When the machine hails you, do you turn? Media orientations and the constitution of digital space

Hewa, Nelanthi
First Monday

Machines have gone by many names, both in and outside of media theories. They have been called tools, prosthetics, auxiliary organs, and more. This paper explores what happens when we think of media as orientating devices. Sara Ahmed (2006) attends to the way orientations — sexual orientations, but also orientations as ways of being in the world more generally — come to be, and come to be felt on the body. Though Ahmed does not speak of media specifically, her queer phenomenology offers new ways of thinking about media. Media can be thought of as devices that orient, and that turn the body in one direction and away from another. Indeed, a media phenomenology is particularly useful in grounding both the body in media and the media’s felt effects on the body. As scholars increasingly stress, the language used to describe media often obfuscates their materiality, with words like ”virtual“ or even ”Web” concealing the material realities of digital networks. Beyond the materiality of media themselves, however, a phenomenology of media attends to the relationship between media and the bodies that turn to — and are turned — by them.