Toward a Technological Notion of Milieu

Rebekka Ladewig, Angelika Seppi

Georges Canguilhem’s prediction that “the notion of milieu is becoming a universal and obligatory mode of apprehending the experience and existence of living beings” (Canguilhem 1952) has become a truism. However, the question of the transferability of this concept – with its origins in the life sciences – to the sphere of technical objects requires further discussion. A critical theory of milieu that does justice to contemporary realities will therefore need to focus on the technological conditionality of contemporary environments. This is all the more important with regards to a new type of media technology that is characterized by the way in which it intervenes in an increasingly invasive manner in everyday life, yet at the same time systematically eludes notice.
In our talk we will present examples of such “environmental media” and propose two key assumptions for further discussion: first, that the human being acquires a relative autonomy in relation to the ‘natural’ environment precisely through the appropriation of technical or artistic ‘organs’ respectively, one that can however tip over at any moment into what henceforth becomes a technologically conditioned heteronomy; and secondly, that the possibility for transgressing such a metastable state can be characterized as a genuinely creative and aesthetic faculty.