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This major new book provides a concise history of optical media from Renaissance linear perspective to late twentieth-century computer graphics. Kittler begins by looking at European painting since the Renaissance in order to discern the principles according to which modern optical perception was organized. He also discusses the development of various mechanical devices, such as the camera obscura and the laterna magica, which were closely connected to the printing press and which played a pivotal role in the media war between the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation.
After examining this history, Kittler then addresses the ways in which images were first stored and made to move, through the development of photography and film. He discusses the competitive relationship between photography and painting as well as between film and theater, as innovations like the Baroque proscenium or "picture-frame" stage evolved from elements that would later constitute cinema. The central question, however, is the impact of film on the ancient monopoly of writing, as it not only provoked new forms of competition for novelists but also fundamentally altered the status of books. In the final section, Kittler examines the development of electrical telecommunications and electronic image processing from television to computer simulations.
In short, this book provides a comprehensive introduction to the history of image production that is indispensable for anyone wishing to understand the prevailing audiovisual conditions of contemporary culture.
'Friedrich Kittler's Optical Media is not only, as its jacket-copy and introduction claim, its author's "best book for the uninitiated"; it is also one of his wittiest.' Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
'Kittler's lectures provide stimulating and provocative reading.' New Formations
'Kittler's analysis is always rich and involving, describing a complex path of theoretical and factual relations.' Neural
'Optical Media is the most engaging and accessible of Friedrich Kittler's books. It starts out with a clear presentation of Kittler'smedia-theoretical premises and then offers a fascinating tour through the history of storing, manipulating and projecting light. Witty, insightful, provocative, at times outrageous but always stimulating, Optical Media is not only an overlooked back entrance into the study of visual media from the Renaissance to the present, it is also an equally helpful back entrance into Kittler's own theory.' Geoffrey Winthrop-Young
'Kittler is the preeminent thinker of time-based media and what it means to edit the flow of time with technical means. Brilliant and remarkably original, he offers a kind of media analysis whose method is dialectically acute and philosophically deep. No one interested in what it means to live in a media-saturated age can neglecthis vital and controversial work.' John Durham Peters, The University of Iowa