"switch all apparatuses"
It is a mark of how far Kittler’s reputation had spread in the English-speaking world that he had acquired his own cutely alliterative epithet: ‘the Derrida of the digital age’. It was probably an inevitable moniker for a figure who brought his own brand of poststructuralist thinking to bear on media technologies, but it is misleading for those coming to his work for the first time. Certainly, Kittler’s work would not have been possible other than from the vantage point of the ‘digital age’. However, he actually devoted comparatively little of his writing to the technological transformations of the present moment. The distinctiveness and importance of his work came from its engagement with the past, and its construction of an ambitious and compelling archaeology of media technologies. In this sense, his guiding light was not Derrida at all, but Michel Foucault. The ‘most important’ of all the poststructuralist thinkers, Foucault was such a towering influence that Kittler seems to have indulged in a little hero-worship.1 Anticipation of Foucault’s latest writings would set the young Friedrich’s pulse racing quite as much as getting his hands on a new LP by his beloved Pink Floyd, and he noted with regret in later years that a sudden attack of nerves meant he fluffed his best opportunity to meet the great man.