The following comes from the close of an essay arguing that the divisions between film, video and digital media arts make no sense and weaken all three. At the same time it argues for a new medium-specificity, one based on what is specific to a specific work or practice: the specific assembly of devices, peripherals, software, operating systems, power source, lenses, architecture that make a particular edit suite or installation or cinema. The new medium-specificity is a new materials=ism, against the dematerialising, idealist claims of art critics since Rosalind Krauss's A Voyage on the North Sea: Art in the Age of the Post-Medium Condition a little over ten years ago. It is also a veiled response to attempts to assign a single aesthetic to "the digital" (information aesthetics, code). Instead, there's a claim that the history of the media arts is in some respects a mode of media archeology.
The role of media arts is to enter into mediation. They may in passing reveal the mediated nature of the message, and they may well speak to the specificity of the media employed (in the same way Beuys speaks to the specificity of felt and fat). They do speak to the material specificity of mediation – not to some generic and universal ether, nor to the primacy of objects over mediation. Our age recognises the primacy of the connection over the node, the flows that concatenate into nets, the needs and desires that aggregate into individuals and social groups. They assert that the mediation matters: an active verb, the becoming-material of connectivity. They render material the natural desire of the sunflower for the sun through photophilic biochemistry. Media arts insist that all art is made with media; that everything is mediates and every process mediates. This is the only universal for the media arts. An example: lithography ties Fox Talbot's experiments with halftone printing to the technology employed in fabricating chips. Mediation is the very medium of history. Thus the media history of art, and media art history as its avant garde, is a history of mediations within and between human, technological and natural processes, bodies in light and sympathetic vibrations. The power of media art history is its project: the truth of the future, not of the past.
Thanks to Domenico Quadrato for starting these thoughts, and to Eddie Shanken and Cate Elwes for te ongoing discussions