What is a format

What is a format?

We all have the floor format constantly on our lips and we know very well what we mean by this from case to case. But it is precisely the smooth use of this word that needs clarification. For a long time, a format has primarily been understood as the ratio of length to width of a rectangular object. It is only in the past fifty years that its use has expanded to numerous other areas as digital media has expanded - as a terminus technicus everyday language. This ubiquity of the concept of format contrasts with an extensive lack of theoretical reflection. So far there is little to read about the format.

The book What is a format? - the first volume in the new series Small formats - develops the outlines of a general theory of format along its diverse fields of application. Based on the statement that no medium can do without formatting, the format is understood as a formal institution. At the same time, the career of this term since the end of the 19th century is traced: How is the format term used, what does it do and what is it a symptom of? Particular attention is paid to the relationship between format and program, format and genre, as well as format and seriality. At the end it is explained why it is less the medium than the format that is the message that needs to be analyzed.