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This cutting-edge text offers an introduction to the emerging field of media archaeology and analyses the innovative theoretical and artistic methodology used to excavate current media through its past. Written with a steampunk attitude, What is Media Archaeology? The author contextualizes media archaeology in relation to other key media studies debates including software studies, German media theory, imaginary media research, new materialism and digital humanities.

What is Media Archaeology? It will be essential reading for anyone interested in the interdisciplinary ties between art, technology and media. Reviews 'Jussi Parikka offers a lucid, concise, and highly readable account of a new and exciting field - media archaeology.

He demonstrates that contemporary media forms are rooted to the past by multiple threads - untangling them helps us understand the media frenzy that currently surrounds us. Parikka's book offers an excellent overview of connections between the material and social aspects of media technology. He provides a thorough review of the diverse and sometimes contrasting theoretical foundations and provides a host of concrete examples of media-archaeological practice that serve to bridge the gap between heady theoretical trajectories and the concerns of practicing artists, users and other readers who take their technology seriously.

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University of Southampton Institutional Repository. In the digital age, texts do not exist in any space or time that humans can perceive, but only in computer memory.

The texts themselves are mediated by programmed software the forms of which depend on the configurations of operating systems, which themselves depend on hardware, which itself responds to variations in voltage. Meanwhile, computers have become so complex they can only be manufactured through computer-aided design.

Author's Response

Media archaeology is accordingly a method of intellectual inquiry that stresses non-human agency. It focuses on the workings of the media which are too large, long, miniscule or swift for the individual to normally perceive. Perhaps the most significant consequence of this intriguingly mixed intellectual lineage is that what Parikka describes as media archaeology downplays, if not does away with, common critical categories such as text, works or author, to focus on the intermedial journeys of cyclically occurring formal tropes, a type of biopolitics most concerned with the pre- and un-conscious, and the deep non-human structure of media technology.

In the same way that post-structural linguistics scholars argue that we do not speak language, it speaks us, the argument here is that humans must adapt themselves to evolving media technologies in order to function. The system of communication precedes the manner and mode of communication.

The Lessons of Counterpoint: Wolfgang Ernst’s Media Archaeology and Practical Archival Research

These protestations are not always convincing. For better or worse, media archaeology as defined here is frequently less a broad engagement with the material culture of media technology which, admittedly, is what I had hoped it would be than a successor variant of the approach Foucault showcased in The Archaeology of Knowledge.

To pay dues to the mainstream, to accept at face value, or take common parlance seriously is nearly always to be beneath contempt. Such an ethos flatters the historian, and sounds sexy, but it is not always, or arguably often, true. The fact that such technology took decades to mature does not, just of itself, appear especially revealing.

What is Media Archaeology?

Firstly, a degree of sloganeering creeps in. More seriously, it is both a missed opportunity and a genuine sadness, albeit one which may well just reflect the pauperised nature of academic publishing, that Parikka has made no effort to present his argument about the importance of media archaeology, or illustrate the importance of the new intellectual vistas it opens up which really do seem significant , in a form that is itself media archaeological.

The book has a reasonable selection of black and white photos, but they are only utilised in an all too conventional say-what-you-see fashion. Parikka is commendably alive to this, but not always in command of it. Indeed, by wearing so many self-reinforcing theoretical certainties on the sleeve of its otherwise not especially transparent prose, What is Media Archaeology? This is possibly a discipline for a select band of disciples. Cultural studies, film, media arts, history — it seems no disciplinary bounds can hold media archaeology. The critical frame is constantly moving. An important reoccurring presence in What is Media Archaeology?

Although, as the emergence of the Pirate Party in Germany illustrates, this may not be as opportunistic as it first seems. Parikka makes the point that such artistic and intellectual experimentation can help us understand how technology shapes perceptions and builds platforms for social relations, work, entertainment and identity. This seems a rather Romantic anxiety for an advocate of non-human humanities. Near the beginning of What is Media Archaeology? This is surely correct. Parikka drops names with the same rapidity that s rappers namechecked brands.

Alongside the sophisticated middle-class consumer preferences and jaundiced post-Cold War politics sit references to all the popular cultural theories imbibed by the part of that generation that stayed on at university to get PhDs.


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In this sense, much of What is Media Archaeology? To start with, I want to thank the reviewer for picking up on so many interesting threads relating to my What is Media Archaeology? Similarly, I am grateful for the opportunity to write a response.

Cartographies of Media Archaeology: What is Media Archaeology? - beta definition

Why this interest now, is a question we need to ask, as media archaeology has been around since the s and s. Friedrich Kittler is often talked of as a media archaeologist, despite him explicitly saying he is not one. For Huhtamo and myself , our background is in history and especially cultural history; Zielinski is originally a writer on media and the history of time-based technology, for instance the video recorder.

Indeed, reading a review coming from the perspective of historical disciplines is rather new and welcome, as media archaeology has mostly been gathering interest in media studies, new media theory as well as artistic practices. This is paradoxically true, which flags something about the nature of academia in the current globalised, although neoliberal, system; we are in the midst of negotiating what works, what does not, and what is worth sustaining, although in the last case, often the arguments used relate more to economic values and dubious political decisions as we have seen over the past years in the UK.

New disciplinary formations like digital humanities are emerging as one new strong direction, but I would defend also the work of media archaeologists in that they provide much more modest, low scale but also theoretically and artistically often quite experimental approaches to the various temporalities of new media culture where new is not that new, and the past is not behind us.


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