Tuesday, 23 April 2013

What is Media Archaeology? reviewed in Neural

A new review of What is Media Archaeology in Neural (April 2013):
"To understand the "futuristic" present we live in it's very important to know our past. This seems particularly true when it comes to media culture. In fact it appears that the only feasible kind of time traveling is what is usually defined as "media archaeology", which allows us to re-create and use the same mediations on content that have been used by people in the past, refashioning their specific media context." [...]

The Archival Command: To Transmit and to Preserve

Whether media archaeology is even that close to Michel Foucault’s archaeology of knowledge is not always questioned. For Wolfgang Ernst, the link is very close, due to the notions of monument that one inherits from Foucault, as well as the non-semantic emphasis of Foucault. However, a lot of media archaeology still vows to principles that are at times further from Foucault. For instance, Foucault was insisting that his archaeology is not so much about giving “voice to the silent”, the neglected or repressed ones of media history. Indeed, his was not a “search and rescue” operation of what was lost, but an analysis of how the various “Gaps, voids, absences, limits, divisions” are distributed. No repression, just a production of distributions.

This leads to questions of how something is “transmitted and preserved”. This sort of archaeology is completely positive in this particular sense, and insists on this monumental aspect: why is something there, and why has it been brought to us. Indeed, his archaeology is handy when it comes to questions of transmission as preservation, the archival command.  A key quote from Foucault elaborates exactly what we are considering also in relation to software preservation/archival matters. There is a “remanence” proper to statements, which is not so much a way back to “the past even of the formulation”. Instead their duration (and distribution) needs to be explained.

Consider Foucault:

“To say that statements are residual is not to say that they remain in the field of memory, or that it is possible to rediscover what they meant; but it means they are preserved by the virtue of a number of supports and material techniques (of which the book is, of course, only one example), in accordance with certain types of institutions (of which the library is one), and with certain statutory modalities (which are not the same in the case of a religious text, a law, or a scientific truth). This also means they are invested in techniques that put them into operation, in practices that derive from them, in the social relations that they form, or, through those relations, modify.”

That quote, from Archaeology of Knowledge, is definitely a killer quote. It both highlights the specificity of Foucault’s approach as well as its relevance to the work of maintenance we call “memory”. It also hitns of that connection to Friedrich Kittler’s note near the end of Discourse Networks 1800/1900 that Foucault’s archaeology of knowledge needs to be updated to account for the technical media age: not all discourse networks are libraries and consist of books! And yet, that is already there in Foucault who steered clear from analysis of technical media but still leaves the door open to those other material techniques etc. Obviously Kittler knew this: we need to read carefully the afterwords to the Discourse Networks. It speaks of Foucault's methods, not his theory, acknowledging that difference inside Foucault's own writings and research.

Besides Kittler, there are hints towards the recent work of “cultural techniques” (for instance Bernhard Siegert). This is not to say that this more recent notion in German media theory is a footnote to Foucault -- like Kittler’s work cannot be reduced to such – but only that the emphasis on techniques is definitely something of consideration when tracking some of the archaeologies of the concept of “cultural techniques”.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Media Archaeology and Technological Debris

An event at Goldsmiths College in London:

Postgraduate Workshop & Conference: Media Archaeology and Technological Debris
Thursday, June 20 – Friday, June 21, 2013, Goldsmiths, University of London
This workshop aims to bring academics and PhD students together to
discuss emerging research projects on the field of media studies. It
means to combine the thriving approach of media archaeology with the
growing environmental concerns about technological debris, emphasizing
the complementary character of these topics in the construction of a
material understanding of media practices=92 past, present and future.
We expect to gather a number of emerging investigations that can shed
new light over the socio-political, economic, cultural, technological,
material and aesthetic dimensions of the continuous phenomena of
novelty and obsolescence of media systems. In doing so, we also hope
to create conditions to examine the systems of relationship formulated
around these topics, paying particular attention to the regimes of
value that define media objects either as museum artifacts or as
rubbish in different global/local contexts (such as Europe and Latin
10-15 PhD students will be selected to participate. The workshop
itself will last for two days: The first day will be composed of
closed reading groups in which the seasoned researchers will act as
respondents and mediators for the presentation of the participating
students, while the second day will be a small conference open to the
public. As such, the workshop intends to create a platform for
exchanging ideas and research methods upon this interdisciplinary
The event is being organized by students and graduates of Goldsmiths’
Department of Media and Communications, and is sponsored by
Goldsmiths’ Graduate School.
Confirmed speakers: Sean Cubitt (Media & Comms, Goldsmiths); Graham
Harwood (Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths); Jennifer Gabrys (Sociology,
Goldsmiths); Jussi Parikka (Media & Design, University of
Southampton); Gabriel Menotti (Audiovisual, UFES); and people from
Access Space (Sheffield).
Possible themes include:
- archaeological and anarchaeological research
- the repurposing of old devices (for fun & profit & art)
- programmed obsolescence and the temporality of materials and technologies
- precarious technical milieus
- artifact materiality and value
- media museography and historiography
- transnational contexts for zombie media
- industrial media and environmental hazards
- practices and economies of recycling technology
- electronic recycling and archiving of technological artifacts
- qualities, histories and applications of media systems and media ecologies
- global and local economic forces in cycles of innovation and decay
To apply, please submit a text document containing a title, a brief
description of your project (no more than 250 words), and a brief
biography to mediaarchdebris@gmail.com by Sunday, April 21, 17:00 GMT.
For more information, see: http://www.technologicaldebris.info