Monday, 20 December 2010

Look around the room and become a media archaeological circuit bender

Editing, and especially cutting your text to fit the word count of a journal hurts. It is not easy which of your paragraphs, sentences, words you need to take out, as you are usually in an illusion that the text is such a tight, well-composed system already that any missing piece would make it crush. This is one of the illusions of writing, more generally.

Anyhow, in order to rescue one of my favourite quotes from the article, I shall post it here. This relates to expanding the media archaeological ideas into an art methodology, and especially a media archaeology of contemporary devices, not only past media. This idea takes it seriously and to the word that media archaeology can go *behind* the screen, not just dig out old ideas from the archive. Hence, it entails a rethinking of the archive -- in a Foucauldian manner, the media is the archive, when we understand how it is a condition for perception, sensation, memory, and time more generally.

Here, we twist and bend media archaeology with Bruno Latour's help.

Consider Latour's methodological exercise for ethnography of technological objects as an art methodology for media archaeology: "Look around the room [...] Consider how many black boxes there are in the room. Open the black boxes; examine the assemblies inside. Each of the parts inside the black box is itself a black box full of parts. If any part were to break, how many humans would immediately materialize around each. How far back in time, away in space, should we retrace our steps to follow all those silent entities that contribute peacefully to your reading this chapter at your desk? Return each of these entities to step 1; imagine the time when each was disinterested and going its own way, without being bent, enrolled, enlisted, mobilized, folded in any of the others' plots. From which forest should we take our wood. In which quarry should we let the stones quietly rest."

- Bruno Latour, Pandora's Hope. Essays on the Reality of Science Studies. (Cambridge, MA & London, England: Harvard University Press, 1999), 185.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

An Archaeology of Media Archaeology - An Excerpt

Happy to see that University of California Press have given a short teaser out of our forthcoming Media Archaeology volume -- part of the introduction "An Archaeology of Media Archaeology" written by Erkki Huhtamo and me.

The introduction offers an overview of how to approach media archaeology - without wanting to give definite answers. Instead, it offers both a mapping of the field as well as insights into how to think of media archaeology as a catalyzer for certain kinds of historically tuned analyses of media culture - old and new. The book is to be out in March-April 2011, and the project I am currently writing is a sort of a follow up.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

On ruins - Benjamin

If media archaeology is thought and analysis that emerges from the ruins - takes left-overs, waste, rubble and ruins of media cultures as its fuel then it is quite naturally Walter Benjamin who stands as one of its grounding figures. The work of Arcades-project is emblematic in this regard with its multilayered approach that methodologically picks up on the theme of the fragment when writing about the ruins (in which we live) of modernity, mass culture, emergence of media cultures, and capitalism.

The idea of "allegory" as a driving force of Benjamin's methodology is explained in his earlier work Ursprung des Deutschen Trauerspiels (1928) in a passage on "ruins". In short, and literally in a condensed fashion Benjamin outlines how "allegories are in the sphere of thought what ruins are among things" (Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften, Band 1.1, p. 354). Whereas he goes to explicate this in the context of his study - the 18th century theatrical genre - for us this has media archaeological and ecological implications in how he ties together the ruins of material culture as part of the ecologies of thought, and in a way precedes some of the ways in which media archaeological research and cultural histories of material culture have tried to engage with these themes. We live among layered historical times - concretely - of which architectures are the most common example to an extent that has afforded even grounding ontological and metaphysical insights as with Heidegger, but we can extend that to architectures and ruins of media culture, which demonstrate what Braudel would have called the various durations of history. The long duration, the intermediary, and the time of the event intermingle and mix, and our seemingly contemporary is one of old, the past as well in a way that does not fit in with either linear nor cyclical notions of time. Same applies to thought which resides in ruins as well and where the idea of "archaeology" might be more apt than "history" as a notion to carve out the layered constellation in the cognitive and the affective take place. This is also why Freud himself was fond of archaeological metaphors, but also why Freud, in a way, and in his own way as a contemporary of Benjamin is another predecessor of media archaeology as Thomas Elsaesser shows (in his article forthcoming in Media Archaeology: Approaches, Applications, Implications). In this sense, the allegorical as understood by Benjamin is a parallel, partly competing, partly complementing concept to those master concepts proposed by Huhtamo (cyclical topoi) and Zielinski (variantology, the minor genealogies of media culture).

Thoughts, things, surroundings emerge from ruins, but so they return as ruins. Dead media is an index of ruins of media cultures, but also a reminder of the continuing environmental significance of discarded waste - haunting zombies.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Archaeologies of telegraphy - J.J.Fahie

Not that we should be fetishistically interested in the questions of firsts - the first inventor of this and that - but still this is a source worthwhile mentioning. Thanks to Doug Kahn's tip, I discovered the writings of John Joseph Fahie and especially his magnificent early history of telegraphy - even the first volume which maps this history to the year 1837 is over 500 pages, and the other part, focusing on the wireless telegraphy, continues to year 1899 with over 300 pages. Moreover, interesting is the way Fahie frames his interest of knowledge as "archaeological" - an archaeology of electricity and electric communications, of tracking "foreshadows" and working with "submerged" materials (as he points out when talking about the submarine telegraph cable histories extending the metaphor).

To quote from the Preface of the first of the two books, A History of Electric Telegraphy, to the year 1833, from 1884:

"Soon after joining the telegraph service, in 1865, our archaeological bent took another turn, and we now began to collect books and scraps on electricity, magnetism, and their applications--particularly to telegraphy, and with the same industrious ardour as before." (viii)

So is J.J.Fahie the first media archaeologist? Perhaps indeed not a relevant question, but both the use of such metaphors in terms of the objects of knowledge (and the fact that he is interested in the history of technical communication) as well as the interest in "notes, scraps, &c" (ix) is of interest in this early work of excavation. The heterogeneous nature of the source materials is to be noted - the way he explicates it as well. Similarly as with the much more famous figure interested in digging through heterogeneous materials of modernity - its rubble and ruins - Walter Benjamin, Fahie is himself a product of that modernity where the "fragment" seems to be the constituting source for knowledge creation.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Zombie Media nominated for a theory award

To mention the nomination on this blog as well...roll on media archaeology!: the with Garnet Hertz co-authored piece "Zombie Media: Circuit Bending Media Archaeology into an Art Method" has been nominated for the Transmediale 2011 festival Vilem Flusser Theory Award!

The text is a theoretical excavation into thinking such art methods as circuit bending as media archaeological, and hence, expanding the notion of media archaeology from a textual method into something more strongly connected to the political economy of clipped shut information technology and material digital culture art practices: tinkering with technology that is not meant to be opened, changed, modified.

Hence we mobilize such key themes as "black boxes" which have of course been well thematized in Science and Technology Studies (STS), but now in a media archaeological and hacktivist setting. Hence, the name zombie media: not dead media, even if old, passed away even; we write in the conclusions: "media never dies. Media may disappear in a popular sense, but it never dies: it decays, rots, reforms, remixes, and gets historicized, reinterpreted and collected. It either stays as a residue in the soil and in the air as concrete dead media, or is reappropriated through artistic, tinkering methodologies."

Of course, media archaeological art has been done - and we are not the first one's to tap into this idea. We are hence following the footsteps of such great practitioners as Paul DeMarinis, Zoe Beloff, and a range of others who use media archaeological methods, ethos or the more general idea of remediation in their practices that put old media and new media into dialogue. What is however still missing is the theoretical discussion concerning the art methods in media archaeology, and our text is a contribution in that direction.

Here the info from the Transmediale 2011-website:

Vilém Flusser Theory Award
Congratulations to the following four nominees of Vilém Flusser Theory Award 2011!
The Vilém Flusser Theory Award (VFTA) promotes innovative media theory and practice-oriented research exploring current and pending positions in digital art, media culture and networked society. The call was open to publications, positions, and projects from a broad range of theoretical, artistic, critical or design-based research that seeks to establish and define new forms of exchange, vocabularies and cultural dialogue.

Zombie Media: Circuit Bending Media Archaeology into an Art Method
Garnet Hertz & Jussi Parikka

GATHERINGS 1: EVENT, AGENCY, AND PROGRAM
Jordan Crandall

_Social Tesseracting_: Parts 1 - 3
Mez Breeze

Digital Anthropophagy and the Anthropophagic Re-Manifesto for the Digital Age
Vanessa Ramos-Velasquez

Friday, 15 October 2010

Media Archaeology - definition, take 2


To continue to find alternative definitions for media archaeology, here is another one - a more straightforward than my previous one, the so-called beta 0.8 definition.

This next one, below, comes from Erkki Huhtamo, and is taken from the The Routledge Companion to Film History, edited by William Guynn (2010, page 203):

"The term 'media archaeology' has come to refer to a particular way of studying media as a historically attuned enterprise. Media archaeologists claim they are 'excavating' forgotten media-cultural phenomena that have been left outside the canonized narratives about media culture and history. Histories of suppressed, neglected, and forgotten media have begun to appear, ones that do not point selectively and teleologically to the present cultural situation and currently dominant media as their 'perfection', as traditional histories (including cinema history) often do. They have challenged the 'rejection of history' by modern media culture and theory alike by pointing out hitherto unnoticed continuities and ruptures. As a consequence, the area considered relevant for media studies has begun to expand both temporally and spatially. The field of research has been extended back by centuries and is also expanding beyond Western media cultures. Some prominent scholars linked to media archaeological approaches (although all of them don't necessarily define themselves as media archaeologists) are Friedrich Kittler, Siegfried Zielinski, Erkki Huhtamo, Jussi Parikka, and Wolfgang Ernst."

Friday, 1 October 2010

What is Media Archaeology? - beta definition 0.8


One of the hardest questions I have to continuously answer is “how do you then define media archaeology”, or even worse: “can you give a short definition of what is media archaeology”. When answering “no, I cannot” is not an option, I need to try to make the point of its multiple origins and conflicting definitions by a range of scholars from Huhtamo to Zielinski, Elsaesser to Ernst; but also, try to add my own definition, which proceeds by way of synthesis. Hence, what follows is an attempt to offer one definition, or at least a useful paragraph of how we can think of media archaeology. In other words, as a definition including points of how it has been understood, and how I rephrase its possibilities, here goes (beta version for testing purposes):

Media archaeology has succeeded in establishing itself as a heterogeneous set of theories and methods that investigate media history through its alternative roots, its forgotten paths, and neglected ideas and machines that still are useful when reflecting the supposed newness of digital culture. The definitions have ranged from emphasising the recurring nature of media cultural discourses (Huhtamo) to media archaeology as an-archaeology, or variantology (Zielinski) which in its excavation of the deep time layers of the way we sense and use our media always tries to find an alternative route to dismantle the fallacy of linear development.

Furthermore, I see media archaeology as a history-theory enterprise, in which temporal excavation of media functions as a theoretical force as well; a reading of old media and new media in parallel lines. Media archaeology is decisively non-linear, and rigorously theoretical in its media historical interest of knowledge. In a Benjaminian vein, it abandons historicism when by it is meant the idea that the past is given and out there waiting for us to find it; instead, it believes in the radical assembling of history, and histories in the plural, but so that it is not only a subset of cultural historical writing. Instead, media archaeology needs to insist
both on the material nature of its enterprise – that media are always articulated in material, also in non-narrative frameworks whether technical media such as phonographs, or algorithmic such as databases and software networks – and that the work of assembling temporal mediations takes place in an increasingly varied and distributed network of institutions, practices and technological platforms. Indeed, what media archaeology investigates are also the practical rewirings of time, as is done in media artistic and creative practice work, through archives digital and spatial, as well as DIY and circuit bending which recycle, and remix obsolete technology as much as they investigate how technology is the framework for temporality for us.

Media archaeology takes place in artistic labs, laboratories where hardware and software are hacked and opened, but as much in conceptual labs for experimenting with concepts and ideas.


(Acknowledgements: my thinking in terms of media archaeology is at the moment very much influenced by both a range of established scholars from Huhtamo to Zielinski and Elsaesser, but also by writings and personal exchange with a range of "newer voices", including Garnet Hertz, Wolfgang Ernst, Wendy Chun and others. Hence, my definition is not exclusive in that sense, but part of a wider network and scholarly interest in rethinking some of the temporal basis of new media theory. And there is lot more to come and digest; Matt Kirschenbaum's work and its implications for media archaeology; how to incorporate software studies into the so far very screen-based media archaeological focus, etc.)

Image: Antennaes open to the other worlds.
From Andrew Jackson Davis' The Present Age and Inner Life, expanded edition 1869, p.89.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Imaginary media -- on chapter 2 of the book

I am at the moment writing chapter 2 for the new Media Archaeology book (the first one, already finished, that we co-edited with Erkki Huhtamo and that features a range of excitign articles from such top writers as Thomas Elsaesser, Wendy Chun, Wolfgang Ernst, Machiko Kusahara, Claus Pias, Jeffrey Sconce, lots of others, and afterword from Vivian Sobchak is now promised to be out in Spring 2011 -- see the University of California Press page for the book.)

Chapter 2 focuses on "imaginary media research" and its idea can be summed up here as follows:

Imaginary media research (so well summed up by Eric Kluitenberg's edited book Book of Imaginary Media in 2006) has to a large extent focused on a) media imagined, non-existent, but worthy of exploration in terms of how it can reinvigorate current media cultural design and debates or b) the dreamworlds surrounding media and tech, the way they get invested with weird desires, social constructions, articulations with human worlds of politics and meanings (Zoe Beloff's media archaeological art being one of the best examples of such) but also, and this is the insight I aim to bring in: it is c) a shorthand for what could be addressed as the non-human side of technical media; the fact that technical media non-solid (or summons non-solid worlds), non-phenomenological (electromagnetic fields, high level mathematics, speeds beyond human comprehension, etc) and because of that ephemeral nature it is often described with language of the fabulous, spectacular. Hence, imaginary media is tightly interlinked with non-human technical media especially since early 19th-century, and this materialist notion of imaginary media also detaches from e.g. Zielinski's more poetic vision. It does not mean a valorization in one direction or the other, but points towards how imaginary media research can extend to new directions, to thinking "imaginary" as less Lacanian (providing dreamworlds of unified bodies, as in reference to Lacan's tripartite functioning of the psyche as Real, Imaginary, and Symbolic) but as an affordance for the new --- to think media anew, and in weird places, in weird bodies.

Was my Insect Media already a work of imaginary media in this sense?

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Nam June Paik's television - back and forth


Admired today Nam June Paik's funny Robot K456 at the Hamburger Bahnhof museum in Berlin, and took these two pictures of his early television work --- the one front, and the one more media archaeologically the back. Diagrammatics.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Sonic Archaeology in the Creative Technologies Review

The most recent episode of our Creative Technologies Review podcast with Julio D'Escrivan features among other themes the sonic archaeology work by Shintaro Miyazaki and the Berlin placed project at the Institute for Algorhythmics - an artist collective interested in sound, technology and the electromagnetic sphere...

Listen to podcast here and read more on Sonic Archaeology.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Voice analysis and visualisation circa 1900

At times haunted by a spirit of curiosity ("just because it is interesting"), media archaeological work has not always succeeded in justifying its relevance to wider questions concerning the "why" question of historical inquiry. Yet, I myself will post something...interesting -- just for the sake of curiosity.
Found today, "the tonograph", a small, mobile instrument for analysis and visualisation of sound. The horn-like instrument both produces the sound and also "paints" the voice on the membrane at the end of the horn, which then can be photographed. As is described in La Science curieuse et amusante (by Faideau, published in Paris, 1902 - also the source of the images, pp. 79 and 80), not only the voice but the inscription is beautiful... naturally, there was much analysis and graphical representation of such phenomena as sounds as well as movements during that time and much earlier, but still, an interesting mobile object that links to later avant-garde fascination with sounds that can be seen.

Monday, 6 September 2010

A crowd sourcing request

The current book I am writing on media archaeology is supposed to fit into MA and PhD related course curricula -- hence I am juggling between trying to give a sense of key debates and directions as well as offering new insights to how media archaeology is developing -- and should develop. I am of course myself fixed to my own thoughts, which include that media archaeology should develop a stronger, more explicit notion of the archive and the change in regimes of memory (an area Wolfgang Ernst has been active in), take into account current emphasis on software cultures as well as distributed cognition and work one's way backwards from these "not-solely-optical" regimes, write a more materialist theoretical base for media archaeology --- and inspired by Garnet Hertz and our recent exchanges, articulate a solid practice-oriented base for media archaeological art methods.

Yet, in addition I would be keen to hear your opinions --- hence this crowd sourcing request:

- what do you think media archaeology has been missing, and what should be included when mapping future directions for media archaeology?
- what do you consider as key sources, books, resources for media archaeology?

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Arkeoloji Seni Media

Our interview with Garnet Hertz received the honour of being translated into Indonesian! Please find here - indeed in Indonesian and now entitled "Arkeoloji Seni Media" - our discussions concerning media archaeology and media art. A big thanks to the translator.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Radical Software periodical online archives

Media archaeology is changing its face with the availability of online archives and collections. Today's find is the website for Radical Software-periodical from the early 1970s which touches on video art, activism and media ecology. Stemming from the Raindance corporation activities, it represents a cool example of early media art/activism debates in the New York region. It also includes ideas on different modalities of expression (how do you think in video) as well as immanence of activism with media -- all power is embedded in media systems and forms of expressions.

Front cover of
Michael Shamberg and the Raindance Corporation, Guerrilla television (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971).

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Fellowship - and reading Foucault

I am happy to announce that the Alexander von Humboldt-foundation has offered me a research fellowship for Spring 2011. This exciting piece of news ensures for me the possibility to concentrate on my Media Archaeology book contracted with Polity, and the fellowship complements the already awarded short-term fellowship with the London Science Museum.


In the midst of the news, I have been engaging - again - with Foucault's archaeology of knowledge - and the book of same name. Indeed, re-reading it has made me realize the extent to which projects such as mine that aim to write archaeologies of media archaeology are themselves establishing temporary unities on otherwise widely dispersed epistemological fields. In this paradoxical sense, this method of cultural archaeology of knowledge and power formations seems to work against its own premises --- and to show the discontinuities, dispersions, ruptures, and movements which form any illusion of unity for a body of work, statements, theories, practices. This way of applying Foucault to media archaeology as a discipline produces interesting realizations that have to be taken critically, and meticulously. It produces itself a way of redistributing the lineages and relations between precedents and antecedents, of influences and follow-ups form. The existence of various layers in which media archaeology forms (at least 1) as part of Benjamin, and wider early image and media theory e.g. in Germany of early 20th century, 2) as part of new historicism and cinema studies as well as media arts fields of 1980s and early 1990s, 3) the wider use of the term to refer to imaginary media research, variantology, and excavations of hidden and forgotten media since the 1990s, including media artistic work and 4) more recent developments in media theory that develop it as a methodology for excavation into contemporary media and aim to include new fields of analysis such as circuit bending and software cultures) a crucial challenge of how to write archaologies in the multiple but preserving consistency, and how to bring in a temporal dynamics to this enterprise.

This dynamics is actually part of Foucault's insistence of "discourse" already when he defines the term in The Archaeology of Knowledge:

"Discourse in this sense is not an ideal, timeless form that also possesses a history; the problem is not therefore to ask one-self how and why it was able to emerge and become embodied at this point of time; it is, from beginning to end, historical - a fragment of history, a unity and discontinuity in history itself, posing the problem of its own limits, its divisions, its transformations, the specific modes of its temporality rather than its sudden irruption in the midst of complicities of time." (Foucault 2002, p.131).

In a very good article on media archaeology and new film history, and in other contexts as well I believe, Thomas Elsaesser has demanded that we do not only focus on e.g. the definition of cinema -- but to its temporality; not only what is cinema, but when is cinema. This media archaeological question -- which is not only media archaeological in its theme and content but also in its method of temporal dynamics -- is very Foucauldian in the sense as it insists we need to investigate the distribution over time and in time of such constellations of epistemological (as well as perceptual, affective, cognitive) value. Indeed, applied to media archaeology it is a similar institutional question; not only what is media archaeology, but when is media archaeology. The notion of it as a traveling discipline (on the move, between disciplinary boundaries and institutions) points to its "when" as a formation of knowledge in productive crisis situations where we are rethinking knowledge-production, knowledge-institutions, the pervasiveness of "media" for perception, memory, cultural heritage and such -- and hence aim through media archaeology think not only media studies and academia, but archival and other institutions involved in new regimes of mediated memory. When is media archaeology then? Its in an age of redistributed responsibilities within academia, of new forms of knowledge production enhanced and rethought with the Internet, software cultures and open source, of reinvented collaborations across academia and other bodies, of technical media as the lingua franca for advanced communications, of knowledge and practices in which understanding media is often doing media -- which however is not dismissing the need to understand the complex genealogies in which contemporary media is formed.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Zombie Media - on Art Methods and Media Archaeology with Garnet Hertz

We are working on a joint text with Dr Garnet Hertz, an artist and a writer, on media archaeology and its connection to DIY art methodologies. This text is to continue our recent discussion on media archaeology published in Ctheory, and continues to elaborate some of the new directions in which media archaeology is inspiring art and theory. Below the beginning of the text that is still work-in-progress, but informs both Garnet's own project on theory of DIY as well as my own media archaeology book.

Zombie Media: Circuit Bending Media Archaeology into an Art Method
I. OBSOLESCENCE RETURNS

A more frightening prospect than a past that never can be regained is a past that never goes away. We know this lesson from horror films with the undead, zombies, and other things supernatural that haunt us, but we recognize it from everyday life as well. We recognize it from the heaps of waste and refuse that pile up in our basements, outside urban centers, and in places which are characterized by obsolescence, discarded objects, and things we hope stay forgotten. Of course, this is not the case with the return of dangerous toxins and other residue from supposedly immaterial information technologies – hundreds of millions of electronic devices discarded annually, most of which are still working. Obsolescence returns. In the United States, about 400 million units of consumer electronics are discarded every year. Electronic waste, like obsolete cellular telephones, computers, monitors, and televisions, compose the fastest growing and most toxic portion of waste in American society. As a result of rapid technological change, low initial cost and planned obsolescence, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that two-thirds of all discarded consumer electronics still work – approximately 250 million functioning computers, televisions, VCRs and cell phones are discarded each year in the (United States.Environmental Protection Agency. Fact Sheet: Management of Electronic Waste in the United States, July 2008, EPA 530-F-08-014. )

The promised discursive disembodiment is embedded in a large pile of network wires, lines, routers, switches, and other very material things that as Jonathan Sterne acutely and bluntly states, "will be trashed". (Jonathan Sterne, "Out with the Trash: On the Future of New Media." In: Residual Media, edited by Charles R. Acland. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007), 17.) Far from being accidental, discarding and obsolescence are in fact internal to contemporary media technologies. As Sterne argues, the logic of new media does not only mean the replacement of old media by new media, but that digital culture itself is itself loaded with the assumption and expectation of a short-term forthcoming obsolescence. There is always a better camera, laptop, mobile phone on the horizon: new media always becomes old. The lifecycle of a standardized consumer object is also its Heideggerian style deathcycle – a planned part of the cycle of media-cultural objects.

This text is an investigation into planned obsolescence, media culture and the various temporalities of media objects; we approach this under the umbrella of media archaeology and aim to extend the media archaeological interest of knowledge into an art methodology. Hence, media archaeology becomes not only a method for excavation of the repressed, the forgotten, the past, but extends itself into an artistic method close to Do-It-Yourself (DIY) culture, circuit bending, hardware hacking, and other exercises that are closely related to the political economy of information technology, as well as the environment. Media embodies memory, but not only human memory; memory of things, of objects, of chemicals, and circuits that are returned to nature, so to speak, after their cycle. But these can be resurrected. This embodiment of memory in things is what relates media archaeology to an ecosophic enterprise as well.


Figure remixed by Garnet Hertz:

Phases of media positioned in reference to political economy: New Media and Media Archaeology are overlaid on Gartner Group's Hype Cycle and Adoption Curve diagrams, graphic representations of the economic maturity, adoption and business application of specific technologies.(For more information on Gartner Group's Hype Cycle theory, see Jackie Fenn & Mark Raskino, Understanding Gartner's Hype Cycles, 2009. Gartner Group.) While the diagram itself is a reappropriated remix, the media archaeological phase as well is characterized by methodologies of remix and reuse, which play an ecosophical function as well.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Authenticity, Forensics, Materiality, Virtuality and Emulation at BL

I will be attending this seminar at British Library, and feeling excited about the stuff I am going to learn; I think its ideal in providing input to some of the cutting edge ways in which we are thinking the notion and practices of the archive in software and network cultures. Themes seem to flag the move from spatial and narrative based archives to investigations into the microtemporal processes in which cultural heritage is being circulated; indeed, we need to think why humanities and historical knowledge needs as much "magnetic flux transitions, hexadecimal code and file system analysis" as it used to do hermeneutics, interpretation etc. Naturally, any kind of opposition of regimes of knowledge production is a mere polemical gesture, but I think this resonates strongly with the Wolfgang Ernst-direction in media archaeology and understanding of the new cultures of memory in the age of high-tech. What's more, is how these new regimes of memory and preservation are articulated together with the notion of the personal -- another key trend in terms of understanding the more microscopic (technical but also sociological) patterns in which traces are left and collected, and gathered meaningful. The mobile, individualized subject that is however increasingly collectivised in terms of traces in clouds and other services is where this new idea of "personal" takes place. On political levels, the problem of the dividual (Deleuze) has tried to articulate this doubling, or multiplication of lives in digital cultures. In addition, what appeals to me are the possible articulations of media archaeology implicitly present in the below text referring to "microscopic" and "mesoscopic" scales of analysis (the latter could be seen closer to where even earlier media archaeological research has been "digging" in terms of interfaces, media environments, etc.).

Authenticity, Forensics, Materiality, Virtuality and Emulation

Advances in the curatorship and scholarship of personal digital archives

A DIGITAL LIVES RESEARCH SEMINAR
from the Personal Digital Manuscripts Project at the British Library
Date: 5 July 2010
Time: 10:00 to 17:

Introduction

Recently there have been significant and exciting advances made in the curation of personal digital archives. Seemingly distinct aspects of computing have come together to yield a vision of future curation and research in the archival context. The use of forensic technologies has arisen from a profound concern that future digital scholarship must be based on personal digital objects that have been properly authenticated and that future historical research should be able, at a minimum, to interpret available dates, times and origins appropriately. This is digital scholarship and science taken to the microscopic scale of magnetic flux transitions, hexadecimal code and file system analysis.

At the same time there has been a desire to capture the context of creativity and historical happening in the fullest way, and this is manifesting itself within the computer environment, at the mesoscopic scale, in the evocative viewing of the personal digital objects through the original graphical user interface, complete with desktop layout, folder directories, application toolbars, and network volumes, resources and venues, and in the selection of menu items with a mouse,
trackpad or touch screen - with this research experience being made possible through the use of emulators and virtual machines and bootable disk images. Beyond the original computer environment, there is the capture of the physical environment through immersive photography, 3D graphical imagery and audiovisual interviews in the presence of archival objects. This is digital scholarship at the macroscopic scale of the virtual experience of local landscapes
of home and study, of lab and studio.

Within the British Library, the Personal Digital Manuscripts Project has recently been reinvigorated by internal funding, and it will be introduced over the course of the seminar. Its aim is to provide for enhanced curation, for the integration of digital and analogue components of personal archives, and for streamlined workflows through authenticated capture, processing and access of personal digital objects via emulation as well as migration.

Invited Speakers

Erika Farr and Naomi Nelson of Emory University will report on the pioneering use of emulation for the digital archives of Salman Rushdie. In the words of their introduction to the emulated environment: “Rushdie’s exact directory structure is available to browse, and each file can be opened in the application in which it was created, such as MacWrite Pro or ClarisWorks”.

Christine A. Finn writer, broadcaster and researcher, and Research Associate of the University of Bradford, will provide an account of her original research with the vintage computer community and of the classic computers themselves as contemporary archaeological Artifacts, the title of the book that arose from her fieldwork in the Silicon Valley.

Vincent Joguin President and CEO of Joguin SAS will provide an overview of the EU-funded project Keeping Emulation Environments Portable (KEEP) including an introduction to the Olonys universal virtual machine (which he codesigned for longterm portability) and the Disk2FDI software for floppy disk imaging.

Matthew G. Kirschenbaum of the University of Maryland will discuss digital materiality from the perspective of the humanities researcher, arising in part from his exploration of computer media forensics and restorative activities in capturing digital creativity, and following on from his ground-breaking book Mechanisms. New Media and the Forensic Imagination.

Michael G. Olson of Stanford University Libraries will report on his establishment of a Digital Forensics Lab for digital archives (the first of its kind in the USA) and the context of his work with personal archives including that of the evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould.

Jussi Parikka of Anglia Ruskin University who conducted his doctoral thesis on a media archaeology of computer worms and viruses at the University of Turku will discuss some of his more recent research as well as a multidisciplinary initiative, the Cultures of the Digital Economy Research Institute (CoDE), of which he is Director.

Daniela Petrelli of the University of Sheffield will reflect on the findings of the EU Marie Curie project Memoir: Remembering Things Past, an examination of personal digital objects as the source of memories, most especially autobiographical. The design and impact of digital devices that are integrated in everyday life and enable ready recollection and reflection will be contemplated.

Gabriela Redwine of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas will introduce aspects of the Mellon-funded project that is producing a report entitled Computer Forensics and Born-Digital Content in Cultural Heritage Collections, of which she is a coauthor along with Richard Ovenden of the Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford and principal author Matt Kirschenbaum of the University of Maryland. She will briefly consider some of the ethical issues that arise in the use of forensic technologies.

Seth Shaw of the Rare Book, Manuscript and Special Collections Library of Duke University will discuss recent collecting efforts including the ‘papers’ of ePoet Stephanie Strickland, and with a brief note on work with the emails of the economics Nobel laureate Leonid Hurwicz.

Matt Shreeve of Curtis+Cartwright Consulting will introduce the JISC project that is directed at Clarifying the Purpose and Benefits of Preserving Software, in association with the newly founded Software Sustainability Institute.

Jeff Ubois who is exploring new approaches to personal archiving for Fujitsu Labs of America will summarise the Personal Archiving 2010 conference which he organised in San Francisco and will discuss future possibilities.

Kieron Wilkinson and István Fábián of the Software Preservation Society will give a talk and a very exciting pre-release demo of the ready-built KryoFlux equipment that provides for extremely low level and accurate capture and analysis of floppy disks.

Simon Wilson, a digital archivist at Hull History Centre will provide an overview of the international project Born-Digital Collections: An Inter-Institutional Model for Stewardship (AIMS) involving collaboration between University of Virginia, Hull University, Stanford University and Yale University.

Members of the British Library Helen Broderick of the Personal Digital Manuscripts Project will describe aspects of cataloguing and making available digital personal archives by means of the
British Library’s newly instituted eMSS Server, and the enhancement of the archive through immersive photography of the creative environment: examples will stem from the archives of Ronald Harwood, Ted Hughes and Harold Pinter.

Jude England Head of Social Sciences will chair the final session.

Kristian Jensen Head of Arts and Humanities and SRO of the Personal Digital Manuscripts Project will provide a brief welcome and introduction.

Jeremy Leighton John of the Personal Digital Manuscripts Project will highlight some of the findings of the Digital Lives Research Project (funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council) including the use of forensic techniques in the archival and historical context. In particular, the concept of Virtual Archival Computing, the use of virtual machines, VM snapshots and the booting of disk images within a forensic framework and over a network will be elaborated. There will be examples from the archives of evolutionary biologists William D. Hamilton and John Maynard Smith.

Demos, Overviews and Topics

Beyond the presentations themselves there will be demos of the forensic capture of digital media involving write-blockers and forensic equipment; and the KryoFlux technology.

An outline of the recent developments of the EU-funded Planets project (Preservation and Long-term Access through Networked Services, led by the British Library) will be provided, specifically highlighting its contributions to emulation including a remote emulation service over the network, GRATE. Attendees will learn about or be able to discuss the following topics:

• Virtual archival computing and the use of bootable forensic disk images and virtual machines as a means of providing repeatable and authenticated access to original computer environments.
• Personal digital archives as a source of original software for longterm preservation and as a motivating factor in this endeavour
• Low level capturing of magnetic flux transitions on floppy disks as well as higher level bitstream capture that is accurate and measurable
• The anthropology and archaeology of the vintage computer community
• Digital materiality? What is it and why does it matter?
• Universal virtual machines and open source emulators that are compliant with digital preservation requirements
• Why use forensic technologies in the context of digital archives?
• What is enhanced curation?
• Highlights of the Digital Lives Research Project
• The eMSS Server at the British Library
• Issues of licensing and software inheritance and reuse
• Next steps: networked integration

Monday, 14 June 2010

Sublimated Attractions

A new article co-written by myself and professor Jaakko Suominen has just been published in Media History-journal. It touches on media archaeological themes, and focuses on the historical context where the emergence and introduction of computing in Finland in the 1950s was framed as a multisensory event. The article is based on primary research by Professor Suominen.

A short summary of the text:

Sublimated Attractions
The Introduction of Early Computers in Finland in the Late 1950s as a Mediated Experience
Suominen, Jaakko and Parikka, Jussi
Media History, vol. 16, Issue 3, August 2010, pp. 319-340.

The article focuses on the emergence of Finnish computer culture in the late 1950s. The introduction of computers is studied by using a wide range of source material of popular media, such as commercial and company promotion films, newspapers, popular magazine articles, cartoons and comic strips. The paper argues that the introduction of the new computing technology was deeply experienced with the help of popular media, where the technological capabilities of computers as thinking and sensing 'all-purpose machines' were translated into several media-specific audio-visual forms. Computers were represented as sensing and sensible technology, a rubric that was remediated by the help of old media. In this process, the spectacularization of computers worked not only as an innocent fabulation of the computers to convince the 'general public' but to create a certain social arrangement particular to this spectacle. The idea that the end-user is cut off from the actual processes of the computer, as suggested by such media historians as Friedrich Kittler, was evident already in the earlier construction of computing culture in the mainframe era.

Keywords: history of computing; popular media; modernity; cultural appropriation of technology; introduction of technology; Finland

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Residual cultural forms - Raymond Williams

I have never been a huge Raymond Williams fan -- or more accurately, never just found a good niche for his work in my writings which does not mean that I am in any way hostile to him -- but I have a need to write this down, a quote from Williams' "Base and Superstructure", which has media archaeological connotations. Here quoted from a chapter in the book Residual Media (edited by Charles R. Ackland, University of Minnesota Press, 2007):

"residual cultural forms as 'experiences, meanings and values which cannot be verified or cannot be expressed in terms of the dominant culture because they are the residue of a 'previous social formation'." (p. 134, JoAnne Stober's text on Vaudeville)

This resonates with strongly with the what I guess is usually the media archaeological core idea of the repressed in media culture. Think of for example Lev Manovich writing of digital cinema summoning the repressed of the cinematic culture (returning to such forms which seem to have disappeared, or never made it mainstream) or then the more generic idea of mapping lost paths, and minor ideas. I don't think this idea is developed enough despite its centrality for media archaeology but its worth stating out clearly.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

AHRC referee reports for my Media Archaeology Fellowship application

I received three referee reports for my AHRC application for an Early Career Fellowship to finish the media archaeology project. It was a good read -- all of the three reports; not to claim, that all of them were in complete agreement with my application, but in the sense that the reports were helpful in pointing out issues that need to be addressed. They were to my liking quite positive, which reassured me of the need for this project and as part of AHRC policy, I was able to write a short, 3 page response to the reports.

In short, I tried to outline in a bit more detail what the concrete research side of the project is in addition to developing theoretical insights into media archaeology. I underlined the work that would take place in some archives and collections -- including the wonderful "media archaeology collection" at the basement of Media Studies in Berlin as well as my visit to Science Museum as a short-term fellow in early 2011. In addition, the points about "creative practice" approaches to media archaeology merited a bit more words, where I tried to point towards the need to interview some practitioners in the field in order to tap into some of the methodological premises of "media archaeology as an art method." (On this note, as a fotenote: this cannot be missed, Discipline & The Moving Image-event/screening, presented by Zoe Beloff).

In addition to some queries concerning management of the project, I got a chance to briefly point towards the knowledge exchange possibilities as well as some conceptual themes. All in all, I felt pretty excited about the project -- thanks to the feedback, and the response I composed where I had to articulate some of the queries in a brief form. Oh and I did have a chance to flag this blog as one tool for project management, and distribution of interim ideas, results, offshoots, etc. as well!

Now I just have to wait for the results...fingers crossed.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Spam archaeologies - the Penny Post


If you thought spam is merely a function of digitally automated mass mailing, then consider this. In terms of expanding the logic of spam from the technical to the earlier 19th century standardisation through stamps and postage, and perhaps a more protocological understanding of how circulation of such processes as "post" (digital or human-hand held) functions, the introduction of the penny postage in England seemed to flag similar issues as spam in networks nowadays. A quote from the postal reformed Rowland Hill's diary from January 10 in 1840 gives an indication of what happened when the postage was standardized and cheapened:

"January 10th.--Penny Postage extended to the whole kingdom this day! ...I have abstained from going to the Post Office to-night lest I should embarrass their proceedings. I hear of large numbers of circulars being sent, and the Globe of to-night says the Post Office has been quite besieged by people preparing their letters. I guess that the number despatched to-night will not be less than 100,000, or more than three times what it was this day twelwe-months. If less I shall be disappointed." (quoted in Siegert, Relays, p.100)

In addition, what Siegert's book on "literature as an epoch of the postal system" inspires is a further systematic take on networks and procedures of mail that is of methodological advantage -- whether for archaeologies of overburdened postal networks, or for other network histories. If with Siegert as with Kittler we realized the very historical and hence contingent nature of such processes as "interpretation" in the hermeneutic, human-oriented sense, we are simultaneously in a position to realize the non-interpretational functions of current digital oriented processes of relay, reception, and sending.

Consider Siegert:

"What this [adopting a Shannon perspective to communication systems] means is that signals transmitted by the communications system at a given time tn are not viewed as the function of a data source or receiver--not, let's say, as the expressions or intentions of people looking for the understanding of other people--but instead as a function of factors in the system of communication itself." (p. 99).

Indeed, beyond semantic meaning and the need to decipher with tools of hermeneutic literature analysis, spam does not necessarily mean much even if it has a logic of very meticulous nature. Spam does an awful lot of thing, and relies on the address spaces, mass mailing, various gaps in security too through which it spreads itself, but as a meaningful message it, naturally, fails. What this means however is not the failure of spam as a cultural practice, but a failure of such perspectives of analysis that would want to decipher it from a representational/meaningful position.

This point is made even more clear when we realize that such a huge amount of current traffic in networks happens between machines and governed always by protocols; spamming machines trying to find the gap to impose their message, and filtering machines, firewalls and such trying to catch such messages on time. Despite the 150 years in between, the parallels between early times of standardized postal systems and digital network traffic is not far-fetched, as with the on-going automatisation of procecesses of post already back then, as Siegert points out:

"Had Hill succeeded with his printing press, the only thing missing would have been some kind of reading machine, and all of England's written communication would have been completely standardized and mechanized, from production right through distribution to reception."

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Doug Engelbart and HCI in the context of Simondon

Such techniques of eye-hand-ear-coordination that we take more or less granted like the mouse and WYSIWYG flag an interesting area of not only HCI development and design per se, but also a wider transformation concerning the understanding of supposedly human conventions and practices such as learning. What the work of such pioneers as Doug Engelbart flags is the same area of interests that Gilbert Simondon and Bernard Stiegler in philosophy, André Leroi-Gourhan in anthropology or for example Friedrich Kittler in media theory emphasize; there is no natural human being, but the most seemingly natural and primitive tools that we engage and interact with are formative to the "human-form" which is part of our milieu. Or differently put, our milieus of being are constantly formed even to an evolutionary degree of the tools that are formative of our being (superjects instead of subjects, as Whitehead writes in another context; and the way in-formation is understood by Simondon not as a substance but as a process of formation). Indeed, this is why archaeologies of HCI benefit from the wider discussions concerning the subject and the human-being in its milieus in order to develop a full-fledged understanding of the spheres in which computer design work took place.

A short clip of Doug Engelbart talking about his earlier projects.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

A Sunday morning at the Gallica Bibliotheque numérique

A bit out of context, and more out of sheer fascination than as part of any systematic message; felt compelled to post these images after stumbling on the virtual pages of Bulletin du Photo-Club de Paris (1894) on Gallica. Always such a fantastic resource for a media archaeologist!

The issue happened to have Albert Londe's article on his work on chronophotography, and participation at the Salpetriere-institute. This is indeed, to refer to Thomas Elsaesser's ideas, one crucial part of the S/M (this time science/medicine) contexts of cinematic technologies, and visual media history where the need for increasingly precise inscription mechanisms of the body was articulated together with hysteria, epilepsy and such maladies of the (female) corpse -- a topic that does not seize to interest me. (Also, btw. the topic of a wonderful recent book by a friend of mine; Mapping the Moving Image: Gesture, Thought and Logos Circa 1900).
- Image from the Bulletin; a special 12-lens mechanism part of the Salpetriere-institute laboratory for temporal-visual analysis and inscription of such illnesses.

- Another image from the same 1894 issue of the Bulletin, also Albert Londe and his series on chronophotography. A body in movement, a body in balance -- a fascination with the gestures of what the body can do -- and body on film, body inscribed as part of such time based technologies with span the too often assumed gap between entertainment (watching nude woman) and science/medicine (inscribing for analytical purposes women bodies as ill, hysteric bodies).

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Bells of Atlantis - electronic music for a film

Thanks to a heads up from my colleague Julio D'Escrivan, possibly the first film to have electronic music specifically composed for it: Bells of Atlantis from 1952, directed by Ian Hugo/Hugh Parker Guiler, and featuring also his partner, Anais Nin... I am sure this set the tone for later 1950s science fiction soundscapes of beeps and buzzes of computers, robots, spacecrafts, etc that signalled "high tech", as Jaakko Suominen has argued in his cultural historical studies of computing...

Monday, 5 April 2010

CTheory Interview Archaeologies of Media Art

Its out, the discussion on media archaeology and a bit on media art as well that we conducted with Garnet Hertz. Still waiting to hear more feedback on it, but for me, the key bits are;

- articulation of media archaeology not only as a textual method; a theme that for example Garnet is a specialist on. In other words, the need to develop methodological ideas (and articulate them) of media archaeology in artistic spheres.
- flag the existence of competing and contradictory paradigms within media archaeology. This is only the first step, and something that I will do more thoroughly in the book I am writing for Polity Press next academic year (hopefully out in 2012).
- articulate briefly and tentatively the idea of media archaeology as a travelling discipline - to borrow Mieke Bal's notions concerning travelling concepts.

The beginning of the interview with Garnet...just a teaser, full text on Ctheory-website...

Also: at the end of this post, the referential bibliographic list that was taken out from the final published version of the Ctheory text. Might be useful (but do not its not an exhaustive list!). We compiled it originally with Erkki Huhtamo (a longer list actually) so a big thanks to him.

CTheory Interview Archaeologies of Media Art

Jussi Parikka in conversation with Garnet Hertz

Introduction

Media archaeology is an approach to media studies that has emerged over the last two decades. It borrows from Michel Foucault, Walter Benjamin, and Friedrich Kittler, but also diverges from all of these theorists to form a unique set of tools and practices. Media archaeology is not a school of thought or a specific technique, but is as an emerging attitude and cluster of tactics in contemporary media theory that is characterized by a desire to uncover and circulate repressed or neglected media approaches and technologies. Its handful of proponents -- including Siegfried Zielinski, Wolfgang Ernst, Thomas Elsaesser, and Erkki Huhtamo -- are primarily interested in mobilizing histories and devices that have been sidelined during the construction of totalizing histories of popular forms of communication, including the histories of film, television, and new media. The lost traces of media technologies are deemed important topics to be excavated and studied; "dead" media technologies and idiosyncratic developments reveal important themes, structures, and links in the history of communication that would normally be occluded by more obvious narratives. This includes tracing irregular developments and unconventional genealogies of present-day communication technologies, believing that the most interesting developments often happen in the neglected margins of histories or artifacts.

In 2007, Jussi Parikka published Digital Contagions: A Media Archaeology of Computer Viruses (Peter Lang Publishing, New York). In Digital Contagions, Parikka provides an insightful articulation of media archaeology as a research methodology, which he implements to construct a clear cultural history of computer viruses. Parikka inverts the assumption that computer viruses -- which are semi-autonomous and self-replicating pieces of computer code -- are contrary to contemporary digital culture, instead arguing that computer viruses define the social and material landscape of computer mediated communication. [1] Although computer viruses are often considered as a disease and breakdown within the ecology of media, Parikka argues that these marginal computer programs provide key clues to the material and incorporeal conditions of the network age. They are not accidents of media culture, but increasingly the natural mode of digital media. In other words, the ontology of network culture is viral-like. [2]

In this conversation with Garnet Hertz -- who graduated with a PhD in Visual Studies on the topic of media archaeology and media arts from University of California, Irvine -- Parikka discusses media archaeology as a methodology of academic research in media studies and the media arts. In the process of constructing a theoretical foundation for media archaeology, they discuss and explore the topics of interdisciplinarity, historiography, art, new media, and academia.

-----
Garnet Hertz: I see Digital Contagions as bringing clarity to the ambiguous concept of media archaeology, and would like to continue to clarify the term here. To begin, how do you define media archaeology, and how do you envision it as a project, movement or an approach?

Jussi Parikka: Media archaeology... ambiguous? Indeed. I was just reminded by an archaeologist at Cambridge that there is a sub-discipline in archaeology called "media archaeology." Such contexts do not always spring to mind when we consider media archaeology from a more theoretical perspective. For us in media studies and media arts it is quite often the footnotes of Foucault, Kittler, and the dead media of Bruce Sterling that provides the context for the media archaeological way of doing analysis. Media archaeology exists somewhere between materialist media theories and the insistence on the value of the obsolete and forgotten through new cultural histories that have emerged since the 1980s. I see media archaeology as a theoretically refined analysis of the historical layers of media in their singularity -- a conceptual and practical exercise in carving out the aesthetic, cultural, and political singularities of media. And it's much more than paying theoretical attention to the intensive relations between new and old media mediated through concrete and conceptual archives; increasingly, media archaeology is a method for doing media design and art. After the initial period of tackling the concept of media archaeology in the early 1990s, it is now crucial to take the idea forward and make it more theoretically rigorous. I am not saying it was not rigorous, but there was never a thorough discussion among the "practitioners" of media archaeology.

A Bibliographic Selection

-Book of Imaginary Media: Excavating the Dream of the Ultimate Communication Medium, ed. Eric Kluitenberg (Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 2006)
-Bolter, Jay David & Grusin, Richard, Remediation. Understanding New Media (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1999).
-Crary, Jonathan, Suspensions of Perception. Attention, Spectacle, and Modern Culture (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2001).
-Crary, Jonathan, Techniques of the Observer. On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 1989).
-Cinema Futures: Cain, Abel or Cabel, eds. Thomas Elsaesser & Kay Hoffman (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 1998).
-The Cinema of Attractions Reloaded, ed. Wanda Strauven (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2006.)
-Derrida, Jacques, Archive Fever: a Freudian impression (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1996).

-Ernst, Wolfgang, M.edium F.oucault, (Weimar: Verlag & Datenbank Für
 Geisteswissenschaften, 2000)
-Ernst, Wolfgang, Das Rumoren der Archive, (Berlin: Merve Verlag, 2002).
-Ernst, Wolfgang, Das Gesetz des Gedächtnisses. Medien und Archive am Ende (des 20. Jahrhunderts) (Berlin: Kulturverlag Kadmos, 2007).
-Foucault, Michel, The Archaeology of Knowledge, trans. A.M. Sheridan Smith. (London and New York: Routledge, 2002).
-Friedberg, Anne, The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2006).
-Friedberg, Anne, Window Shopping. Cinema and the Postmodern (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993).
-Gitelman, Lisa, Always Already New. Media, History, and the Data of Culture. (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2006).
-Gunning, Tom, "An Aesthetic of Astonishment: Early Cinema and the (in)Credulous Spectator," Art and Text 34 (1989).
- Hagen, Wolfgang, Das Radio: Zur Geschichte und Theorie des Hörfunks (Fink, 2005).
-Huhtamo, Erkki, "Elements of Screenology: Toward an Archaeology of the Screen," ICONICS: International Studies of the Modern Image, Vol. 7 (2004), pp. 31-82 (Tokyo: The Japan Society of Image Arts and Sciences).
-Huhtamo, Erkki, "From Kaleidoscomaniac to Cybernerd. Towards an Archeology of the Media", in Electronic Culture, ed. Timothy Druckrey (New York: Aperture 1996), pp. 296-303, 425-427.
-Huhtamo, Erkki, "Time Machines in the Gallery. An Archeological Approach in Media Art," in Immersed in Technology. Art and Virtual Environments, ed. Mary Anne Moser with Douglas McLeod (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1996), pp. 232-268.
-Huhtamo, Erkki and Parikka, Jussi (eds), Media Archaeology: Approaches, Applications and Implications. Forthcoming from University of California Press 2010.
-Kahn, Douglas, Noise, Water, Meat. A History of Sound in the Arts. (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1999)
-
Kittler, Friedrich, Discourse Networks 1800/1900. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990. orig. German 1985).
-Kittler, Friedrich, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999).
-Kittler, Friedrich, Optical Media. Trans Anthony Enns (Cambridge: Polity, 2009).
-Kockelkoren, Petran, Technology: Art, Fairground and Theatre, (
Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 2003;
-Mannoni, Laurent, Le Grand art de la lumière et de l’ombre. Archéologie du cinéma (Paris: Nathan, 1994).
-Manovich, Lev, The Language of New Media (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2001).
-Marvin, Carolyn, When Old Technologies Were New: Thinking About Electric Communication in the Late Nineteenth Century (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988).
-McLuhan, Marshall, The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1962).
-MediaArtHistories, ed. Oliver Grau (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2007).
-Memory Bytes. History, Technology, and Digital Culture, eds Lauren Rabinovitz & Abraham Geil (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004).
-Multimedia Histories. From the Magic Lantern to the Internet, ed. James Lyons and John Plunkett. (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2007).
- New German Media Theory, ed. Eva Horn, Grey Room-special issue Winter 2008.
- New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader, eds. Wendy Hui Kyong Chun & Thomas Keenan, Thomas (New York: Routledge, 2005).
-New Media, 1740-1914, ed. Lisa Gitelman & Geoffrey Pingree (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2004).
-Parikka, Jussi, Digital Contagions. A Media Archaeology of Computer Viruses (New York: Peter Lang, 2007).
- Parikka, Jussi, Insect Media: An Archaelogy of Animals and Technology (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, forthcoming 2010).
- Sconce, Jeffrey Haunted Media: Electronic Presence from Telegraphy to Television, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000.).
- Siegert, Bernhardt, Relays. Literature as an Epoch of the Postal System (Stanford: Stanford UP 1999).
-Spieker, Sven, The Big Archive: Art from Bureaucracy (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008).
-The Variantology-book series edited by Siegfried Zielinski et al.
-Vissman, Cornelia, Files: Law and Media Technology, trans. Geoffrey Winthrop-Young (Stanford, Ca: Stanford University Press, 2008).
-Volmar, Axel (ed) Zeitkritische Medien (Berlin: Kadmos, 2009).
-Zielinski, Siegfried, Audiovisions. Cinema and Television as Entr’ actes in History (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 1999, orig. German 1989).
-
Zielinski, Siegfried, Deep Time of the Media. Toward an Archaeology of Hearing and Seeing by Technical Means (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006, orig. German 2002).

Monday, 29 March 2010

Sonic Archaeology

A quick heads up on the work of Shintaro Miyazaki, and the Institute for Algorhytmics on sonic archaeology. The work consists of an approach to the operational nature of media technologies especially in terms of their sonification -- how their sonic qualities can be used to understand that specific temporal materiality of digital culture from hard drives to ethernet traffic (hence related to packet sniffing).

Wendy Chun (in her Control and Freedom, p. 17) has briefly defined media archaeology in how it makes a difference to visual culture studies that is more focused on the screen - its interfaces, representations and even content at times. Media archaeology is in its Berlin vein however focused on "the machine" which means all the technical layers that govern and allow for the existence of the screen as a sensual experience for the human. However, what sonic archaeology does is move further away from the visual onwards to the sonic and especially the sonic as a rhythmic and temporal regime.

See (or actually listen) for algoRHYTHMIC noise of our everyday gadgets .

And for an elaboration of their methodology, see here on Sonic Archaeology.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

"Uncovering the insect logic that informs contemporary media technologies and the network society "

Here is the blurb that University of Minnesota Press are going to use for the catalog for their Fall 2010 books...mine is coming out in the Posthumanities-series edited by Cary Wolfe.

Insect Media

An Archaeology of Animals and Technology
Jussi Parikka

Uncovering the insect logic that informs contemporary media technologies and the network society

Since the early nineteenth-century, when entomologists first popularized the unique biological and behavioral characteristics of insects, technological innovators and theorists have proposed the use of insects as templates for a wide range of technologies. In Insect Media, Jussi Parikka analyzes how insect forms of social organization—swarms, hives, webs, and distributed intelligence—have been used to structure modern media technologies and the network society, providing a radical new perspective on the interconnection of biology and technology.

Through close engagement with the pioneering work of insect ethologists, including Jakob von Uexküll and Karl von Frisch, posthumanist philosophers, media theorists, and contemporary filmmakers and artists, Parikka develops an “insect theory of media,” one that conceptualizes modern media as more than the products of individual human actors, social interests, or technological determinants. They are, rather, profoundly nonhuman phenomena that both draw on and mimic the alien life-worlds of insects.

Deftly moving from the life sciences to digital technology, from popular culture to avant-garde art and architecture, and from philosophy to cybernetics and game theory, Parikka provides innovative conceptual tools for understanding the phenomena of network society and culture. Challenging anthropocentric approaches to contemporary science and culture, Insect Media reveals the possibilities that insects and other nonhuman animals offer for rethinking media, the conflation of biology and technology, and our understanding of, and interaction with, contemporary digital culture.

Jussi Parikka is Reader in Media Theory and History at Anglia Ruskin University and the Director of CoDE: the Cultures of the Digital Economy research institute. He is the author of Digital Contagions: A Media Archaeology of Computer Viruses.

Theory/Media

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Media Archaeology and New Media Studies

I am giving a talk in Leicester soon, Wednesday March 3.
The talk is at De Montfort University, 4 pm, room: Clephan 3.02

Here is a short abstract:

Media Archaeology and New Media Studies

This talk introduces key points about the emerging theoretical and methodological framework of "media archaeology". It discusses its roots in theories of visual culture and birth as part of the new media boom of the 1980s and especially 1990s. What the talk argues is that media archaeology needs to redevelop itself not only as a textual method, but also as a practical engagement with contemporary technical media cultures. It needs to develop its relations with such new fields of media studies as software studies, and hence update its agenda from the primarily reliance on visual media to a variety of other modalities of media sensation and logic.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Archaeologies of media archaeology

In terms of the archaeology of media archaeology, the roots of many of the media theoretical debates in the early 20th century writers and artists are important. The references to Walter Benjamin are already part of the tool box of the theories of media archaeology, similarly as they recognize for example Dolf Sternberger's Panorama of the 19th-century as one of the forerunners of thinking old media. Indeed, the social and technological changes that branded the first decades of the century left their mark in a close rethinking of memory, history and media technology as intimately connected.

This is where it would be interesting to ask questions such as how Erkki Huhtamo's ideas of recurring topoi, topics, related to Aby Warburg's dynamograms that Buchloch describes as "the recurring motifs of gesture and bodily expression that he had identified in his notorious term 'pathos formulas." (See Buchloch's article in the 2006 book The Archive.) And its not only that, but as I wrote above, the wider term changes in terms of understanding ruins, remnants, media technologies - in addition to a polarized social political atmosphere. Here we already find a great articulation of a new form of subjectivity and historical consciousness emerging that is less universalising, less narrative and more open to media technological (i.e. not only literary) articulations. I find Buchloch's summary intriguing:

"Thus one could argue that by the mid 1920s a variety of homologous new models of writing and imaging historical accounts emerged simultaneously, ranging from the montage techniques of artistic practices to Warburg's Atlas or those of the Annales historians. In all of these projects (literary, artistic, filmic, historical) a post-humanist and post-bourgeois subjectivity is constituted. The telling of history as a sequence of events and accounts of its individual agents is displaced by a focus on the simultaneity of separate but contingent social frameworks and an infinity of participating agents, while the process of history is reconceived as a structural system of perpetually changing interactions and permutations between economic and ecological givens, class formations and their ideologies, and the resulting types of social and cultural interactions specific to each particular moment."

What the text could emphasize more, or directly, is that memory becomes immanently modulated in media technological constellations. That is the value of Warburg's Atlas as a work of juxtaposed imagery (memory as images), as well as the reconfiguration of everyday sensations, perceptions, and structures of memory in the midst of mass-produced media. Furthermore, interesting in terms of archaeology of media archaeology is the connection established with the Annales in the above quote. Whereas the link between media archaeology emerging in the 1980s and new historicism (and new cultural histories) is clear, we can find yet another link already in this pre WW-II school of historical thought. In terms of intellectual content, excavating this link to Foucault and hence channeled further to later media archaeological theories might be one way to establish interesting connections; in terms of a media technological history, its the links to Warburg, Benjamin, the Surrealists, montage-thinking and other different ways of conceiving memory, perception and temporality that could provide alternative ideas.

Of course, when talking of 1920s, a connection between Mnemosyne-atlas as a mode of clustering and the current project driven by Lev Manovich concerning cultural analytics in the age of computing power has clear parallels.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Critique of Archival Reason exhibition in Dublin

An event/exhibition in Dublin which makes me feel I was some hundreds of miles up from where I am now.

Critique of Archival Reason.


To quote from the introductory text:
"The concept of archive naturally seems to evoke an image of control and survey. For example, in The Order of Things, Foucault has described the archive as a system introducing order, meaning, boundaries, coherence and reason into what is disparate, confused, and contingent. The archive is a product of the will to represent, the desire for surveyability and transparency while emerging in modernity as a rigid scopic regime where multiformity and diversity have been reduced to levels of equivalence.

Starting with Duchamp, visual artists have engaged in the epistemology of the archival order. Artists appropriated, interpreted, reconfigured and interrogated archival structures and archival materials aiming at deconstructing them as compulsive, taxonomic knowledge systems. Para-archives were developed as a demonstration of the impossibility of categorizing the contingent for the sake of representation and to demand attention for a non-hierarchic heterogeneity and an anomic form of knowledge production. Hal Foster argues that by focusing on unacknowledged and repressed qualities, artistic archives show the essence of the archive as 'found yet constructed, factual yet fictive, public yet private'.

This fold-like nature also appears characteristic for the manner in which currently, topical, research-based art practice relates to the concept of archive. In line with Roland Barthes' The Pleasure of the Text, one could speak of transforming a noun into a verb, i.e. of a processual pleasure of archiving. Such an archiving is a rhizomatic activity and a 'becoming archive' where ultimately the will to connect what cannot be connected is decisive. New forms of display will emerge in connective mutations of entirely diverse registers. No longer is an archiving consciousness placed in the supportive narrative of a contextualizing infolab developed parallel to the exhibition. Rather a research-based practice knows how to present both constitutive segments in a fluent and integral manner. Such integral practices are the departure points for the exhibition Critique of Archival Reason.This is also a critique in the Kantian sense of an activity not determining apriori its criteria, but apostiori in a form of experimental and immanent research into decisive and separate faculties.

Exhibiting a book - inherently connotative of organization and order - appears to be one of the possible forms of presenting a critique of archival reason. A book functions as a montage table of imagination, and as a thinking machine, Cecilia Gronberg claims. Her telephone directory type work (in collaboration with Jonas (J) Magnusson) Reconnections: Transcription, Lists, Documents, Archives investigates the archive of the first Swedish telephone factory and interconnects conceptual art, Perec, archival aesthetics, French Maoism, record photography and Midsommarkransen's local history. Irene Kopelman's work Drawing Archive adopts a sculptural approach. The work shows that drawing - guaranteeing categorical, scientific knowledge in 19th-century archives - functions as an important method for artistic thinking in an artistic archive through a process of drawing differences. Installation work could engineer an exchange between the semiotic structure of the traditional archive and the imaginary connotation of the artistic archive, says Shoji Kato. Kato deploys literally the arthistorical opposition horizontal versus vertical. On the floor there is a scale-model-type representation of the economic infrastructure of a city; on the wall there is its painted, cartographic representation called Tie: Place and Symbols. Kato describes the emerging artistic process of thought fluctuating between the two pieces as an 'embodied potentiality of plurality'.

A critical focus on mass media's archival reason is demonstrated in various works. Mass media develop authentic forms of narrativity and fiction sometimes even based on an absolutely empty archive as Jeremiah Day's work Fred Hampton's Apartment shows. The singularity of the artist is absent in much documentary work. Therefore, in the form of narrative performances, Day pushes the artist back into the center. How should an artist relate to the role that ubiquitous digitization plays in producing a documentary practice? Sean Snyder's work Index addresses that question through various formats of storage-media-images from his physical archive. The images have been destroyed and digitized, thus outlining a selective topology of the materials of artistic research. Herman Asselberghs delves into the question of what would happen with archiving the first decade of the 21st century if the mass media would omit 9/11 as icon for that period. His i-pod presentation Black Box shows 2/15 - the day when 30 million people demonstrated against starting a preventive war in Iraq - as an iconomic reassessment of 9/11.

This exhibition accompanies the conference Arts Research: Publics and Purposes. GradCAM-Dublin, 15.2-19.2. Keynote Speakers: Anton Vidokle (17/2/10) and Ute Meta Bauer (19/2/10).

This project is co-organised by the European Arts Research Network and GradCAM-Dublin with Centrifugal. This project is in part funded by the EC-EACEA Culture 2000–2007: 'Artist as Citizen' project. The project has been generously supported by the Mondriaan Foundation."

Thursday, 11 February 2010

interview on media archaeology and media arts

I have spent the day editing an interview we did with Dr Garnet Hertz on the methods, contexts and relations to media arts of media archaeology. The process has been long but enjoyable (and we hope to find a place to publish this extensive interview) as it has really helped me to articulate several things that might form some core statements in my forthcoming book as well. Garnet himself is a specialist in media archaeology as an artistic methods and I am grateful for his collaboration on this. This has really made it clear how media archaeology has to move from being a "mere" textual practice to a fully fledged artistic method - and that methodology needs to be articulated clearly. I think there are two ways to progress here to take it forward (and how it has been taken forward); media archaeology as a method for concrete machinics of media (whether in the fashion of Paul DeMarinis, or then e.g. the hardware hacking, circuit bending way proposed by the Berlin school promoted by Ernst). On the other hand, there is the ontological argument, as I would label it; that stems already from Kittler, continued by Ernst, but also lots of other recent developments which insist on the specificity of the material in technological excavations; the materiality of the contemporary, scientifically informed, media culture.

In addition, the interview helped me to kick-start the idea of media archaeology as a traveling discipline. It has not found a stable home yet, but in the manner that Mieke Bal writes about traveling concepts, media archaeology is a toolbox traveling between and across discplines and institutions from film to media and art schools; concrete archives and theory institutions. There lies its promise as well in terms of trying to advance an understanding of such traveling sets of theories as a crucial component of the 21st century arts and humanities agenda -- traveling not least between arts and sciences, humanities and technology.

More soon, if we found a journal or some other venue to publish the interview...

Monday, 8 February 2010

Media Archaeological Art/methods; Transmediale 2010

A theme such as "Futurity" is begging for media-archaeological approaches. No wonder then that at the 2010 Transmediale Future Obscura-exhibition several art works employed media-archaeological methods, and even the term was explicitly mentioned several times.

Of these, Gebhard Sengmüller's A Parallel Image was the strongest in terms of its affiliation with this strand of thinking/doing old media, new media. It also investigated imaginary media but in much more interesting fashion that mere discursive excavations. Sengmüller constructed a transmission device for visual data that does not break visual elements into discrete elements then sent over to the receiving end, but employs a very messy (one has to say) way of parallel image transmission; Instead, every pixel element is sent in parallel "directly" to the receiver via some 2,500 cables. Hence, it detaches from the universally adopted ideas that were early on formulated by the Frenchman Maurice Leblanc in 1880 that images are to be broken into lines before transmission and that light is after that to be translated into electric signals; and at the receiving end, the receiver's function is the further translation of electric currents into an image (as the catalogue text to A Parallel Image introduces).

Instead, Sengmüller describes his idea of practical uselessness but of media-archaeological interest:

"... an apparatus that links every pixel on the 'camera side' with every pixel on the 'monitor' side in the technically simplest way possible. Taking this idea to its logical conclusion, this leads to an absurd system that connects a grid of 2,500 photoconductors on the sender side with 2,500 small light bulbs on the receiver side, pixel by pixel, using a total of 2,500 copper wires. In addition, there are wires that supply each of these 'image transmission - micro units' with electricity."

For Sengmüller, complexification becomes an artistic method, in conjunction to its historically tuned nature.

Similar promise of media archaeological methodology was present in both Julius von Bismarck's the Space beyond me through the use of its 16mm projection-cum-immersive installation (alas, the piece was not operational when I was around!) and Julien Maire's The Inverted Cone. Addressing directly the nature of temporality, Maire's piece was tuned with Henri Bergson's cone-like structure of memory that stretches between actuality and the bubbling under intensive virtuality full of potentialities. The result was, I have to say, impressive in its subtlety that was suggestive of the continous de- and recomposition processes of memory. Memory become in that installation room a machinic process of composition reminding of the unconscious less as a theater than a machine to borrow Deleuze and Guattari. Again, the short text was using the trope of the media archaeologist - and why not. It was again embedded in this idea of time-traveling, but this time as machinology of sorts.

In general, what we did not see was a strong articulation of what is the media archaeological method in media arts. Without going into details here, so far the developments have been mostly pointing towards at least four directions (apologies in advance as such a classification needs a much more careful eye);
1) use of historical themes in representational terms as part of a piece
2) invoking alternative histories, that offer critical insights through the piece (perhaps some of Zoe Beloff's women's histories coupled together with technogical themes of mediation)
3) imaginary media constructed; devices that are dead, or never built being reconstructed and re-employed whether out of curiosity value that investigates the nature of obsolescence, progress and technological culture as one of novelty; or then to bring out also directly political themes such as new technologies as direct threats to the living world, the ecology (as Garnet Hertz argues through his dead media works)
4) media archaeological art methods as excavating the machine; past and/or present. Opening up the machine to investigate its microtemporal fluxes, machinics, operational principles is something again very "Berlin-style" and represents a powerful way of incorporating media archaeology as a method of opening up contemporary technologies (hardware hacking, circuit bending) and hence connecting to themes of political economy.