Olson defined this as follows: “What I make is less art”on" the Internet than it is art “after” the Internet. It’s the yield of my compulsive surfing and downloading. I create performances, songs, photos, texts, or installations directly derived from materials on the Internet or my activity there“.4

In the meantime, “Post-Internet has become a label for a generation of artists that has gained similar art market attention as the Young British Artists in the 1990s and neo-expressionist painting in the 1980s. For Marc Spiegler, director of Art Basel,”the digital-native generation […] has really started to catch fire" and created “a whole new development in the art world that wasn’t there before”.5


While the terms “post-media”, “post-digital” and “post-internet” are booming in the art and humanities, the first, and foremost, question is: What does the “post” prefix in post-media, post-digital, post-Internet actually refer to? Is there any critical substance to it, or is it just a fashion label?

I am admittedly guilty of having been involved in spreading one of those terms, “post-digital”, with my afterword to Alessandro Ludovico’s book “Post-Digital Print” (developed in our research center in 2012) and a subsequent series of essays. “Post-digital”, “post-media” and “Post-Internet” are confusing terms in respect to:

  1. what they refer to;
  2. how they overlap or differ from each other.

The troubles already begin with question number one, since the three terms are used to refer to vastly different, sometimes even opposite phenomena. “Post-digital”, for example, was coined in 2000 in the context of electronic music where it became a statement against the ideology of ‘digital’ as technological perfection in sound production and reproduction.6 Searching this term in e-flux’s online archive today, we find an exhibition “Histories of the Post-Digital: 1960 and 1970s Media Art Snapshots”, art from a period that surely was not post-digital. We also find an exhibition “Post-Digital” in London about “creating art in the digital age” - not the post-digital age - and whose curator Nimrod Vardi writes that Post-Digital is “also known as Post-Internet”.7

The last claim is, at least, problematic. “Post-digital” had been most prominently used by Kim Cascone in 2001 and the publisher Alessandro Ludovico in 2012 in the context of music and publishing respectively. Both authors argue against a historical progress narrative embedded into the notion of “digital”. “Post-digital”, then, means a critical revision of, or even break with, the concept “new media”. Unlike “post-digital”, “Post-Internet” is a fine art term, coined by artist Marisa Olson and popularized by artist-blogger Gene McHugh and artist-essayist Artie Vierkant. Today, “Post-Internet” has acquired almost the opposite meaning of “post-digital”: visual art that reflects an everyday visual culture shaped by the Internet and its social media, and a fine art practice of producing objects that look good both in exhibition spaces and in photographic reproductions online. “Post-Internet” is thus rather an acknowledgment than a critique of “new media”.

To complicate things further: As early as in 2001, artist, designer and media researcher Lev Mavonich wrote an essay Post-Media Aesthetics in which he uses the terms “post-media”, “post Internet” and “post digital” interchangeably, yet with a completely different meaning than in the previous two examples. For Manovich, these terms are in no way opposites to “new media”, but practically synonyms. According to him, the computer has replaced old, separated media from the pre-digital age so that we live in a post-media condition, after media, after digitization (hence “post digital”) and after the Internet changed all rules of the game (hence “post Internet”). This is the very opposite to “post-digital” according to Cascone and Ludovico who both insist that digital information technology is not the end of all other media (such as paper books). Manovich further contradicts the contemporary art notion of “post Internet” which now mostly describes sculptural art made, so-to-speak, under the influence of the Internet, but not in the Internet itself.

“medium” and “media”

The problem lies even deeper at the very root of the terms we use: that is, in the word “medium” itself. Historically, “medium” has two different meanings and traditions that constantly get mixed up. Secondly, “medium” and “media” are Anglo-American terminology, words that simply did not exist in continental European philosophy, aesthetic and cultural theory prior to the 1960s.[^robert] Even those who are now considered media theoreticians, such as Walter Benjamin with his essays on The Author as Producer and The Artwork the Age of its Mechanical Reproduction or Adorno and Horkheimer with their critique of the culture industry, never used the words “medium” or “media” in their own writing. The same is true for Russian and French structuralism prior to the early 1970s. Only then, cultural studies began to gradually displace semiotics and semiology and their central notion of the “sign” with media theory and its central notion of, indeed, “the media”.

In anglophone art criticism, the term “medium” has been used at least since the 18th century. For example, a 1746 English handbook The Museum: or, The literary and historical register discusses “the Medium of Painting” (R. Dodsley (ed.), The Museum: or, The literary and historical register, Oxford University Press, 1746, p. 190).

This notion of “the medium” as an artist’s means of expression has persisted until today. Most likely, its historical roots lie in English translations of Aristotle’s poetics (first anonymously translated in 1705, then authoritatively by Thomas Twining in 1789}:

Epic poetry and Tragedy, Comedy also and Dithyrambic poetry, and the music of the flute and of the lyre in most of their forms, are all in their general conception modes of imitation. They differ, however, from one another in three respects - the medium, the objects, the manner or mode of imitation, being in each case distinct.

In the Antonio Riccobono’s 16th century Latin edition of the same book, for centuries the canonical edition for poets and scholars throughout Europe, the word “medium” or an equivalent thereof is simply missing:

Different autem inter se tribus, aut enim quod genere diversis imitantur: aut quod diversa: aut quod diverso, & non eodem modo.

In later continental translations of the “Poetics”, there is no use of the word “medium” either. German editions use the word “Mittel”, “means”, instead of medium; the French translation “les procédés” en “les moyens”, the methods and the means. The particular choice of translating these words in the English edition resulted in a canonical statement about the arts working with “the medium of color and form, or again by the voice.” This notion of medium has stuck ever since.

A prominent early 20th century example for the persistence of the post-Aristotelian notion of “medium” is Ernesto Fenollosa’s essay The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry, published by Ezra Pound in 1919. Like Dodsley, Fenollosa understands “medium” as (artistic) means of expression:

It might seem that poetry, which like music is a time art, weaving its unities out of successive impressions of sound, could with difficulty assimilate a verbal medium consisting largely of semi-pictorial appeals to the eye.

What is meant with “verbal medium consisting largely of semi-pictorial appeals to the eye” are actually Chinese characters themselves. Since these characters combine two artistic media (in this Anglosaxon sense), words and pictures, they become a model for early 20th century visual poetry, and hence also interesting for Pound as a reader of Fenollosa. The current Wikipedia article List of artistic media documents the resilience of this post-Aristotelian notion of the artistic medium: “In the arts, a medium is a material used by an artist or designer to create a work.” A medium then, is, what in most continental European languages was, and still is, referred to as artists’ “materials”.

The Anglo-American notion of the medium as means of expression is at the heart of the notion of modernist art propagated by American critic Clement Greenberg - a notion that was canonical for many decades, became controversial with contemporary art’s break with modernism, but just because of that conflict has remaining impact. To quote from Greenberg’s essay (published in 1960):

“It quickly emerged that the unique and proper area of competence of each art coincided with all that was unique in the nature of its medium. […] Thus would each art be rendered ‘pure,’ and in its ‘purity’ find the guarantee of its standards of quality as well as of its independence.” (Harrison/Wood, 755)

Modernist painting, according to Greenberg, redefined the “limitations that constitute the medium of painting” - first of all, two-dimensional flatness - as “positive factors”. This judgment was closely linked to the abstract expressionist painting of the 1950s that Greenberg promoted […last not least as a collaborator of the CIA…], and to abstract painting that followed upon it (such as that of Frank Stella). His student and later detractor Rosalind Krauss wrote that “Greenberg was perhaps the first to stabilize medium as locus of discursive unity” (Krauss, Blue Cup, 15). Greenberg thus established a modernist doctrine of “medium-specifity” within contemporary visual art that still haunts artists and art discourse today. Both the “intermedia” and “mixed media” art of Fluxus in the 1960s and the subsequent “conceptual art” of the 1970s were movements of breaking out of the “medium-specifity” doctrine. “Intermedia” and “mixed media” thus referred to the arts notion of “medium”, not to media theory or communication studies. “Media art” has conversely has been scorned by many contemporary artists, curators and critics just because it appears to be the returning electronic zombie of Greenbergian modernism. (A lot of so-called “media art” affirms this judgment although its name ultimately refers to McLuhan, Baudrillard or Kittler instead of Greenberg.)

Rosalind Krauss’ own concept of “art in the age of the post-medium condition” is a critical answer to Greenberg, not to media theory or media studies. She refers to the “traditional connection of ’medium’to matters of technique, as when the arts were divided up within the Academy representing the different mediums - painting, sculpture, architecture - in order to be taught” (Voyage, 7). Krauss takes Marcel Broodthaers as the example of an artist whose work produces a “loss of specificity to which the eagle submits the individual arts” (Voyage, 15). Therefore, video, when it arrived in the arts in the early 1970s, “proclaimed the end of medium-specifity. In the age of television […] we inhabit a post-medium condition” (Voyage, 32).

I am quoting Krauss so extensively because her notions are perfectly counter-intuitive to audiences trained in media theory. From such a background, one would assume the very opposite: that video art was the beginning of media art rather than the beginning of a “post-medium condition”. Furthermore, from a media theoretical perspective, “post-medium” is an incomprehensible concept because there can be no communication without some channel or medium. It follows that art criticism and media theory simply do not mean the same thing when they speak about “medium” and “media”.


While Aristotle, via his English translators, was likely the founder of the notion of the artistic medium, Isaac Newton appears to have been the source for the communication studies notion of “media”. The 1797 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica gives multiple definitions of the word medium. One of them is:

“Subtile or Aetherial Medium. Sir Isaac Newton considers it probably that, beside the particular aereal medium, wherein we live and breathe, there is another more universal one, which he calls aetherial medium”, Encyclopaedia Britannica; Or, a Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Miscellaneous Literature, Bell and Macfarquhar, 1797, p. 363)

This is the notion of the ether as an in-between-substance; a notion that has been abandoned in 20th century physics but lives on in media studies, in the notion of the communication medium; in the particular case of the radio, we even still speak of the “ether” literally.8 This notion of “medium” is not founded on artistic means of expressions, but first of all refers to telecommunications and mass media. It became a common term in early 20th century American creative industries when advertisers and marketers along with political propagandists had to decide which media to choose for spreading a particular message: newspapers, billboards, radio, later television. Just as the older notion of the artistic medium, this term remained Anglo-American throughout the first half of the 20th century. To my knowledge, the first continental European critic who took it up was the film theorist Siegfried Kracauer who had fled Nazi Germany for the United States in the 1940s and wrote of the necessity of analyzing “mass communication media” in the preface of his 1947 book “From Caligari to Hitler”.9 Both notions of “medium”, means of artistic expression and communication channel, can overlap, for example in photography. However, while photography always is a medium in the arts, it is not necessarily one in communications theory and media studies - because in most cases of popular visual culture, a photograph will not be its own medium (as a print), but reproduced in another medium such as a newspaper, magazine, book, billboard or World Wide Web.-

Marshall McLuhan’s media theory seems to contradict this notion since it defines media most generally as “extension of man”, thereby rendering media synonymous with technology as such. This is why light bulbs and guns are among his examples of media. At the same time, his theory remains ultimately grounded in mass communication media such as tv and cinema, for example in his classification of “hot” and “cold” media.

McLuhan’s equation of media and technology had its roots in cybernetics (Donald Theall, Virtual Marshall McLuhan, p. 30). This equation was continued in Friedrich Kittler’s media theory since the 1980s. In the period between McLuhan and Kittler, media studies largely remained studies of news and entertainment mass media: this includes British cultural studies (Raymond Williams and Stuart Hall), Jean Baudrillard and popular critics like Neil Postman.10

In 1990, the late Félix Guattari wrote an essay “Post-Media”. It only consists of four short paragraphs, and predicts (like Hans-Magnus Enzensberger twenty years before him11) the convergence of “television, telematics and informatics”. The future “post-media era” will, according to Guattari, be based on abandoning the “hypnotism” of mass media TV, replacing it within “interactive use of information, communication, intelligence, art and culture”. Guattari is visionary when he predicts that “money, identity, social control fall under the aegis of the smart card”. Nevertheless, he is optimistic that this “does not necessarily lead to the power of Big Brother” but that this power will crack “under the impact of molecular alternative practices”.
With this, Guattari writes a mission statement for the Open Source, peer-to-peer and net.art media activism of the 1990s and first decade of the 2000s. There is, however, a crucial difference to the notion of “new media”: Guattari’s vision is not techno-determinist or techno-Hegelian. Digital convergence is not an goal for its own sake, but it is a tool to overcome classical mass media. This also means that non-digital communication systems such as pirate and community radio (such as Radio Alice in which Guattari had been involved) or underground press fit his definition of “post-media”.12

This clearly contradicts the notion of “post-media” that the media artist and curator Peter Weibel proposed in 2006, writing that

The impact of the media is universal and for that reason all art is already post-media art. Moreover, the universal machine, the computer, claims to be able to simulate all of the media. Therefore all art is post-media art.13

Post-media in Weibel’s sense is thus the exact opposite of “post-digital” in Kim Cascone’s and Alessandro Ludovico’s sense - since Cascone and Ludovico just revise and reject the notion of the computer as the universal machine that replaces the media that preceded it.

While Weibel’s “post-media” describes a condition after a point of technological convergence that reminds of the point of aesthetic convergence in Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk (total artwork), Rosalind Krauss’ notion of the “post-medium condition” on the contrary refers to a condition after the radical reduction and divergence of aesthetic means of expression in Greenberg’s imperative of medium-specificity.

In any case, Krauss’ notion of the “post-medium condition”, coined nine years after Guattari, is completely unrelated to Guattari’s term “post-media”. This parallel is as confusing as it is striking, since it illustrates an ultimate clash of two different notions of media, each referring to the respective history of the term “medium” in the arts and in technical communication theory.

Furthermore, the two notions and traditions ultimately get conflated in the term “new media” as propagated by Lev Manovich: “new media” are both the digital successors to the classical news and entertainment mass media and the digital successors to the classical means of artistic expression, from painting to film. 14

By drawing these conclusions, I also draw on another critic, the curator Domenico Quaranta who wrote in 2010 that the generic and specific aspects of “new media”

“overshadow another distinction: that between medium as ‘artistic medium’ and medium as a generic means of communication. The first can be traced to Clement Greenberg and the tradition of art criticism. The second is linked to Marshall McLuhan and the tradition of Media Studies. These two concepts are radically different yet regularly get confused in art criticism, with terms like ‘Media Art’?, ‘New Media Art’, ‘media specific’ and ‘post media era’.”15

In 2011, Rosalind Krauss drew the same conclusion:

“Medium and media are what the French would call ‘false friends’? - French look-alikes for English words that are strictly not synonymous.”16

Quaranta therefore concludes:

“Obviously I’m not suggesting we use the term ‘postmedia’? to describe the art of the present. This term has its own flaws, firstly because the prefix ‘post’? has been abused in art criticism, and secondly because, as used by Rosalind Krauss, it is predominantly associated with the art of the twentieth century, and not up to the challenge of describing the art of the information age.” (Quaranta, 202)

What Quaranta concludes for art, Manovich concludes for media when he argues, in his own paper “Post-Media Aesthetics”, that the “traditional concept of medium does not work in relation to post-digital, post-net culture”. It should be noted that Manovich’s own notion of “post-media” refers neither to Guattari, nor to Krauss. Neither does Weibel, as the last of the four authors writing on “post-media”, refer to any of the previous concepts or authors. It’s therefore safe to assume that we have at ;east four different, independent and unrelated coinages of the term “post-media”.

Post-Internet and post-digital

What can still be said for all definitions of “post-media”, is that they either reflect a condition before the so-called digital information age (Guattari and Krauss) or the very condition of that age (Manovich and Weibel). “Post-Internet”, then, sits somewhere in between Krauss and Manovich/Weibel: It is post-medium art in the anti-Greenbergian fine art spirit of Krauss; which is, art that is no longer (artistic) medium-specific, and therefore also will never become something like electronic media art. At the time, this art is a product of an age where the Internet has become the dominant visual culture mass medium.

Finally, post-digital: I frankly don’t know how this term can be rescued or defended given the whole mess that I have mapped out here. It is safe to say that there are at least two perfectly contradictory notions of “post-digital”: One is used by Manovich (more or less in the sense of “after the digital revolution, all media have been transformed”) and other writers including the former Pirate Bay and Pirate Party activist Rasmus Fleischer. The other concept of “post-digital” has been proposed by Kim Cascone and Alessandro Ludovico (and myself) as a skeptical revision of the totalist, Hegelian idea of the “digital revolution”. (In my case: also Post-Snowden, observing neo-analog practices like analog cassibers.)


The original meaning of “post-digital” as a genre of electronic music is by far not outdated. Goodiepal, who radically broke with studio music and computer programming to build mechanical musical clocks and only be reachable via postal letters to his parents’ addresses in Denmark and the Faro Islands, still does not object the label “post-digital folk” that others have given to his music, performances and signs of life in books and classified ads in the music magazine The Wire. For years, his performances have realized Hito Steyerl’s demand for “Open Access” sharing not only of intellectual, but also of material property. Visitors of his concerts and buyers of his records were given more money back than they had paid. During the 2012 edition of the art and media festival transmediale, he gave away his remaining private possessions.

The Singapore-born “gender-o-noise” transgender musician Tara Transitory performatively extended Kim Cascone’s concept of a post-digital “aesthetics of failure”. In Saigon, she accompanied a group of local transsexuals who survive as fire-eaters and candy street sellers, in a street performance that rapidly changed places within the city thanks to motor bikes. The fire eaters stood in the middle of crowded motorways, putting the street asphalt on fire, while being accompanied by Transitory’s post-digital live noise music. Their collaboration was transgressive in two ways. For the Vietnamese transsexuals, the performance provided an opportunity of breaking out from social stigma and entertainment stereotypes (fire-eating to chart pop music, their normal way of making ends meet). For Tara Transitory, it provided the opportunity to have post-digital music performance break out of art spaces. In this performance, the label “post-digital” leaves behind its negative reference to institutional media art. “Post-digital” becomes a variation of postpunk and, more significantly, postcolonial culture.

This constellation - postcolonial, postpunk, post-digital - is a subcultural formula for the early 21st century. It spells out itself in many ways: For example, in a global (Western and non-Western) boom of self-made zine periodca and self-organized zine fests. The aformentioned artist duo Woodstone Kugelblitz works in this context, too. Or in the Afrofuturist-punk-queer “Metropolarity” collective from Philadelphia whose protagonists come from different subcultures and collectively produces zines, experimental science fiction, performances, workshops and festivals.

While these subcultural practices are “post-digital” in the original sense of the word, as anti-institutional arts and anti-lab aesthetics, the term “post-digital” is also being used in completely different context. In 2012, Deutsche Telekom CEO René Obermann,called the future of his company “post-digital” in the sense that digitality was no longer “sexy”, but has become an infrastructure like water and electricity.17 Stressing the necessity of changing ways of communication, advertising strategists have described the “Post-Digital Age” in almost identical words.18 In debates on contemporary art, “post-digital” increasingly becomes an umbrella term for any kind of art that reflect today’s information-industrial-political complexes and regimes in whatever way. “Post-digital” thus becomes an umbrella term for such genre labels as “Post-Internet” and “new aesthetic”,19 the latter being a coinage of graphic designer James Bridle from 2011.

The Berlin-based transmediale festival defines it subject as “post-digital culture” in this large sense.20 In May 2014, Hito Steyerl curated a symposium at ICA London which invited international “leading international theorists, academics, social thinkers” to discuss “post-digital anxieties and the social condition”.21 With a range of subjects that includes artificial intelligence and the “anthropocene”, the event has factually left behind Cascone’s und Ludovico’s notions of post-digitality.

What remains of “post-digital”, “post-Internet” and “post-media” if one leaves aside all ambiguities, contradictions and poetic licenses? These terms appear to express a desire of describing art under changed technological, geopolitical and visual-cultural conditions; changes that, at least since Edward Snowden, can no longer be ignored or denied. In the age of total electronic surveillance, everyone is - whether they want it or not - a performance artist and Internet publicist, and be it only by wiring one’s rent.

The old categories of “media”, “new media art” and media theory do not sufficiently cater to the desire for terms and artistic positions that reflect these conditions, and have been disqualified because of their historical affinity to technological hypes and gadgets. Today, these categories fail in similar way as the term “painting” failed to describe modern art a century ago. That “new media” - the last resort of unbroken modernism since the 1990s - has become an out-of-date term, is the lowest common denominator of all “post-digital” position, from underground musicians to telco managers.

  1. Steyerl, Hito. “Too Much World: Is the Internet Dead?” e-flux journal 49 (2013): http://www.e-flux.com/journal/49/60004/too-much-world-is-the-internet-dead/. Web.

  2. Grüter, Thomas. Offline! Das unvermeidliche Ende des Internets und der Untergang der Informationsgesellschaft. Berlin; Heidelberg: Springer Spektrum, 2013. Print.

  3. Bunting, Heath. “Own, Be Owned Or Remain Invisible.” http://www.irational.org/_readme.html, 1998. Web. 28 Sept. 2016.

  4. Conner, Michael. “What’s Postinternet Got to Do with Net Art?” Rhizome. http://rhizome.org/editorial/2013/nov/01/postinternet/, 2013.

  5. Andrew M. Goldstein, Art Basel Director Marc Spiegler on How the World’s Premier Fair Continues to Evolve, Artspace, 15.6.2015, http://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/marc-spiegler-art-basel-interview-2015

  6. Kim Cascone, The Aesthetics of Failure, 2001

  7. Post-Digital, exhibition website, http://post-digitalart.co.uk/about/, accessed 24-4-2015

  8. Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature, 1977, 158

  9. “I also believe that studies of this kind may help in the planning of films-not to mention other media of communication-which will effectively implement the cultural aims of the United Nations.” From Caligari to Hitler (1947), Princeton University Press, 2004, li

  10. The limitation of Marxist media critique from Brecht via Adorno/Horkheimer, French postwar Marxism including Guy Debord up to British cultural studies is its view of mass media solely as purveyor of a message.

  11. Enzensberger, Hans Magnus. “Constituents of a Theory of the Media.” The New Media Reader. Ed. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2003. 261–275. Print.

  12. “the term seems to be a front for a more complex theory, that starts with a reflection on the independent media and free radios of the 1970s to posit, at the end of the consensual era of mass-media, a post-media era in which the media would be a tool of dissent, revising the relationship between producer and consumer.”, Quaranta, p.

  13. THE POST-MEDIA CONDITION, 2012 (2006), MUTE, http://www.metamute.org/editorial/lab/post-media-condition ; there is some overlap with Manovich’s notion of the disruption of “medium” through (a) performative art practices, (b) 20th century mass media, (c) media convergence through the computer; Manovich, op.cit.

  14. Again, there is a terminological difference between America and Europe: American writers like Manovich exclude video from new media unless it’s interactive, European writers like Peter Weibel include it. Correspondingly, film production companies were excluded from the dotcom stock market NASDAQ while, for example, the 1990s German NASDAQ equivalent “Neuer Markt” included them, leading to a flood of “stupid German money” into often loss-generating Hollywood productions of that time.

  15. (Quaranta, 29)

  16. In: Rosalind Krauss, Under Blue Cup, The MIT Press, Cambridge – London 2011, 33.

  17. René Obermann, What’s Beyond Digital, Rede auf der Konferenz NEXT Berlin, 2012, https://nextconf.eu/2012/05/rene-obermann-whats-beyond-digital/

  18. Tom Goodwin, Rebuilding Advertising for the Post-Digital Age, Mediashift, 17.12.2014, http://mediashift.org/2014/12/rebuilding-advertising-for-the-post-digital-age/

  19. For example, in David M. Berry, Michael Dieter (Hrsg.), Post-digital Aesthetics: Art, Computation and Design, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015

  20. “The next edition of transmediale follows the format of a ‘Conversation Piece’ which unfolds through a series of dialogues and participatory formats that articulate the most burning topics of post-digital culture today and that reflect the main ongoing themes of transmediale”, 2015, http://www.transmediale.de/conversationpiece

  21. ICA, Fear of Missing Out, https://www.ica.org.uk/whats-on/seasons/fear-missing-out