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German original in: Medientheorien. Eine philosophische Einfuehrung, edited by David Lauer and Alice L. Lagaay, Campus: Frankfurt a.M. 2004, 273-296.

Jan Janzen

Theories as Tools - Mike Sandbothe's Pragmatist Media Philosophy

Translated by Kenton E. Barnes

“To most recipients of traditional mass media, this presented world appears as a reality, which actually is not negotiable to change, but instead is regarded as a world, which is supposed to be recognized as merely illustrating or designing the perceived reality.”,1

Mike Sandbothe's publications present themselves virtually to find acceptance as part of a book, which is regarded as a philosophical introduction to the current media debate. In contrast to the majority of those who momentarily take a position when referring to the discussion, and who try to impose and protect their own ideas and concepts onto the term “media philosophy”, Sandbothe offensively requests this term for his media theoretical concepts as you can see by the title Pragmatic Media Philosophy published in his central monograph. Even though it is refreshing to see such an author who works in both contemporary and philosophical media theory, one must also look at the concepts of such an author with a degree of skepticism: since the proximity can only be outlined for the term media philosophy under the consideration of a very specific philosophical understanding, the relationship between media and philosophy can lead to misunderstandings. Thus the question arises concretely, what do we win with this term “media philosophy”? To be more precise, in opposition to a historically narrowed understanding of what philosophy should be and should do, Sandbothe endorses a broader understanding of philosophy. In the following treatise, it will be shown how this understanding is linked to Sandbothe’s specific concept of pragmatism and hereby, a political obligation of philosophy.

But how and why can media philosophy perform an exemplary contribution to pragmatization and politicization of philosophical discourses? Media philosophy, which is only one of many problems in the current state of present philosophical debates, shall drastically come to a head: even though in the case of media theory, the necessity of the reference to the actual problem areas is obvious, most debates are self-referenced and theoretically oversized and therefore detached from concrete user references. From Sandbothe's constant advice on this perspective, one can explain why his pragmatic media philosophy can be understood as a cultural and political service industry. This industry can be seen as a permeation of current socio-political questions and perspectives within academic philosophy instead of as a solution to traditionally inherited philosophical problem areas.

Such motivation again finds itself on different theoretical levels. On one level, according to Sandbothe, the entire contents of the argumentation concerning the pragmatization of the relationship between humankind and media can only be unfurled in light of the social, cultural, and primary political embedding of the project from their full consequences. On another level it seems as if Sandbothe also arrives at a democratization of the philosophical debating culture, i.e. a type of political debate strategy.

In the background ofthe additional fields discussed here, one must be aware that the political parts of Sandbothe’s work go far beyond pure content obligations: -- the central idea of his pragmatist concept already cannot be separated from his concept of political strategies – This concept fundamentally drives it beyond a purely theoretical moment.Despite the importance entitled to the political level, the subsequent discussion shall focus in most part to the content methodical re-accentuation, which the media debate in the course of its pragmatization is experiencing. Though these two fields can hardly be discussed separately, the framework presented should be sufficient to show the cornerstones of Sandbothe’s theoretical structures.

  1. Thediscrimination between theoretistical and pragmatic media philosophy will be described and its consistency explored and put into proper perspective.
  2. Whyis the internet the paradigmatic medium for the pragmatization of human media use? In order to answer this question, the close relationship between internal order and external structural function of the internet medium will be highlighted.
  3. The problem of media competence resulting from the shift of burden to the side of the users will be discussed and guidelines for the philosophical debate concerning the problem will be presented.
  4. Inaddition, some difficulties with the concept of transversality, an important design feature of Sandbothe’s different theoretical levels will be presented.


1. Theoreticism and Pragmatism

Before a direct argument with the continuously emerging distinction between theoreticism and pragmatic media philosophy found in Sandbothe’s writings can begin, these distinctions, that the distinctions should function on both levels, which were already mentioned in the introduction. The first level – which one can refer to a political discourse, – concerns itself with a clear order of the debate. Sandbothe wishes to oppose, what up to now has probably been the most widely-used form of differentiation in realistic and constructive media concepts, whose perspective is supported differently. The question, which media epistemology is most appropriate for democratic societies, will establish an axis of coordinates between theoretistical and pragmatic media philosophy and by using them, one should be able to comprehend most of the theoretistical media concepts. On closer inspection, this intention clarifies a problem, which, by this distinction is thrown onto the content: it is very critical and therefore, comes across to work as highly polarizing. Even though Sandbothe understands himself namely as a pragmatic media philosopher, one should not misapply, that the distinction was not exclusively conceived for his own detection; on the political discourse level, it is not directly ordained as a discrediting of theorism. The attempt, to accuse Sandbothe in his insistence on pragmatic concerns as being untheoretical and unmethodical, has its origins in a rash confusion at both levels: Sandbothe’s content concerns lie in a specific pragmatic way of linking the two extreme positions. The strong tendency for the separation of the two extremes is explained only in view of a clarification of the first stage of the discourse patterns.


Whatvalue do media have regarding the constitution of sense? Especially this question, according to Sandbothe, does not count as the fundamental question of all medium theory if one wants to ask about the role of the media regarding cultural processes and to avoid a serious misunderstanding about its role. The perspective attached to this question as for general criteria like how media create sense and examines concrete plot contexts, as well as specific human social and cultural correlation of interests with regard to a common basic and infinite structure is what Sandbothe calls “theoriticism”. This is centered around a conclusion of a strong fellowship of media and the prerequisites of the possibility of sense creation.

A theoretistically conceived medium philosophy intendsto revise philosophy as a discipline, which is able to place the framework of philosophy on a deeper lying basis – according to the above presupposition accordingly, under the spelling out of its medial composition. The justification program of this recent "prima philosophia" begins with a criticism of the categories which had been established within "linguistic turn". With regard to the latter so-called central character encoding system, in which human beings create sense and interpret reality, they could only have trained themselves on a media supported basis.

In an exemplary way, this occurs in the foundingdocument of theoretistical media philosophy, in 1967, Jacques Derrida published Of Grammatology. Here both the medial and the material condition of all semiotic structures is charge: Derrida criticizes a hierarchally structured arrangement of sense-giving procedures, when their primary orientation authority is directed toward the intuitive genesis of sense of the autonomously speaking subject. He reproaches such conceptions and mostly for strategic reasons masks the medial complexity into which the execution of human speech is embedded. If one follows Derrida’s argumentation, language can no longer be valid as a primary medium, instead it will become a multiplicity of other character encoding systems (pictorial, graphic, tactile, etc.) that have been put aside, and which can no longer be considered a derivative in reference to the construction of sense. Despite the radicalness of the Derrida’s theses, the pivotal point of the considerations of Grammatology remains a figure of reflection, which circles around the conditions of the possibility of sense. One subsequent media philosophy attached to this model tries to give a primary account of the overlapping fundamentals of cognition. The change of certain singular objectives of human communities here appears to be secondary.

Due to this centeringdevice, it becomes reasonable why such impressionable measures of procedure put their emphasis in the media field – which for Sandbothe are composed of sensory perception media (space, time), semiotic communication media (image, language, writing) as well as technical spreading media (printing, television, internet) - onto semiotic communication media. These things are a direct reference to the "question about the images or constructions referring to reality of human cognitive achievements", which is so important in theorism.2

Pragmatic media philosophy, instead, rejects both the fundamental analysis of the "linguistic turn" especially in philosophy altogether; from this, the movement of the recess is regarded as failing in its problem areas. In its place, the question of peripheral theoreticism concerning its characteristics, appears to be more concrete, more contingent historically, political, as well as social with regard to determining plot contexts. Regarding the question, on which basis humans recognize reality, its core is representationally relinquished and is replaced by a view of the usefulness of realization within specific individual events.

Pragmatism understands recognition whenrevolutionized, empirically fixed, and tries therefore to determine cognitive activities altogether not on the basis contemplative structures of reflection, but rather as forms of behaviors, which can be described exclusively on the basis their integration with other behaviors as profitable

It is a matter of the revalidation of mentalexecutions into a naturalistic background of non-linguistic actions. The specific definition of Sandbothe’s pragmatism can, in connection to Richard Rorty, be identified as "anti- representationalism". He tries determine language, thought, and recognition without intellect as tertiary and consequently complete, social phenomena.3

Thevanishing point, at which the externalization of the recognition and communication processes are aimed, is their anchorage in socio-political practices. Due to this weighting, one is able to understand why the question of the media is so important in the perspective of philosophical pragmatism. Media bind, in the most diverse situations, humans together and function as work tools, with which these connections can be precisely coordinated and modified. There can be no doubt that media subsequently can be typologized to that effect whether and to what extent it is able to serve as the instruments of social, cultural, and political conditions. With this connection, that the prospective possibility of the change of human living together and hope wins a better future, increases in relevance. Sandbothe thereby coins the term of transformative pragmatism to mean that it is a philosophical experiment for the future change of Common Sense, and that within it, philosophy becomes transformative, and thus strives for a reorganization of its own recognition practices and forms of knowledge.


The request to takethe pragmatic dimension of the media theory seriously however, does not connect Sandbothe with the desire of any other more perspectived to give theoretistically coined function. This desire feeds itself not least from the fact that almost the entire genesis of the media debate, to which pragmatic media philosophy can refer is theoretically coined. Beyond a concession, following from this historical dimension, Sandbothe admits that the abandonment of one of the two perspectives would amount to a material loss of the debate. For this reason, however, only once a level of discourse on which both sides possess the same value is reached, the imbalance of internal discourse, which favors theoretical relevance in relation to social use, must be waived.

The mediation between both sides can be only one, which seriouslyconsiders both perspectives and which tries not to avoid them. Here, Sandbothe for the first time offers the concept of transversality as established by Wolfgang Welsch, which makes "transition to the transitionless"4 possible. Since the function of this figure in the Sandbothe’s conceptions will be dealt with more precisely later, its role in the discussion between theoriticism and pragmatism will only be alluded to: media theory can renounce neither one of the two evenly presented sides, however a direct reference of the two positions back to back is, due to their fundamental differences, impossible. The concept of the transversality should help to solve this problem, while not dissolving the incommensurability of the two approaches, in the midst of this however, identifies the possible kinds the reference. Despite fundamental differences, the mutual acknowledgment, which in the long run can be redeemed by this procedure, is one of the most important concerns of Sandbothe’s thematization of both types of media philosophy.

The integration,which Sandbothe focuses on with regard to the two positions, will now be explained by examining the pragmatic reversal in the human-media-relationship taking place in the upheaval in the digital age of the internet, To end this chapter, four guiding maxims of a pragmatic media philosophy are quoted, the first of which retroactively once more clarifies the position of pragmatic media philosophy. The other three establish a clear-sighted alignment, onto which later the specific handling of the theoretistical usage activity with individual media will be positioned.

  1. It should be avoided, “to establish the words medium and media as epistemological key terms with which the puzzle of recognition theory, or rather philosophical language can finally be solved,” rather “to pay attention to the concrete usage which we get or do not get from the media in specific activity situations.”5
  2. “The origin of the representational language concept“ is closely associated with “the increasing spread of the international phonetic alphabet”6 and the privileged lecture methods of the book culture.
  3. “First then, if we change our representational association with printed writing, philosophy, as well as, Common Sense can be freed from the theoretical disorder in which they, due to specific habits of use, have been trapped.”7
  4. “It results from the project of an active formation of a medial environment, which allows the chains of theoretical media culture to overcome.”8

The medial environment, of which philosophy should make an association possible on which representational norms are no longer oriented, and which should assist in their composition, is the digital information of the internet.


2. The Internet: Hybridation and Interaction

In the transition from a media landscape to one shaped by the printing, in whose center the internet and its privileged types of use are found, an inescapable pragmatic dimension is pointed out, which it already bestowed upon the utility models of the “old” media, mostly, however, were not openly uncovered or were even intentionally obscured. Although the internet presents the material which has become its substrate of its theses for pragmatic media philosophy in certain way, its structures are absolutely nothing new. The impression of a "new" medium results rather from the unification of different types of media (for example press, radio and television) and their utility models: The internet presents transmedia as its hybrid, whereby the resulting composition naturally has more to offer than merely the sum of its parts.

It isdirected in the following, to take the transitory modifications of the semiotic communication media with the view through which the technical spreading media, the internet come into being.9 As a function of these changes the thesis is then to be according to the pragmatization of human reference of media directly relates with them in a close association to this media to describe networking movements.

Sandbothestarts with the symbol systems of images, language and writing as semiotic communication media. In the traditional reading, an attempt was made to precisely differentiate these systems according to design and function. The consistent discretion of character encoding is now undermined however by its close embracement of character hybrids emerging for the first time in the internet, because "images, sounds and letters are always relatively on and in dependence of the institutionalized technical media, which delimits the framework of its use, defined from each other and accordingly interwoven with each other."10 The semiotic transformations carried out in the structures of the internet can now be fundamentally subdivided into three categories:

  1. The notation of language: by the example of the synchronous communication services of the internet, a link between language and writing will be alluded to. The anonymous medium of writing, by means of its communication occurs here, encounters interactivity and the current presence of the interlocutor. In this manner, a strict demarcation between the two media will be problematic.

    “It is this performative writing of a conversation, where language is interactively written instead of spoken, is what I refer to as the notation of language.”11
  2. The visualizaton of writing: here attention must be called to two points. First, phonetic writing experiences a use, which otherwise was reserved for images. Secondly, there is a revival in document non-phonetic writings. The keyword for the first point is hypertext, through which its possibilities, reading and writing in the internet gain a pictorial component. Through the incorporation of links and icons in the organisation of a hypertext, the qualities of representativeness, and speech and writing become intertwined.
    “The situating of the text in the space, which the tactile distinction of individual character complexes as clickable links, which the variable and designable structure of the background of the text or the possibilities provided through Java, to put letters in motion and to be embedded in graphic scenes – those are all aspects of which I summarize and refer to as visualization of phonetic writing.”12

    Besides, a portion of non-phonetic writing in the structure of the hypertext will be embraced through the introduction of building blocks (for example, icons) whose characteristics are rather sought out in functional as in representational (here synonymously to read with phonographic).
  3. The notation of images: if one has just once seen images in the internet, which are partitioned and whose individual links are presented, it will quickly become clear, what is being referred to here: here images function similarly to texts, the image becomes an arrangement of discrete characters, which again refer to other characters. In addition the digital technology gives the building blocks by means of its generated images exchangeability, which likewise bears resemblance to written operational possibilities. The semiotics of the image therefore results "internally from the relation of the pixels and externally from the hypertextual reference to other documents".13

The total structure, which again is a result of the combination of the three character forms just described can be described as a text image. With the assistance of this recent hybridization, the characteristics of the textual are shown, which could not be determined in such a clarity before the internet was developed. The image is given great importance, since it -- because of the lack of a clear reading procedure – apparently allows it to have an intrinsic multiple perspectivity, which is secured through the multiplicity of possible reception modes. The analogy between image and transmedial character structure will made plausible by means of the inherent openness of these two media inherent openness in relation to different association modes. Thus recognizable notated imaging, which becomes detached from the designation of writing, reduced purely to phonetic characteristics, makes once more clear, how problematic a fundamental weighting of representational reference forms is. The internet as a technical medium requires a thematization of changes within semiotic communication media.

Contrary to large parts of the contemporary media debate, Sandbothe does not accentuate the effects of these intertwining tendencies directly from their technical implications: instead of the abolition of the different character systems in the so-called universal medium of the digital code, the modification of human association along with the perception of characters is at the center of view, which is caused by the symbolic hybrid formation in the net. The basic figure of the hybridization is also nothing, which would be to be found in the internet per se, but becomes exclusively understandable before the background of the user level. The synergetic coupling of different character alliances is brought out by the user in his or her concrete relationships of characters. It is in a certain way a potential of the internet as a communication tool , which can, however appear exclusively in updates and executions. In this sense, all semiotic connections, which are treated here regarding the internet in the perspective of pragmatics from their function, must be understood for a possible user.


The perspective on fundamental modification of character practice created by this idiomatic theoretical use, results from the fact that the user actively co-designs his or her internet appearance, and no longer exclusively receives any preset, pre-fabricated information. The flood of possibilities of interfacing with and searching for information must be limited by the user. The user must be able to judge, what a significant amount of safe information is. The main focus concerning the use of characters here to – for the respective user – a meaningful connection of characters with other characters. The value of a character is only determined by character actions: the sense of a character can serve as tool for the further coordination and configuration of relationships (whereby each character group is generated in such a way that in the long run it actually always carries also a trace of the social context of the respective user). Hence, sense can be described as a coordination instrument of character actions, whereby the understanding of a character is not disavowed, has to prove itself before a changed background. Understanding is based neither on the development of character inherent eigenvalues, nor is it a primary goal of their application. Instead, understanding is only possible and determinable as a dependency of application, it will finally recognize itself as an action, which is fixed on the same level and therefore, is just as important as the subsequent association of characters with characters. Sense, as well as understanding can constitute in transmedial environments exclusively by, and in the spatial motion of the association of characters with characters. In front of this background, Sandbothe speaks of an explicitly pragmatic signature of sense and understanding processes.

Just like the investigation of communication media described here and their changes again is always one contextualization of individual media elements, the internet as a medium must also be considered in a broader perspective.

For pragmatics, media are to be understood always as social constructions and thus, as being merged into socio-political networks. What constitutes a medium, is not directly exhausted in its technical structures, whose changes rather are in the closest association to the integration of a medium into cultural practices. The value within these practices and executions – compared with other media – is given, for better or worse, to each medium, only because of its qualification for certain social purposes. This relational determination of the media can be carried out only by the community of the media users.

The special social value of the internet results negatively from the problematization of contemplative, theoretistical and onto the representation of applied archetypes of media use, and positively from an explicit pragmaticization onto the most different (technical as well as socio-cultural) stages. The internet as a medium "stands not primarily for an emblematic or non-emblematic reality, which designs or illustrates it, but it functions as a digital communication tool, that the semiotic cross reference connections, which function under theoretistical signs as expression and representation media, and that pragmatically benefits the co-ordination of inter-human actions".14


With the term tool, the important relationship between technology and cultural imprinting can finally be put forward: all technical innovations can only be determined according to there dependence upon the social forms in which they are used. They are only more or less successful means for reaching a purpose lying outside of their technical determination. "Media are tools which serve the co-ordination of inter-human actions."15 The reluctance to recognize the definition of a memorable media term is again regarded as being directed against theoreticism. Furthermore, if a center of pragmatic media philosophy exits, then the desire for a normative education of a densely and theoretically satisfied media term is not possible. The differences of the media are not by definition brought to the same level, but are shown as perspectives of possible use areas of those media.


3. Multimedial Compentencies

The attempt of a penetrating pragmatic reinterpretation of human association with media comes down to an ever more strongly increasing load on the side of the users, who, themselves, would have to implement the cultural and technical strategies, whose goal should finally exist in the improvement of social conditions. This load can not be decreased by anyone for theoretically inherent reasons: each centralization of medium-related use forms would strictly work against their pragmatization since pragmatic media philosophy holds self-determining and interactive utility models for one the most profitable innovations of the new medial environment which is determined by the internet. Sandbothe repeatedly stresses that the care of the radical-democratically organized parts of the net appears extremely important to him, since by their disappearance (especially those well-known from television) representational and unilateral usage levels would be renewed as an autarchy. On the other hand however, he also recognizes the risks of this organization form, if he concedes "the excessive demand of the individual user and an over-estimation of individual autonomy in relation to the self-dynamics of culturally constituted media use ratios".16 Pragmatic philosophy owes itself to large parts of this ambivalence, if it is conceived from scratch as an interdisciplinary enterprise, which with the cooperation of specialized philosophy would have to develop with the most varied disciplines (as for instance media pedagogy and media management), in order to have any chance of success. To that then an increasing number of areas within specialized philosophy would be relevant, which in a large part have been omitted from the media debate, as for example media ethics. The perspective of such argumentations is clear: it requires united forces, in order not to let either the load become too large for the user or to miss the democratic chances lying in the use of the internet. It is therefore essential for a theory, which imposes upon such a mass of power of decision on the users to reflect on the possibilities of the multiplication and organization of media competence.

After the desire for a broad cooperation is justified, valid philosophically inherent suggestions are also made, which should contribute to the closing of the just-mentioned hiatus. Sandbothe tries to describe – according to Kant’s concept of judgement – how an internet-specific judgement can be formulated, which gives the user advice as how to select information that is important to him or her from the flood of unsorted information found on the internet. Since the unstructured mass of items of information belongs, in principle, to the open structure of the net which Sandbothe emphatically champions, a centralizing order of this structure would fall back into the categorization and evaluation pattern of the classical mass media. From the premise that this openness under no circumstances is to be abandoned, then one can see why "medium-specific judgement and pragmatic intelligence appear as, in many cases, more effective and more self-evident than the harsh call for new standards".17 The equilibrium between the autonomy of the user and openness of the medial structure should, by learning to employ reflective judgement, become guaranteed.


Kant determines to subsume judgement generally as assets directed by rules. Reflecting judgement is an area, in which the discovery of universal terms - not yet present before the judgement - are tested on the basis of given particulars. The focusing on such competence should make it easier for internet users to evaluate information and with it to complete their work, which in other respects journalists and editors had taken from them. The missing categorization would no longer appear as uncertainty, instead sovereignty would be increased, which is necessary to classify contradictory contributions. Although here the increasing support of technical tools can be of use, one's training in such competences would only be achieved by a drastic change in form of a higher reflection of media pedagogy. Scientific and educational institutions themselves, might not close for these incentives, which they themselves change them in such a way that they, in stronger measure than before, mediate the ability for independent contact with the medium. Similar to the problem areas mentioned above, the field of media competence, however is also classified against a larger background, which describes it as an underlying human-medium-relationship. This relationship, as well as the general tendency to link diverse topic areas in close contexts, which Sandbothe's texts consistently bear, will finally be discussed.


4. Transversality: Connection instead of Foundation

The concept of transversality has already been mentioned above. Words, which have at least their first syllable in common with this term, constantly and mostly were encountered at those points which Sandbothe explicitly wanted to dismantle from the existing philosophical problem that had been passed down. This was necessary in order for Sandbothe to oppose its specific-pragmatic understanding. There, one can recognize that transversality here is dedicated to section, and that it cannot be regarded as a singular concept in and of itself. In the following chapter, the term and concept in connection with the previously discussed topic of media competence, will be introduced in order to then experience in the next step an expansion, which will make its central function plausible in virtually all important transformations which Sandbothe aims for in the field of the media theory.

Sandbothe takes his concept of the transversality from Wolfgang Welsch,18 who outlines it as the possible draft of contemporary and massive criticism of reason of the last century’s well-grounded reason theory . Sandbothe took three main theses of that theory and embedded them into his own theory:


"Firstly, the condition of rationality is characterized by an undeceivable untidiness. Secondly, reason is able in principle to reconstruct and precisely describe this untidiness. Thirdly, only when reason manages this, to productively allow itself unconsciously to integrate into rationality, will it be appropriately prepared to solve current problems."19


In view of a media-theoretical reconstruction of these arguments, Sandbothe stresses that disorder should prevail in rationality, which is comparable with that of the internet. The proximity of both becomes obvious by the description of reason as a mobile net and a fabric-like architecture. In large part, due to the isomorphic condition of both structures, it becomes obvious that reason, "as a direct20 result of its inherent condition," is tailored for the transmedial structures of the internet. As a start, unification principally reduces the attempts to establish media competence: the conditions, which structure by the reason of the user, "take on a medial form in the World Wide Web".21 Since a convergence, of which each effort to increase competence is pre-arranged, is pointed out here, it at least remains secure that human assets and technical structure do not completely uncouple themselves from each other. If Sandbothe finally establishes that the "the World Wide Web against this backdrop can be interpreted as an excellent medium of transverse reason",22 he appears to be want to guard himself against the "auto-evolution of the technical" evoked by some media theorists, and the resulting "media-materialistic fallacy”23 which in the long run claims not to directly refer to human autonomy of the media.

From the preceding point, it may have become insightful, that the secured interactive ability of humans with humans via (meandering around-) the path of the medial for a pragmatic conception of media philosophy cannot be set high enough. A continuing classification of the importance of interfaces, as well as the entire human-machine interaction must be developed further in this context.

Altogether, the concept of the transversality can be applied to diverse areas of transfer: in the first part it was shown how it is able to link the fundamentally diverse areas of pragmatic and theoretistic media philosophy. One movement remains as a distillate, which is of central importance for Sandbothe’s media: that of connection. One of the most important matters of his media theory is the departure from the idea, that a differentiation and analysis of intra medial structures alone could generate progress in the debate, which would be more than a mere end in itself. The alignment on a one-sided investigation of the basics he puts an ever continuing driving connection of different methods and rudiments in the face of each other. The internal fusion of different functional orientations, as well as the external validation of different institutions should result in reflection on both levels of a problem worthy of criticism. The specifically pragmatic here is no longer a purely content-related argument, but rather the methodical postulation to search in every new situation profitable possibilities of connection.


However, there often lies in the profitable and innovative element of the theory – like pragmatic connection --- also a danger: On the one hand is conclusive that the constant reference to the virtual to the real and vice versa makes clear how closely medial moments of structure, and social use are two sides of the same coin. However the attempt to come beyond media materialism, on the other hand, is also problematic. The network of the virtual and the material, which Sandbothe presents here, often work with each other, themselves always additional adapting structures, so that at many places the tendency develops, the borders of individual elements among themselves are not sufficient to stress and thus are not adequate to reflect differences on the structural level.


5. Conclusion

Where will a pragmatization of the media debate lead us? Let’s start at the point of discourse contributions from which Sandbothe wants to distance himself: not all, who speak about media, buy with this key word, per se, an actuality into its implementation. Instead large parts of the current discussion are only a transcendental philosophy appearing in new garb, whose questions despite the change to medial constitution conditions, remain close to the old term. Because this movement of dismissal at the end of the transcendental philosophy would remain in arrest, Sandbothe does not frontally attack this opponent however, but tries a new set of tools in order to establish and in practice first to insure themselves as to whether the new terminology would be more inappropriate for the examined complexes than the terms passed down. It is said of the current media discourse, that its "work on the term" of new problems has not grown. The more sedimented the overstretched term of philosophy is, on the basis of whose investigations are performed, the more lengthy the process to justify new (medial) constellations will be. As far as possible, only one openly held typology could be fast enough to master the new situations in order to be able to offer really helpful proposals for solutions for current problems; and accordingly also only the called in superficialness of philosophy could offer the possibility of becoming fair, which Sandbothe recently postulated in the title of an essay publication: the priority of the media before philosophy.

By this consistent excluding of specific philosophically historical implications, the border between philosophical position and cultural strategy itself, finally begins to dissolve. With this, philosophy finds a place in the movement, which goes through the entire strategy of pragmatic media philosophy traced here. Philosophy, itself will become a tool, it will be classified in something which is larger than it: the pursuit to advance the democratic project in the search for a better future.



Derrida, Jacques: Of Grammatology, Corrected Edition. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.

Sandbothe, Mike:

  • „Digitale Verflechtung. Eine medienphilosophische Analyse von Bild, Sprache und Schrift im Internet.“ Computernetze – ein Medium öffentlicher Kommunikation. Ed. Klaus Beck. Berlin: Spiess, 1997. 125-137.
  • „Interactivity-Hypertextuality-Transversality. A media-philosophical analysis of the Internet” Hermes. Journal of Linguistics 24, Ed. Carlo Grevy, February 2000, 81-108.
  • „Globalität als Lebenform. Überlegungen zur Ausbildung einer internetspezifischen Urteilskrafft.“ Zum Bildungsert des Internet. Ed. Winifried Marotzki, et. Al. Opladen: Leske & Budrich, 2000. 17-31.
  • „Pragmatic Media Philosophy. Foundations of a New Discipline in the Internet Age.” 2005 (German original appeared as "Pragmatische Medienphilosophie. Grundlegung einer neuen Disziplin im Zeitalter des Internet", Weilerswist: Velbrück Wissenschaft 2001).
  • „Grundpositionen zeitgenössischer Medienphilosophie und die Pragmatisierung unseres Mediengebrauchs im Internet.“ Maschinen – Medien – Performances. Theater an der Schnittstelle zu digitalen Welten. Ed. Martina Leeker. Berlin: Alexander. 2001a,. 451.460.
  • „Der Vorrang der Medien vor der Philosophie“ Medienphilosophie. Beiträge zur Klärung eines Begriffs. Ed. Stefan Münker, Alexander Roesler, Mike Sandbothe. Frankfurt: Fischer, 2003. 185-197.

Rorty, Richard: Pragmatism as Anti-Representationalism“ Pragmatism. From

Peirce to Davidson. Ed. John P. Murphy. Oxford u.a.: Westview Press, 1990. 1-6.

Welsch, Wolfgang: “Vernunft. Die zeitgenössische Vernunftkritik und das Konzept der Transversalen Vernunft.“ Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. 1996.

[1] Sandbothe 2001, 234.

[2] Sandbothe 2001a, 454.

[3] See special on the confrontation of representationalism and anti-representationalism. Rorty 1990.

[4] Sandbothe 2001, 124 based on Welsch.

[5] Ibid., 112.

[6] Ibid., 114f.

[7] Ibid., 116.

[8] Ibid., 118.

[9] The transitions and breaks should be impeccably traced according to the semiotic communications media . Although Sandbothe also states changes in the sensorial perception of the media, the most important points can be determined on the basis of the strategy pursued here.

[10] Sandbothe 1997, 129. In this quote, it becomes obvious why pragmatic media philosophy emphasizes the interference of technical extension of the media with the rest of the media: the latter should at least in the long term be able to sustainably change the relationships and the semiotic communications media, as well as the sensorial perception media.

[11] Ibid., 131. The course of action here can be read as a successful example for the use of the arguments of theorism by the pragmatist. The theoretistical preparatory work for the discovery of the link between both media appears to be very close to – which was exposed by Derrida – the concealed secret signature of spoken language.

[12] Ibid., 133.

[13] Ibid., 135

[14] Sandbothe 2001a, 459; Highlighting J.J.

[15] Sandbothe 2003, 195.

[16] Sandbothe 2001, 180.

[17] Sandbothe 2000, 19.

[18] See Welsch 1996.

[19] Sandbothe 1997a, 79.

[20] Sandbothe 2001, 127: emphasis J.J.

[21] Sandbothe 1997a,79.

[22] Ibid.

[23] See Sandbothe 2001, 183.

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