Michael Franz, Robert Stockhammer, Bernhard Siegert (ed./eds.)

Electric Laokoon
Zeichen und Medien, von der Lochkarte zur Grammatologie
[Electric Laokoon. Signs and Media, from the Punched Card to Grammatology]

Akademie Verlag, Berlin 2007, 354 pages
ISBN 978-3-05-003504-8

As early as the 18th century, the functions of poetic and artistic signs stood in a broad context of the most diverse theories and practices of signs—this was reconstructed in the volume The Laocoon Paradigm, to which the present one follows. The connections between the sign regimes became even closer in the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, when signs were fed into a large number of new media and machines, thus changing their status. Electric Laokoon—as the new sign-processing figure might be called in view of the central role of electricity in this field—emblematically stands for a historical perspective on the connection between semiotics and the theory of language on the one hand, and media theory on the other, which has so far mostly been neglected. The punched card (a sign that literally gives commands to machines) and the grammatology (a theory of signs in their irreducible mediality) mark the historical cornerstones of this investigation. The path between punched card and grammatology leads via machine notations for language and body movements, artistic participation in kinematics and hypnosis, cinematic reflections on ethnography and criminalistics, and literary reactions to telephone and electricity.

Media Response

01 Sep 2010
Electric Laokoon

Review by Achim Vesper, in: Arbitrium 3 (2010) (fee required)