Grant Bollmer – Materialist Media Theory: An Introduction


Bloomsbury, ISBN-13: 978-1501337116, English, 202 pages, 2019, USA

How much do we value ‘physical materiality’ in the 2020s? In the dominant tradition of media theory it seems to be valued very little, as either the ’meaning’ or the ‘representation’ of content are at the core of these theories. Bollmer here argues from a perspective where the textual/semiotic tradition is not sufficient to assess the invisible but essential technological infrastructure. The approached materialism is inflected in different forms (from the ‘spatiotemporal’ to the ‘neurocognitive’), all investigating how media affects our bodies and our current perception of reality. These forms are not just the other side of the classic semiotic analysis, but a crucial terrain to discuss media and inequalities. As examples, the (failed) representational critiques are discussed in the first chapter, though the controversial evolution of the Lara Croft character, and in the third the core topic is the ‘inscription’, or the recording or embodiment of sensory experiences by media. In all these contexts, McLuhan is a recurrent reference, both for acknowledgement and critique. A standardised structure supports the clarity of the text, and the “political goals” that the author is calling for in the very beginning are convincingly articulated through the pages, to be finally crystallised in the conclusion, in the form of a ten theses ‘manifesto’.