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On the Media Logic of the State

Part of the Transforming Communications – Studies in Cross-Media Research book series (TCSCMR)


In Altheides/Snow’s important book on “media logic” it is stated that “media are the dominant force to which other institutions conform”. This argument is completely convincing, but it implies the difference between “media” and “other institutions.” “Media” is one institution among others. Although this is of course correct from e.g. a systems-theoretical perspective in which “mass media” form one subsystem of society, from the standpoint of Medienkulturwissenschaft it neglects that all institutions are always already based on medial infrastructures. This is shown with the regard to the state, its medial infrastructure of identity documents and the historical development of the defense of the media monopoly of the state

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Fig. 8.1
Fig. 8.2


  1. 1.

    On the rise in “identity theft”, which constitutes a serious problem, particularly for finance (cf. Hoofnagle, 2007; cf. also Wisse, 2007).

  2. 2.

    This also includes interesting information on historical techniques for ensuring authenticity, such as tallies. Also cf. Vogtherr (2002, 154) on the fact that the “standardization of the appearance” of certificates was “a safeguard against the falsification of documents”. He notes on p. 157 that “modern diplomatics, the academic study of documents, emerged around 1700”; “the fundamental question both then and now is discrimen veri ac falsi, the distinction between what is real and what is false”.

  3. 3.

    On the details of this development, cf. Mort (1989). On the founding of Xerox and the growing acceptance of photocopiers, cf. ibid., part. 59 and 62–69.

  4. 4.

    For the best, most comprehensive overview currently available, cf. van Renesse (2005).

  5. 5.

    German identity cards, for example, use the so-called “identigram” technique, cf. Bundesdruckerei (2014).

  6. 6.

    Such as “kinegrams” or security holograms (Wikipedia, 2014). Often these techniques are collectively referred to using the umbrella term “holography” or “holograms”, although strictly speaking this is not correct. Thus “dot matrix holography”, which is often used in security appliances (cf. Johnston, 2006, 220) does not record interference patterns between object waves and reference waves; instead, an interference between two beams is used to draw pixels that constitute diffraction gratings, thus digitally assembling an image. Cf. Andrulevičius, Tamulevičius, and Tamulevičius (2007).

  7. 7.

    Cf. Jens Schröter, “Das holographische Wissen und die Nicht-Reproduzierbarkeit,” in Das holographische Wissen, ed. Stefan Rieger and Jens Schröter (Berlin: diaphanes, 2009): 77–86.

  8. 8.

    Of course there has been no shortage of attempts to forge holograms, but the results were seldom convincing; cf. Pizzanelli (1998).

  9. 9.

    This does not pose a problem for the second and third line of defense, as the second line consists of persons working professionally with money, who are likely more aware of forgeries and also have devices at their disposal able to recognize forgeries (e.g. the counterfeit detectors produced by the company Safescan (cf. Safescan, 2014). The third line of defense are already specialists in counterfeit detection.

  10. 10.

    The governments of authoritarian states were not overly fond of photocopiers, as they made the uncontrolled reproduction of information possible (such as the USSR, cf. Steinschaden, 2012, 112). However, the new options for marking copies make them interesting for dictatorships again.

  11. 11.

    One of the best-known examples of such a taggant is the so-called EURion constellation, a cloud of dots found on Euro banknotes that can be recognized by copiers and the like. The algorithm CDS (Counterfeit Deterrence System) developed by the Central Banks Counterfeit Deterrence Group (Rules for Use, 2014), a working group of 27 central banks and other institutions that produce bank notes, is implemented in software such as Photoshop . For obvious reasons, the exact mechanisms used are secret. Steven J. Murdoch (2009) of Cambridge University has been researching this for some time: Software Detection of Currency.


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Schröter, J. (2018). On the Media Logic of the State. In: Thimm, C., Anastasiadis, M., Einspänner-Pflock, J. (eds) Media Logic(s) Revisited. Transforming Communications – Studies in Cross-Media Research. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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