[As much notes in here as I could, and then refer to the physical book for more.]

Summary

  • “To summarize the preceding preamble, this is a book about technical media culture—digital and analog—that starts from the geophysical. It investigates, employs, and mobilizes terms that refer to the geophysical—that is, not just geopolitical—spheres of media culture in a manner that is a combination of conceptually speculative but thematically and media historically grounded. In other words, a part of the book works through historical sources and examples, but with an emphasis on media arts. Indeed, it is the lens of media art practices and theoretical discourse that offers us a specific way to look at the recent years of climate change, the Anthropocene, and geophysics-embedded work: the ideas about deep time of the media, psychogeophysics, e-waste, the Anthropocene, chemistry, and the earthly as a media history that works in nonlinear ways. This idea of media (art) histories as one of nonlinear strata pushes even the media archaeological agenda of media history to its extreme. Human history is infused in geological time” (6).

Keywords

  • “psychogeophysics—a sort of speculative aesthetics for the connection of technology and society with a special view to the geophysical” (5).
  • “And conversely, it is the earth that provides for media and enables it: the minerals, materials of(f) the ground, the affordances of its geophysical reality that make technical media happen. Besides the logic of ordering, we have the materiality of the uncontained, and the providing, that is constantly in tension with the operations of framing. This double bind—which I call the sphere of medianatures—is the topic of this book, with a special focus on geology and the geophysical” (13). cf. Haraway.
  • “anthrobscene”: a twist on anthropocene meant to draw attention to the obscene flows of capital and inequity.

Notes

1. Materiality

  • Tracing the emergence of materiality and materialisms in cultural and media theory. Kittler drives this first trend w/i “German media theory.” The essence of this materialism: “to study media, you need to have a proper understanding of the science and engineering realities that govern the highly fine-structured computer worlds in which we live—without ignoring the fact that technical media did not start with the digital” (2).
  • Parikka is interested in the materialisms that this approach misses, particular w/r/t political critique. “This book is structured around the argument that there is such a thing as geology of media: a different sort of temporal and spatial materialism of media culture than the one that focuses solely on machines or even networks of technologies as nonhuman agencies. It echoes John Durham Peters’s point that the axis of time and space—familiar also from the Canadian media theory tradition of Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan—is not restricted to traditional ideas about media as devices but can refer back to cosmology and geology: that the geological sciences and astronomy have already opened up the idea of the earth, light, air, and time as media” (3). Geology attends to the material ground underneath all media. (So then do we have to not only understand how a computer works but also how mining practices and geochemistry operate?)
  • The twenty-first century perspective: “starts an imaginary alternative media theoretical lineage that does not include necessarily McLuhan, Kittler, and the likes in its story but materials, metals, waste, and chemistry” (5).
  • Counters Ernst’s time-criticality and microtemporality w/ a revised version of Zielinski’s deep time (7–8).
  • “The planetary vision—of a holistic organism as much as an object of military and scientific technologies of transportation and visualization—was part of why scientists from James Lovelock to Lynn Margulis contributed to the wider discussions of feedback mechanisms. But it also signaled a shift from James Hutton’s Theory of the Earth (1788) to media of the earth, executed by means of technologies and media—of visualization techniques revealing the earthrise from the moon but also the galaxy from new perspectives” (11). cf. Tsing et al..
  • “Visions of the earth from the moon since the 1960s but also the technological gaze toward deep space with Hubble were never just about space and its interplanetary objects but as much about mapping such entities as part of the corporate and national interest” (11).
  • “I want to underline the following argument: there is a double bind between the relations of media technologies and the earth conceived as a dynamic sphere of life that cuts across the organic and the nonorganic. It is also increasingly framed as standing reserve in the Heideggerian vocabulary: a resource for exploitation, and viewed as resource, ordered to present itself. This is where dynamics of vibrant life meet with the corporate realities of technologized capitalism that is both a mode of exploitation and an epistemological framework” (12). Also see discussions of bestand in Young.

2. An Alternative Deep Time of the Media

Archive and Impact

  • Look, this is a book that I know very well and that I’m reading way at the tail-end of my exam prep. So I’m going to focus mostly on making links and situating connections.
  • Parikka writes mostly from an art-flavored media studies here: his archives tend to be gallery exhibitions more so than, say, literature.
  • Like Anthropocene Reading, the operative science for Parikka’s book is geology. Unsurprisingly, figures of stratigraphy feature prominently. Science and technology become “one pertinent multidisciplinary context for media studies and media art history” (viii).
  • Media archaeology, as it bends toward creative art practice, is a key way to reconceptualize a geology of media.
  • Note also debts to Mumford’s ideas of “paleotechnics” (14–15).
  • “Despite references to the ongoing debates in theory, this book does not attempt to create a primarily philosophical argument; more accurately, it argues the case for a geology of media that tries to pin down the often rather broad notion of ‘nonhuman’ agency to some case studies concerning the assemblages in which the grounds of media are ungrounded through the actual geologies of mining, materiality, and the ecosophic quest becoming also geosophic” (23).