chapter  6
Media institutions: Between agency and structure
Pages 20

As part of an anthropological perspective on how the members of a culture communicate, Claude Lévi-Strauss referred to objects-to-thinkwith.1 Especially animals that are part of the cultural diet can become means of classifying and, thus, coming to terms with reality. It is not so much that they are “good to eat,” but that they are “good to think (with)” (Lévi-Strauss, 1991/1962: 89). In a different culture, the same animal or natural object may mean something else, it may be prepared in a different manner, or it may not be considered good to either eat or think with. Also artifacts – from stone tools to oil paintings – serve as more or less programmable tokens of meaningful interchange. In comparison, contemporary media constitute institutions-to-think-with (Douglas, 1987) – highly differentiated and widely distributed material and modal infrastructures that enable reflection and interaction across space and time. Cultures and societies program their media, which, in turn, program them.