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Variantology has been conceived as an international research project with the aim of developing a critical appraisal of the established concepts of “media”.[1] The concept of a medium is thus opened up to approaches and disciplines that up to now have remained outside the contemporary discourse on media, such as theology, various musicology, aspects of natural sciences, fine arts or classical philology. Furthermore, it is opened up to cultures of knowledge that have long been excluded from the western discourse, like the oriental and Arabic-Islamic culture. Variantology also attempts to explore how reciprocally these disciplines then become open to thinking in categories and terms of media and communication. Consequently, the network of research that constitutes the Variantology project involves scholars based in academic institutions as well as artists, musicians and authors.[2]

Theoretical basis[edit]

To come to a different understanding of media, a central part of research is the development of a network of scientists, artists and scholars who are engaged with the "deep time relations“ between arts, sciences, and technologies. The term "deep time relations“ refers to the notion of being a plurality of traversals through the genealogy of what we call media today.[3] The underlying theoretical center is Michel Foucault’s concept of genealogy,[4] which he developed from Friedrich Nietzsche’s thinking about morality as a historical- and social-generated construction. However, Foucault differs from his predecessor in that Nietzsche believed these constructions were rooted in psychological drives based on differing psychological types. In this sense, Foucault borrows from Nietzsche but diverges from Nietzsche's philosophical naturalism.[5]

Foucault's approach in this connection was to comprehend history as a constitution of knowledge, of discourses, of objectification and so on, detached from an idea of historical subjects and previously unquestioned categories of Western (Eurocentric) culture and power. This is not to say that ethnocentrism is only a Western phenomenon; there is debate as to whether eurocentrism is an ethnocentric term, given that Western models of thought have aimed to incorporate non-native elements to a much larger degree than have non-Western cultures and systems of power. What has changed is the focus: how media have developed within a Western context (e.g. technological advancements, socio-political effects) is studied alongside the histories, practices, and effects in non-Western countries. This study is complicated within media studies as distinctions between Western and non-Western cultures continue to diminish under the influence of international corporations, law, trade, and communications. But how regional cultures incorporate non-native elements while maintaining their local cultural identity remains an important area of research.

Workshops and publications[edit]

An integral part of the project is the annual international workshop. The first three Variantology workshops were held at Academy of Media Arts Cologne, the fourth one at UdK in Berlin, and the 5th at Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele III in Naples, Italy.

  • 2011: Zielinski, Siegfried and Eckhard Fürlus (Editors). Variantology 5 – Neapolitan Affairs. On Deep Time Relations of Arts, Sciences and Technologies (Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther Koenig). ISBN 978-3-86560-887-1
  • 2010: Zielinski, Siegfried and Eckhard Fürlus (Editors). Variantology 4 – On Deep Time Relations of Arts, Sciences and Technologies in the Arabic-Islamic World and Beyond (Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther Koenig). ISBN 978-3-86560-732-4
  • 2008: Zielinski, Siegfried and Eckhard Fürlus (Editors). Variantology 3 – On Deep Time Relations Of Arts, Sciences and Technologies in China and Elsewhere (Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung König). ISBN 3-86560-366-1
  • 2006: Zielinski, Siegfried and David Link (Editors). Variantology 2 – On Deep Time Relations Of Arts, Sciences and Technologies (Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung König). ISBN 3-86560-050-6.
  • 2005: Zielinski, Siegfried and Silvia M. Wagnermaier (Editors). Variantology – On Deep Time Relations Of Arts, Sciences and Technologies (Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung König). ISBN 3-88375-914-7


  1. ^ "Vilém Flusser Archiv". Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  2. ^ [1] Archived 2012-07-11 at
  3. ^ "Deep Time" is a term coined in palaeontological studies, especially by Stephen Jay Gould and John McPhee.
  4. ^ Foucault, Michel. "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History.” in: Paul Rabinow (Editor). The Foucault Reader. Vintage. 1984. ISBN 0-394-71340-0
  5. ^ Nietzsche, Friedrich. On the Genealogy of Morals. Oxford University Press. 2009. ISBN 0-19-953708-9