Vital Media

Making, Design, and Expression for Humans and Other Materials

By Michael Nitsche

A proposal for a new media design to balance the contributions of humans and materials in the world they share.





A proposal for a new media design to balance the contributions of humans and materials in the world they share.

How can media design support a balance between our needs for self-expression and the material needs of the world we are part of? What criteria define a sustainable media ecology? In Vital Media, Michael Nitsche argues that the current human-centric view is not sustainable and that media are best viewed as dynamic networks where cognitive and noncognitive participants co-create. What we need, according to Nitsche, is a media design that balances the needs of all partners involved: vital media.

Tracing this ideal through two domains of expression and making, performance and craft, Nitsche calls on us to embrace material co-existence and to design for self-expression as well as material evolution. We must recognize that the living body and its dependencies on the world around it are at the heart of what media are about. Vital media exist to not only help individuals fulfill their potential through expression but to also realize the agencies of materials in the equally active surrounding world. Throughout the book, Nitsche interweaves theory with close readings of actual artifacts that encompass predigital, nondigital, and hybrid examples. Nitsche's approach counters the current tendency to pit the virtual media world against the reality in which we live.


$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262544580 230 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 24 b&w illus.


  • “Nitsche offers a much-needed relational and material perspective that is of central importance for anyone who wants to study, understand, and develop media. An important and timely contribution that we greatly need.”

    Mikael Wiberg

    Professor of Interaction Design, Chalmers University of Technology, and Professor of Informatics, Umeå university, Sweden. Author of The Materiality of Interaction

  • “Without downplaying the role of the human designer, Nitsche beautifully illustrates how careful attention to specific qualities of digital materials leads to more satisfying, and sustainable, designs.”

    Bo Reimer

    Professor of Media and Communication Studies and Director of Medea Media Lab, Malmö University, co-author of Collaborative Media. Production, Consumption, and Design Interventions

  • “From earthbound performance to space-age photography, Nitsche enlivens the interlocking worlds of material and digital encounters—not by falling back on their divisions, but by weaving new multivalent connections within and across their mediated lives.”

    Daniela K. Rosner

    Associate Professor, University of Washington and author of Critical Fabulations: Reworking the Methods and Margins of Design

  • “Nitsche draws together perspectives on contemporary hybrid media ranging from more-than-human agency to performance, craft, and community. As an interaction designer, I find the book highly inspirational and rich in potentially generative concepts.”

    Professor Jonas Löwgren

    Linköping University, author of Thoughtful Interaction Design and Collaborative Media