Elements of a Critical Theory of Media and Participation

New Perspectives from Media Philosophy and Anthropology

This project undertakes a fundamental historical and systematic re-contextualization of participation rooted in media philosophy and anthropology. It aims at developing key elements of a theory of medial participation, based on which an urgent critique of relationality can be advanced. Medial participation comes into view as a specific mode of participation, as a name for the specific historical formation of participation under today’s technoecological condition.

The main thrust of this project is that in an age of medial participation, the question of participation emerges at the intersection of four lines of problematization: the relational transformation of power, capital, subjectivity and of the common. The emergence of relationality as such, which designates this transformation, is based on the far-reaching implementation of relational technologies, which not only put into relation and produce relations, but also operationalize and exploit them, thereby reconstituting the dominant forms of power, capital, subjectivity and of the common as relational. With the radical emergence of relationality under the medial condition, a previously unthought historical development within the problematic of participation becomes significant, a development which can be conceptualized as a transition from Teilnahme (‘taking part’) to Teilhabe (‘having part’).

The project’s division into two research areas (RA), each foregrounding two aspects of the relational turn, is structured along the four lines of problematization. RA1: “Economic Elements of Participation” outlines the relational form of power and capital. Based on the anthropological revaluation of relation, which is central to the genesis of the new relationalism in contemporary theory and as such becomes paradigmatic in Marilyn Strathern’s oeuvre, the role of the paradigm of exchange and its displacement by the contemporary capital-form will be reconstructed. RA2: “Political Elements of Participation” focuses on the relational form of the subject and the common. Chiefly, the difference between Teilhabe and Teilnahme, which organizes the question of participation, will be elaborated. This challenges the previous, political core of participation, which, as the relationship between individuality, property and appropriation was central to modernity. In its place a non-appropriative participation as well as a form of individuality not defined by property and appropriation will be outlined as central moments of medial participation.

The intended critique of medial participation does not aim at rejecting relationality, but at recovering it. Therefore, the concept of partiality, which expanded from relational anthropology into contemporary critical theory, will be advanced. Relationality, in a time of medial participation, can only ever be partial if it wants to escape the dominant relational forms of power, capital, subjectivity, and of the common.

Subproject 1

Subproject 1 of the distributed DFG research group Media and Participation.
Between Demand and Entitlement (seated at the  University of Konstanz) 

Media and Participation


Principal Investigator

Prof. Dr. Erich Hörl
Universitätsallee 1, C5.302
21335 Lüneburg
Fon +49.4131.677-2760

Student Assistant

Jonas Kellermeyer
Universitätsallee 1
21335 Lüneburg



Principal Investigator

Prof. Dr. Roberto Nigro
Universitätsallee 1, C5.230
21335 Lüneburg
Fon +49.4131.677-2089

Research Fellow

Michel Schreiber
Universitätsallee 1
21335 Lüneburg

Milan Stürmer
Universitätsallee 1, C5.404
21335 Lüneburg