There was a time when it was impossible to say anything substantive in media research without launching into an exhaustive discussion on Althusser or Lacan. That time of compulsory theorizing is over, to the relief of many, but that does not mean media research’s relationship to theory is now healthy. On the contrary, contemporary media research tends either to operate in a theory-free zone or in isolated capsules of theory-saturation – Deleuzian, Manovichian, and so on – unconnected either to each other or to any wider space of debate. To change metaphors, we lurched in the late 1990s from an all-night party of theoretical excess to find ourselves at dawn in a “post-theory” desert where even the effort of asking why we need theory, and how we might compare the relative merits of competing theories, seemed beyond us.