• “Instead, it offers an insight into how to think media archaeologically in contemporary culture, and maps the various theories, methods and ideas that give us guidance on how to do that. Media archaeology is introduced as a way to investigate the new media cultures through insights from past new media, often with an emphasis on the forgotten, the quirky, the non-obvious apparatuses, practices and inventions. In addition, as argued in this book, it is also a way to analyse the regimes of memory and creative practices in media culture—both theoretical and artistic” (2–3).



1. Introduction

  • What this book is trying to do is develop MA as a method, whereas the edited collection was slightly more interested in mapping its intellectual history (5).
  • What MA has been: excavations of the emergence of modernity; early histories of cinema; histories of the present (interrogation of the “new”); alternative or counter histories.
  • “Act two”: Parikka proposes the “concept lab,” e.g. the Fundus or the MAL, as new generative sites for MA-as-practice, more so than just as history (14); the archive also operates as a space for remixing in a “dynamic and temporal network,” which is where MA crosses over w/ DH (15).
  • “Media archaeology is a travelling discipline, based on a mobile set of concepts. Jumping aboard the travels of media archaeology, this book is cartographic: it maps media archaeology, and, by doing so, also creates one possible way to understand the place of media archaeology, history and media theory in contemporary digital culture – and to understand digital culture media archaeologically” (15).

3. Imaginary Media

  • Good section on “nonhuman media” at pp. 55; “All of the discourse surrounding imaginary media of ghosts, visions, supersensuality and new technologies points to the new worlds that had lost the past scales of measurement – not only of the old world, but of human perception. Hence, in terms of imaginary media, the new world of science and technology was the imaginary that was often most easily affiliated with the dead, with ethereal communication between brains, and with understanding the new through such metaphoric transitions” (59).

4. New Materialism

  • Which is not about the new materialisms of Coole and Frost; rather, it establishes links between German and Anglo media theory through renewed attention to different scales of media materiality, esp. through Chun and Kirschenbaum.
  • There’s overlap, however, on MA’s focus on objects (64).
  • A quick summary of Discourse Networks: “The two key things that Kittler was able to do and to offer humanities and media studies were: (1) to look at ‘old media’ such as literature as media systems for transmitting, linking and institutionalizing information (with a nod towards Harold Innis); and (2) to offer insights into how power works in the age of technical media” (68).
  • Writing on current thinking re: cognitive capitalism (much of the Politics of Networks list), Parikka asserts that “what is often missing from recent political and philosophical analyses in these fields is the medium-specificity and accuracy German media theory does well; although, at the same time, one can say that it is not often that one finds strong articulation of politics in the context of the techno-epistemological research of such media theory” (73).

  • Fifth chapter is a reprint from the edited collection and has interesting stuff to say re: MA as method; sixth chapter returns to the archive with readings of Ernst and Matt; seventh turns to art practice, which could be useful in reading, say, Paglen.

  • “So where are we left if everyone insists on being interested in materiality?” (163). Stack models of layered materiality help; we also need to push past to think about “the materiality of affect and the constitutive practices in which things . . . materialize” (164), which is, again, a valuable space for thinking with infrastructure.
  • “The next radical step is to expand toward non-human times” (166). And this is precisely what much of my work is trying to do—both in large and small scale. “In this context, I fi nd Jennifer Gabrys’s (2011) approach ingenious. Her Digital Rubbish: A Natural History of Electronics is a book about the various materialities of electronic culture. However, it executes this slightly differently, and focuses not only on how we use, interpret and debate about media – but also on how media relate to nature and waste” (165–66). “Failure has been at the core of media archaeology, which has been keen to question the newness of new media by looking at alternative histories, forgotten paths and sidekicks of media history. This kind of research and artistic practice emerged in the early days of digital culture hype during the 1990s. Now, failure needs to be recognized as part of wider networks, which ideally can also be part of the media archaeological agenda” (167).

Archive and Impact

  • Parikka’s book is in many ways a re-statement of many of the concerns mapped in his edited collection with Huhtamo, although more focused on mapping research programs for media archaeology in the years to come. It’s also a far more theoretically inclined text, since it’s less about individual media archaeological applications and more the theory as a whole.
  • True to Parikka’s later interests in circuit bending, he also positions media archaeology as a method for doing art practice as much as scholarship, and that the two must be intertwined (2).
  • Media archaeology as method is something I want to think about for my work; there are lots of places where research can cross over into art practice or critical making and I think that it’s worth continuing to interrogate how to use those processes to produce knowledge. Indeed, it’s in the work of doing (“Indeed, I am less interested in the traditional critical humanities and theory tools of interpretation, understanding and critique and more keen on those new forms of cultural and media analysis that want to use, to pervert and to modulate” (161)) that media archaeology is most useful, where theory pushes into political action and out of what feels like an endless tailspin of critique.