Thursday, 24 February 2011

Before TV, part 1 - screens

Before TV, other kinds of dead things to watch through the screen:

“…the floor of the room is mostly occupied with plate-glass cases of mummies, and various emblems of the painted pageantry to which mortals have fondly clung in all ages of the world. Here are coffins, sepulchral cones, and other ornaments, scaraboei, amulets, &c. Above the cases are bronzes; casts of sculptures from temples, models of obelisks, &c.”

"The British Museum" (the Egyptian Room), Illustrated London News, 13 Feb 1847

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Media Archaeology is coming out

This post is a heads up for something coming out soon:

Media Archaeology: Approaches, Applications, and Implications is a book edited by me and Erkki Huhtamo, and after a long wait, coming out from University of California Press. It should be out in April/May, and includes a range of approaches and theorists from established to emerging ones...something we hope gives a good idea of how to execute media archaeology - and ideas for further development! I am also proud of the range of exciting and flattering endorsements we have received from theorists and artists who I regard highly in this field (see below)!

Short intro
This book introduces an archaeological approach to the study of media - one that sifts through the evidence to learn how media were written about, used, designed, preserved, and sometimes discarded. Edited by Erkki Huhtamo and Jussi Parikka, with contributions from internationally prominent scholars from Europe, North America, and Japan, the essays help us understand how the media that predate today’s interactive, digital forms were in their time contested, adopted and embedded in the everyday. Providing a broad overview of the many historical and theoretical facets of Media Archaeology as an emerging field, the book encourages discussion by presenting a full range of different voices. By revisiting ‘old’ or even ‘dead’ media, it provides a richer horizon for understanding ‘new’ media in their complex and often contradictory roles in contemporary society and culture.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

1. Introduction: An Archaeology of Media Archaeology
Erkki Huhtamo and Jussi Parikka

Part I: Engines of/in the Imaginary
2. Dismantling the Fairy Engine: Media Archaeology as Topos Study
Erkki Huhtamo

3. On the Archaeology of Imaginary Media
Eric Kluitenberg

4. On the Origins of the Origins of the Influencing Machine
Jeffrey Sconce

5. Freud and the Technical Media: The Enduring Magic of the Wunderblock
Thomas Elsaesser

Part II: (Inter)facing Media
6. The “Baby Talkie,” Domestic Media, and the Japanese Modern
Machiko Kusahara

7. The Observer’s Dilemma: To Touch or Not to Touch
Wanda Strauven

8. The Game Player’s Duty: The User as the Gestalt of the Ports
Claus Pias

9. The Enduring Ephemeral, or The Future Is a Memory
Wendy Hui Kyong Chun

Part III: Between Analogue and Digital
10. Erased Dots and Rotten Dashes, or How to Wire Your Head for a Preservation
Paul DeMarinis

11. Media Archaeography: Method and Machine versus History and Narrative of Media
Wolfgang Ernst

12. Mapping Noise: Techniques and Tactics of Irregularities, Interception, and Disturbance
Jussi Parikka

13. Objects of Our Affection: How Object Orientation Made Computers a Medium
Casey Alt

14. Digital Media Archaeology: Interpreting Computational Processes
Noah Wardrip-Fruin

15. Afterword: Media Archaeology and Re-presencing the Past
Vivian Sobchack

Selected Bibliography

“Huhtamo and Parikka, from the first and second generations of media archaeology, have brought together the best writings from almost all of the best authors in the field. Whether we speak of cultural materialism, media art history, new historicism or software studies, the essays compiled here provide not only an anthology of innovative historical case studies, but also a methodology for the future of media studies as material and historical analysis. Media Archaeology is destined to be a key handbook for a new generation of media scholars.”
—Sean Cubitt, author of The Cinema Effect

"Taken together, this excellent collection of essays by a wide range of scholars and practitioners demonstrates how the emerging field of media archaeology not only excavates the ways in which newer media work to remediate earlier forms and practices but also sketches out how older media help to premediate new ones."
—Richard Grusin, author of Premediation: Affect and Mediality after 9/11

“In Media Archaeology, a constellation of interdisciplinary writers explore society’s relationship with the technological imaginary through history, with fascinating essays on influencing machines, Freud as media theorist, interactive games from the 19th century to the present day, just to name a few. As an artist, my is mind is set on fire by discussions of the marvelous inventions that never made it to the mainstream, such as optophonic poetry, Christopher Strachey’s 1952 ‘Love letter generator’ for the Manchester Mark II computer, and the ‘Baby talkie.’”
—Zoe Beloff, artist and editor of The Coney Island Amateur Psychoanalytic Society and Its Circle

"A long-awaited synthesis addressing media archaeology in all of its epistemological complexity. With wide-ranging intellectual breath and creative insight, Huhtamo and Parikka bring together an eminent array of international scholars in film and media studies, literary criticism, and history of science in the spirit of making the discourse of the humanities legible to artist-intellectuals. This foundational volume enables a sophisticated understanding of reproducible audiovisual media culture as apparatus, historical form, and avant-garde space of play."
—Peter J. Bloom, author of French Colonial Documentary: Mythologies of Humanitarianism

"An essential read for everyone interested in the histories of media and art."
—Oliver Grau, author of MediaArtHistories

"Media archaeology is a wonderful new shadow field. If you are willing to step outside the glow of new media, this book's approaches can shift how you experience the objects and experiences that fill the new everyday of contemporary life. No one captures the beauty of studying new media in the shadow of older media implements and practices better than Erkki Huhtamo, the Finnish writer, curator, and scholar of media technology and design famous for his creative work as a preservationist and an interpreter of pre-cinematic technologies of visual display. He has teamed up here with Jussi Parikka, the Finnish scholar who has brought us an insect theory of media, to give us this long-awaited collection of essays in media archaeology. The surprise of the book is that the essays collectively bring forward a range of approaches to considering archaeological practice, giving us new ways to think about our embodied and subjective orientations to technologies and objects through the lens of the material remnants of practice, rather than offering a narrow definition of the field. The collection moves between computational machines and influencing machines, preservation and imagination, offering a range of ways to live the new everyday of media experience through the imaginary of archaeology."
—Lisa Cartwright, co-author of Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture

“Where McLuhan’s Understanding Media ends, Media Archaeology actually begins. Refusing the often futile search for the eternal laws of media, Media Archaeology does something more difficult and rare. It literally brings the history of media alive by drawing into presence the enigmatic, heterogeneous, unruly past of the media—its artifacts, machines, imaginaries, tactics, and games. What results is a fabulous cabinet of (media) memories: the imaginary moving with kinetic frenzy, histories of what happens when media collide in the electronic space of the virtual, and stories about those strange interstitial spaces between analogue and digital.”
—Arthur Kroker, author of The Will to Technology and the Culture of Nihilism

“Rupturing the continuities and established values of traditional media history, this exciting and thought-provoking collection makes a significant contribution to our understanding of media culture, and demonstrates that the presence of the past in present-day media is central to the recognition and re-cognition that media archaeology promotes.”
—John Fullerton, editor of Screen Culture: History and Textuality

“Here, at last, is a collection of essays that are a critical step to comprehending the history of our impulse to see ourselves in the machines we have made. This could be the beginning of 'Archaeology of Intention.'"
—Bernie Lubell, artist

“Huhtamo and Parikka’s expertly curated collection is a kaleidoscopic tour of media archaeology, giving us forceful evidence of that unruly domain’s vitality while preserving its wonderful unpredictability. With this essential volume, countless new paths have been opened up for media and cultural historians."
—Charles R. Acland, author of Screen Traffic

“This brilliant collection of essays provides much needed material and historical grounding for our understanding of new media. At the same time, it animates that ground by recognizing the integral roles that imagination, embodiment, and even productive disturbance play in media historiography. Yet these essays constitute more than a collection of historical case studies; together, they transform the book’s subject into its overall method. Media Archaeology performs media archaeology. Huhtamo and Parikka excavate the intellectual traditions and map the epistemological terrain of media archaeology itself, demonstrating that the field is ripe with possibilities not only for further historical examination, but also for imagining exciting new scholarly and creative futures.”
—Shannon Mattern, The New School

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Recording of Media Archaeology and New Media Studies talk (Cambridge, UK)

I gave a talk in Cambridge, at Anglia Ruskin University at our Faculty research seminar -- the title was "Media Archaeology and New Media Studies". It introduces and summarizes some recent discussions in media archaeology, giving an overview. Hence, it points towards how materiality, artistic practices, and a promixity to software studies, platform studies and such new media forensics as Kirschenbaum's are some interesting new directions in the field.

The talk was streamed and you can find the recording here.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Media Archaeology of Signals (Transmediale 2011)

For me, last year it was Gebhard Sengmuller’s A Parallel Image, and this year Rosa Menkman’s The Collapse of PAL: the media archaeological highlight of Transmediale. Menkman’s performance dealt with obsolescence, death of media, and what is most interesting, media archaeology of signals and signal formats. Instead of the focus on devices, even if at times lost and outside mainstream, we are seeing new perspectives that take in their focus components, processes and such “minor elements” of media history.

The performance was a two-screen installation with Menkman using various audio and video sources and the signal twisted, modulated, bent. She combined the signal with a Cracklebox, a European telephone signal, Morse code and an old Casio keyboard among other things (info from the Transmediale 2011 programme book). The screens were filled with electronic signal landscapes, of waveforms and at times recognizable Gestalts. The angel from future, a Benjaminian figure of critique of progress, was the protagonist through whose mouth the Collapse of PAL painted a history of the PAL signal as loser to for example the DVB signal. The terms such as losers of history, history excavated in midst of rubbles, storm of progress which works to hide the multiplicity in history all point directly to Benjamin’s famous On the Concept of History text.

Despite the fact that I loved the performance, I also sensed the danger of nostalgia in this strong defensive reaction of history of losers – which was framed through an idea of progress as the force that blindly abandons all that it considers inefficient. A critique of rationalism and progress, the other aspects of the media archaeological gesture of the dialectics between losers and emerging media is not grounded enough. To what extent are we in danger of celebrating past media just for the sake of our emotional attachment to them as childhood memories and part of the collective media memories that are now in danger of being lost with new signal solutions and media environments? How to differentiate the media archaeological critique from nostalgia, and hence from a crucial part of the late capitalist consumer media sphere that Fredric Jameson pointed out as one crucial affective feature of contemporary culture?

(Photo by Jonathan Groeger/David Szauder) photos by Jonathan Gröger and David Szauder photos by Jonathan Gröger and David Szauder