Grey Room

Walter Benjamin’s Media Theory: The Medium and the Apparat

Antonio Somaini

László Moholy-Nagy. Lichtspiel: Schwarz Weiß Grau (Lightplay: Black White Grey), 1932. Frame enlargement.


What is a medium? And how can the history of the term—the ways in which it has been used and theorized—help us answer this question? This essay tackles both of these issues by focusing on Walter Benjamin’s writings, specifically by carefully studying the meanings he assigned to the German terms Medium (medium) and Apparat (apparatus). Such a study provides significant insights into the nature of media as well as into Walter Benjamin’s “media theory”—a topic that, even though widely and effectively studied, has not been analyzed from the perspective of Medium and Apparat, the terminological foci of his understanding of human experience in its interaction with technology.