Invocational media

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Invocational media are communication technologies based on digital computers. Invocational media infrastructures assign names (or addresses) to given entities (e.g. web pages with URLs, variables in programming, disk sectors with file allocation tables), and perform events to call up these named entities from invocable domains on demand (e.g. an HTTP request, a subroutine execution, a read or write to a hard disk).

The theory of invocational media identifies the event of invocation as the defining feature (or force) of digital computing. By this theory, invocational events (invocationary acts) should be considered to be conditions for the formal and mathematical principles by which invocations are composed, and not vice versa. That is, running a computer program (which is usually considered to follow its writing) is always (paradoxically) prior to its writing.

This theory draws on the philosophical monism and empiricism of Deleuze and Guattari and a theory of technology from actor-network theory. It offers an interpretive framework to trace unbroken connections between the lowest technical levels of computer operations through the experience of users, the conceptual frameworks in discourse, and political and economic structures, all of which are increasingly mediated by information technologies. The first order of invocation is the fetch-execute cycle, which puts command and memory into the same circuit. The second order of the invocation is the invocationary act by which users compose invocations to do things, but in doing so depend upon avocations and invocable domains that pre-exist that event. Finally, third order invocations are the concepts invoked to hold together invocational platforms: such as the metaphors of virtual reality, artificial intelligence, business information system, etc.

Term coined by Chris Chesher, Digital Cultures, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.


Chesher, Chris (1997) 'The ontology of digital domains' in Holmes, D. Virtual politics: identity and community in cyberspace. Politics and culture. London: Sage Publications Ltd.

Chesher, Chris (2001) Computers as invocational media, Unpublished PhD thesis, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia.

Chesher, Chris (2001) ‘What is new media research?’ in Brown, Hugh, Geert Lovink, Helen Merrick, Ned Rossiter, David Teh, Michele Willson (eds) (2001), Politics of a Digital Present: An Inventory of Australian Net Culture, Criticism and Theory, Melbourne: Fibreculture Publications.

Chesher, Chris (2002) 'Why the digital computer is dead' in Ctheory electronic journal:

Chesher, Chris (2003) Layers of code, layers of subjectivity in CultureMachine 5 (2003),

Chesher, Chris (2004) ‘Connection unbound by location’ in Griffith Review, Meadowbrook: Griffith University and ABC Books, Autumn 2004. Online:

Chesher, Chris (2006) ‘Multi-media’ in Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, Blackwell. Accepted January 2005.

Chesher, Chris (2006) ‘The Muse and the Electronic Invocator’ in Potts, John and Ed Scheer Technologies of Magic: A Cultural Study of Ghosts, Machines and the Uncanny, Sydney: Power Publications.

Dena, Christy (2005) 'Response to Keyword: A link by any other name', Blog post, Writer Response Theory, accessed February 2006.

Suchman, Lucy (2005) Agencies in Technology Design: Feminist Reconfigurations, Lancaster University. Workshop on Gendered Innovations in Science and Engineering, Stanford University, April 15–16, 2005.

Suchman, Lucy (2007) Human–Machine Reconfigurations. Plans and Situated Actions, 2nd Edition. Cambridge University Press.

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