Abstract - What's In a Name? The Ontology of Media Arts

Authoring a history of Media Arts presents unique critical and ontological challenges to art historians and theoreticians alike. Using the Kuhnian model of discipline matrix, i.e., working terms of engagement shared by practitioners within disciplinary boundaries-previously called a paradigm--we find the primary terms of our disciplinary matrix, at best, imprecise, and at worst, mired in contradictory and ahistorical usages and definitions. One of our first challenges is to undertake a historical hermeneutics. This inquiry then explodes the definitional variety and models of media such as media arts, computer arts, meta-media arts, science and technology by way of an exploration of several of the conceptual contributions of Martin Heidegger and Marshall McLuhan. As Heidegger articulated an ontology of technology as a quintet of interrelated world-structures of ordinary experience such as: equipment, products, nature, theory, and intersubjectivity, Marshall McLuhan smashed the smooth banality of the media of his time [which he then correctly called new media] to reveal media as a maelstrom of almost uncontrollable forces and social consequences within which we experience and define ourselves and our world. Thus, this current inquiry constructs a foundational ontology of contemporary media arts.