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What is Media Archaeology? Paperback – 4 May 2012
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"Provides the urgently needed map into this new field′s extensive domain, but also for those already familiar the book is an excellent read."
"Essential reading for anyone interested in the interdisciplinary ties between art, technology and media Dr Parikka′s cutting–edge text contextualizes media archaeology in relation to other key media studies debates while also presenting an engaging and accessible overview for students of media, film and cultural studies."
"An exciting and excitable contribution to cultural theory."
Reviews in History
"A lively introduction to its subject that illuminates exciting avenues for both scholarship and aesthetic practice, and the book should be of interest to Parikka s fellow travelers as well as anyone wanting a
critical overview of this challenging approach to modern media culture."
New Media and Society
" What Is Media Archaeology? offers important methodological drives that direct our attention to the artistic, mathematical, and non–written ways in which this truly interdisciplinary field is developing."
Literary & Linguistic Computing
"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."
Erkki Huhtamo, University of California Los Angeles
"A fabulous map of media archaeology that, as its subject compels, produces its territory anew."
Matthew Fuller, Goldsmiths
"Parrika′s adroit combination of depth and brevity takes readers rapidly on wide ranging journeys into exploring contemporary media."
Journal of American Studies of Turkey
"A welcome fresh perspective on methodologies to carry out research on contemporary media cultures a real antidote to the hype of new technologies that is characteristic not only of technology journalism but also of so much media studies work. A worthy read."
Media, Culture & Society
"The most comprehensive coverage to date of this fascinating area of study. 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."
Paul DeMarinis, Stanford University
About the Author
Jussi Parikka is Professor in Technological Culture & Aesthetics at the Winchester School of Art (University of Southampton).
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Archaeology is the study of objects from past times. What is a measure of time becomes an issue in the “What is Media Archaeology?” The sweep of historical time—such as can be seen in the pre-industrial and the capitalist eras—is mentioned by Parikka as time in large measure. Parikka is also interested in time in small measure, like the tiny bits of time it takes for electrical signals to operate within the chips that make possible the production of digital media in today’s world.
On what you might call the “macro” level, the study of our historical era is often a critique of capitalism. Parikka writes:
"The recent years of cultural theory have been talking of ‘cognitive capitalism’ and affective labor as new regimes of capitalism in which our ways of thinking, communicating and socializing have become key motors for value creation, and hence under new forms of control."
On the other hand, what you could call the “micro” level, Parikka says, miniature electronic media processes we work with escape our sense perception and almost our ability to measure. Because we cannot sense them, in a way they leave the human sphere.
Every work of media studies is tied in some way to the media technology of the time in which it was written (although some transcend more than others). Concerns have sometimes been similar for our predecessors and us. Today, for example, cloud storage is questioned regarding its safety from interference. From a British magazine from 1881 Parikka quotes a passage about the telegraph lines of early capitalism, citing similar issues: “The telegraph is not always, or to everybody, the unmitigated boon and blessing enthusiastic admirers have represented it to be. … There is always more or less uncertainty attaching to a telegram, both in regard to the length of time it may be on its journey, and in regard to the way in which the wording may be reproduced.”
More often than they stay the same, ideological and scientific concerns change through time, and they do so in a kind of parallel to the evolution of machinery. This is brought into striking relief in Parikka’s discussion of the complaints of the mad. Obviously no stricken person could have reported that there was a radio broadcasting in his or her brain before the invention of radio, with its new invisible wireless transmissions. I think Parikka sees the mad as canaries in the coal mine, whose health reflected the existence or lack of poison gas in the mine (although without the connotation of media technology being poisonous). He writes:
"New media have constantly been imagined as a media or mind control. The delusional side is only the paranoid schizophrenic hyperbole of what happens with technical media that do not translate easily into everyday language and understanding. … Remove the imaginary, remove the supposedly fantastic otherworldly, and see what is revealed: a word of social relations, networks of communication, and new worlds of media technologies where are non-human in the deep scientific sense of reaching out to the non-phenomenological worlds of electricity, electromagnetic fields and, a bit later for example, quantum mechanics."
It is a bit mind-bending for even normal people that there is now media comprised, for example, of electronic flows in chips that are directed by software, which are in fact very hard for anyone besides the most highly trained experts, versed in advanced computational mathematics, to comprehend, and upon which we utterly depend for our means of communication. Parikka argues processes should be broken down into more common understanding for media workers, and perhaps it is just a matter of time until they will be.
There is an element of practice to media archaeology as well as its research aspect. Parikka reports that this is mostly in the area of avant-garde art. My feeling is that such a focus might expand upon but also could limit the horizons of the field, which can be of a more profound utility if its discoveries are made more generally accessible to all kinds of media workers, be they broadcasters, photographers, bloggers or even computer programmers.
The above review of course reports on only a portion of what “What is Media Archaeology?” has to offer. The book, while heavy on jargon, is rich in references to the work of intellectuals in many areas of study who have contributed to the overall effort to give their emerging field a greater presence. It is a starting place, as it was intended to be, and it is highly recommended.