Monday, 25 July 2011

The Media of Analysis

Lev Manovich taps into a wonderful, post-hermeneutic topic in his "cultural analytics" project and for instance in the short text "Against Search". His notes are perceptive, and the project as a way to think outside signification based interpretation is important.

Basically his argument stems from the observation that we in cultural and media studies and humanities more widely are confronted with a sea of possibilities - having "access to unprecedented amounts of media." It's a claim that relates to both the ways in which we produce media in unprecedented amounts - but more importantly, as an archival question, how we approach it. A wonderful point: we also access media mediatically:

"The popular media access technologies of the 19th and 20th century such as slide lanterns, film projectors, microfilm readers, Moviola and Steenbeck, record players, audio and video tape recorders, VCR, and DVD players were designed to access single media items at a time at a limited range of speeds."

And this relates to Manovich claim concerning theories and methods of interpretation:

"Together, these distribution and classification systems encouraged 20th century media researchers to decide before hand what media items to see, hear, or read."

Manovich continues to argue that even computer search does not take us away from this restricted mode of accessing and hence analyzing cultural data - referring to the "blank frame" of search. I won't continue on the point of "Against Search", but just point two questions/comments on the overall framing;

1) as also Robin Boast noted on Twitter, already 19th century cultural institutions were reacting to the flood of information, which was transforming the way we think about theory and data. We could continue about the obvious points concerning birth of new ways of thinking about data in sociological disciplines (and as Foucault analyzed, birth of biopolitics) in late 19th century - or the ingenious ways in which Gabriel Tarde was proposing his microsociological investigations as one solution in this context. But already the earlier changes in ways of interpretation and for instance producing commentaries as part of academic practice are reactions against the flood of data - new interfaces, new methods of reading and writing, interpreting - something that among others Friedrich Kittler has flagged.

2) Related to this point, the sheer existence of huge amounts of data does not have automatic requirements that we need to use quantitative methods. This fact that data exists and its connection to methods of analysing it need more careful framing - otherwise we risk the being too close to naive positivism or just producing more data for its own sake (as so often with data visualization). If we are faced with unprecedented amount of data I hope we can also be inventive, imaginative enough to come up with unprecedented methods, theories, ideas and transversal modes of producing knowledge. Perhaps such cultural analytics has the possibility of being thought in relation to the politics of knowledge, institutions, crossdisciplinary, transversal modes of knowledge production in the midst of the global crisis of public sectors.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Excavating the microchip

I remember a meeting with a professor of Art History in Toronto in 2007 - part of a job interview related situation, I was challenged by him concerning media archaeology, claimed that it was "all metaphorical", this use of "archaeology" in that brand of research.

Indeed, this has perhaps plagued some of the media archaeological research that is more discursive in its nature. And yet, there are various contexts in which the term is used far from metaphorically. On the one hand, the variety of media archaeology often associated with Sophienstrasse 22 address in Berlin has insisted on the technological agency of objects/signals and materiality of the networks in which our methodologies of media research of the past have to function. On the other hand, now in other context "digital archaeologists" are taking up the challenge and focusing for instance on microchips as excavation sites for digging down, unpacking and taking apart. The link contains a fascinating take on 6502 microchip that stems from mid-1970s; it points towards the important realization that to understand the media archaeology of technical media, we need to focus on the components - such as chips - and not just the "end results", the media-objects that we usually recognize as media.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011


I have been for a while big fan of the projects of Microresearch Lab and Martin Howse. I had yesterday the pleasure of interviewing him about his work and the forthcoming workshop Recrystallization. Martin's work is to me inspiring in its aesthetico-technical regime, but I have to say, I am often lost in terms of what on earth is going on. So was rewarding to be able to chat to Martin directly and get his elaboration on his artistic methods. The interview is forthcoming in the Creative Technologies Review.

For me, even if not explicitly and only media archaeology, these projects have again an edge that lends itself to media archaeological inquiry - concerning obsoleteness, the intertwining of the imaginary and the material, of "under-the-hood" methodologies, Pynchon, Ballard and more.



Workshops in collaboration between Ryan Jordan, Jonathan Kemp and Martin Howse.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

In Kenya, media never dies

This is true zombie media – undeads. Take that, planned obsolescence.

“…in Kenya, like everywhere else on the continent, mobile phones literally never die, because of the technical expertise of thousands of meticulous workers constantly dismantling phones, studying circuit by circuit, re-adapting spare parts, never giving up until they learn how to fix the handset or to unlock it. But this creativity goes further: modified phones with dual SIM cards, helping to cope with poor network coverage or high interconnection fees, solar or car battery-powered mobile chargers for area not yet covered by mains electricity – the list of opportunities sought after by jua cali entrepreneurs is endless, in a constant form of struggle for the appropriation of a technology designed elsewhere and originally with the devices' planned obsolescence in mind.”
(Ugo Vallauri, “Beyond E-waste: Kenyan Creativity and Alternative Narratives in the Dialectic of End-Of-Life” International Review of Information Ethics vol. 11 (10/2009, p.23)

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Media - input/output

Communication museum, Berlin.