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.