Mediology is a term coined by Regis Debray to denote the study of how abstract ideas lead to concrete practices, laws, and customs. Regis Debray fought alongside Ernesto "Che" Guavera in the late 60's and was sentenced to 30 years in prison by a Bolivian war tribunal, but was released after three years and came back to France to found the discipline of Mediology. In his words Mediology is the study of "the black-box problem. If the input is sounds, words, letters, even photons, and the output is legislation, institutions, police forces, and so on, then inside the black box must be what I call 'the act of transmission,' the whole set of technologies." In this sense, Mediology studies the history of ideas with a focus on what mediating technologies allowed those ideas become the cultural institutions we see today. Marx's original ideas required the printing press, a networked international intellectual elite, and living intermediaries such as Lenin and Mao to become the Communism we know today. Debray tends to downplay the role of technological determinism by looking for cultural factors that influenced the creation of the specific technology. To explain this he uses the example of the modern mechanical clock. We could look at the effects of the invention of the clock and talk about how it influenced history, yet the clock was invented because monks needed a way to keep accurate time measurement to implement their strict theological code. Thus in this case it was an abstract theological need that manifested in a technology that then spread across Europe to have profound changes on how everyone organized their life, making the notion of strong technological determinism a bit more complicated. Mediology is a natural compliment to the project of Cyborg Anthropology, although there are some differences worth noting. Cyborg Anthropology is more concerned with how information technologies have affected our notions of what it means to be human, while Mediology tends to examine how ideas work work with and through technologies to create persuasive cultural institutions.
- Joscelyne, Andrew. Revolution in Revolution. January 1995. http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/3.01/debray.html
Debray, Regis. Transmitting Culture