The first reviews of A Geology of Media are out! Some links here if you are interested in the first reception of the book:
Sean Cubitt reviews it in Theory, Culture & Society;
J.R.Carpenter wrote the review Massive Media for Furtherfield.
ArtReview did a short review in their May 2015 issue:
In addition, Kunstkritikk published an interview with me on the themes and topics of the book!
On Thursday, I am one of the participants in a symposium on labs in the humanities and media archaeology. In Linköping (Sweden), the event organised by Jesper Olsson addresses the question of institutional forms of media and humanities work.
It is an exciting event for many reasons, andit is a good platform for some of the ideas me and Lori Emerson together with Darren Wershler have been thinking about relating to the genealogies and current institutional forms of the lab in digital humanities but also in those practices (such as Media Archaeology) that border digital humanities and might help to extend its reach to address the material cultural reality.
Indeed, in a recent interview I conducted with Wolfgang Ernst, he underlined that we also need to address the “humanities of the digital” that could then offer also a longer historical trajectory to the question of technology in humanities theory and pedagogy. This would also include a reflection on the specific institutional sites for such scholarly activity. It also continues my interest in “techniques and practices of theory”.
A follow-up to the Linköping discussions is organised as part of the Media Art Histories 2015 event in Montreal in November where we have a panel on this topic of labs across digital humanities, media archaeology and more.
Theory, Culture & Society asked me and Paul Feigelfeld to edit an e-special issue on the work of the German media theorist Friedrich Kittler. We are happy to announce that the issue has now been published and it is the first in a series of e-specials the journal is commissioning. Our issue includes a selection of Kittler’s own articles and texts by other scholars about his work. The articles are open access for a selected period. The issue includes also a new Kittler-translation “Authorship and Love” which is introduced by professor Geoffrey Winthrop-Young.
We also wrote the introduction to the issue: Kittler’s Media Exorcism (PDF).
Recently also this book Media After Kittler got published, and there is a French translation of Kittler’s software writings forthcoming later this year.
Here’s a nice video of ScanLab-group with Benjamin Bratton and Jordan Crandall (UCSD) talking about design, sensors and sensing. In the discussion, the issues of design are connected to the wider theme of the mechanical image and how visual culture is changing in the age of new visual techniques, such as (3D) scanning. The panel is part of an exhibition also we at WSA collaborated in curating, on Autonomous Sensing!
There will be some launch events/book talks for A Geology of Media especially in the latter part of May. Here’s a brief schedule of different locations, often in connection with an event, sometimes as stand-alone book launch! Below you will find also a Press Release that our University Media Team put together.
13/5, Wednesday, at Winchester School of Art, in the gallery starting at 17.00. Wine will be served, and Professor Sean Cubitt (Goldsmiths, London) will open the event.
15/5, Friday, at Central St. Martins, at 17.30. The book launch is moderated by Dr Betti Marenko and it follows a day-seminar on Technology as Magic. After the short conversation in the Lecture Theater, we will continue to the Platform Bar at CSM. Some drinks are sponsored by University of Minnesota Press!
20/5, Vienna, Austria, at the Natural History Museum at 18.30 in connection with the Rare Earth-exhibition at Thyssen-Bornemisza-gallery. The day is in combination with a tour of the museum and the gallery on the theme of minerals.
21/5, Utrecht, Netherlands at BAK (around 17.30).The book launch follows the day seminar on Anthropocene/Capitalocene (Posthuman Glossary) at BAK.
30/5, Stockholm, Sweden, at the Index-gallery 16.00, an evening of talks with Lori Emerson and the launch of the book.
Other events later this year in Brazil, the US, Canada and possibly some other countries. Details tba and I will update the list.
Media history – more geology than technology?
The geological history of media comes under close scrutiny in a new book by Professor Jussi Parikka who contends that media history may be millions, even billions, of years old – especially when you revisit the full story of the raw materials that are used to make the countless media devices we’ve ‘consumed’ for centuries and increasingly rely upon in the 21st century.
In his new book ‘A Geology of Media’ (University of Minnesota Press, ISBN 978-0-8166-9552-2) Parikka, Professor in Technological Culture and Aesthetics at Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton, argues that to adequately understand contemporary media culture by thinking about media and its past in geological terms, focusing on Earth’s history, geological formations, minerals, and energy. The book is the third part in the media ecology-trilogy following Digital Contagions (2007) and Insect Media (2010), which won the Anne Friedberg Award for Innovative Scholarship in 2012.
Exploring the resource depletion and material resourcing required for us to use our devices to live networked lives in today’s society, Professor Parikka grounds his analysis in Siegfried Zielinski’s widely discussed notion of deep time—but takes it back millennia. He argues that these raw materials are the physical origins of media technology and by understanding their transformation, eventually from useful tool to e-waste, can aid us all in having a better understanding of the implications that media has for society.
Not only are rare earth minerals and many other materials needed to make our digital media machines work, he observes, but used and obsolete media technologies return to the earth as residue of digital culture, contributing to growing layers of toxic waste for future archaeologists to ponder. Professor Parikka shows that these materials must be considered alongside the often dangerous and exploitative labor processes that refine them into the devices underlying our seemingly virtual or immaterial practices.
“One could call this approach a media history of matter: the different components, minerals, metals, chemicals and other things involved in media are considered essential to media history and archaeology,” says Professor Parikka. “Geology and various related disciplines and fields of knowledge such as chemistry and, indeed, ecology, frame the modern world and give it one possible scientific structure.
“Such disciplines are strongly implied in the emergence of the technological and scientific culture which feeds to our media cultural practice,” he continues. “It is in this sense that I am interested in finding strains of media materialism outside the usual definition of media; instead of radio, I prefer to think what components and materials enable such technologies; instead of networking, we need to remember the importance of copper or optical fiber for such forms of communication; instead of a blunt discussion of ‘the digital’, we need to pick it apart and remember that also mineral durations are essential to it being such a crucial feature that penetrates our academic, social and economic interests.”
“A Geology of Media demonstrates that the environment does not just surround our media cultural world—it runs through it, enables it, and hosts it in an era of unprecedented climate change,” Professor Parikka concludes. “While looking backward to Earth’s distant past, it also looks forward to a more expansive media theory—and, implicitly, media activism.”
We are happy to announce that the AHRC has granted funding for our Internet of Cultural Things (IoCT) project, a one year research partnership between Kings College London, Winchester School of Art (University of Southampton), and the British Library.
The project examines the cultural dimensions of data via the born-digital material generated by the British Library, ranging from items ingested to reading room occupancy to catalogue searches. Through practice-informed research we engage this otherwise hidden cultural data, and hold a series of pop-up installations to make it visible and interfaced with the public to think through our data interconnectedness. By focusing on cultural institutions, we can move beyond the integrated operating system of the ‘Internet of Things’ and its purported productivity gains, efficiencies. Instead, we will use critical creative practice to rethink cultural institutions as living organism of data that is both dynamic and recursive. We propose the IoCT as a concept to discuss this new situation of digital data and cultural institutions.
The project starts in September 2015, and is led by Dr Mark Cote (KCL) as the PI and Prof Jussi Parikka (WSA/Southampton) as the CO-I with partners from the British Library (Jamie Andrews) and collaborating with the artist Dr Richard Wright (London).
Sybille Krämer’s Medium, Messenger, Transmission: An Approach to Media Philosophy is the first book in our new book series Recursions (Amsterdam University Press). The influential book that represents one significant strand of so-called German media theory is translated by Anthony Enns and is now available!
Enns has also written a very good introduction to the book that offers a context in which to understand Krämer’s impact in the field of media theory and media philosophy. Her work has over the years addressed philosophy of technology, cultural techniques and processes of formalisation in mathematics, as well as themes relating to artificial intelligence, language and rationalism. Krämer is interested in how a focus on the technical apparatuses is not sufficient for us to understand the wider field in which media works – she is interested in mediality. Krämer’s take on media philosophy introduces different models for such medial operations of transmission and messaging.
As Enns outlines in his translator’s introduction, Krämer’s position suggests that:
“(1) A philosophy of mediality can only begin by recognizing that there is an unbridgeable distance between the sender and the receiver ‒ a distance that can never be overcome.
(2) The medium occupies the intervening space between the sender and the receiver, and it is able to facilitate their connection while still maintaining the distance that separates them.
(3) All forms of communication are reducible to acts of (non-reciprocal) transmission between the sender and the receiver, as unification and dialogue remain impossible.
(4) Transmission is an embodied, material process, yet it is frequently understood as disembodied, as the medium is supposed to be invisible through its (noise-free) usage.” (Enns 2015, p.13).
Enns outlines how Krämer’s phlosophical position refuses technological determinism but is constantly interested in how the non-human participates in communication even if we often mistake and reduce agency to the humans participating in the event. Hence it is a take different from Friedrich Kittler’s but also differs from the hermeneutical accounts to understand mediality. Enns continues how “[a]ccording to Krämer, all of these various forms of transmission ‒ angels,
viruses, money, translators, psychoanalysts, witnesses, and maps ‒ can be seen as media in the sense that they simultaneously bridge and maintain differences between heterogeneous worlds. The messenger model thus depends on the basic insight that a community of different individuals is founded on the distance that separates them, which precludes the possibility of unification or intersubjectivity, and all attempts at communication are actually acts of transmission, as communication is fundamentally unidirectional, asymmetrical, and non-reciprocal.” (Enns 2015, p. 16).
As series editors, we hope that the book will have the wide impact it deserves, being such an important take on fundamental issues that speak to media and communication scholars but also to the wider philosophical and cultural discourse concerning what mediation means.
You can find the introduction to the Recursions book series online (Academia.edu) and copied below.
Please consider asking your library to order a copy of Krämer’s exciting study!
For review copies, you can contact AUP or one of us series editors.
Recursions: Editors’ Introduction by Jussi Parikka, Anna Tuschling and Geoffrey Winthrop-Young
Recursions: Theories of Media, Materiality and Cultural Techniques is a book series about media theory. But instead of dealing with theory in its most classical sense of theoria as something separate from practice that looks at objects and phenomena from a distance, we want to promote a more situated understanding of theory. Theory, too, is a practice and it has an address: it unfolds in specific situations, historical contexts and geographical places.
As this book series demonstrates, theory can emerge from historical sources and speculations still closely attached to material details. We therefore speak of the recursive nature of theory: It is composed of concepts that cut across the social and aesthetic reality of technological culture, and that are picked up and reprocessed by other means, including the many media techniques featured in this book series. The recursive loops of theory and practice fold and define each other. The genealogies of media theory, in turn, unfold in recursive variations that open up new questions, agendas, methodologies, which transform many of the humanities topics into media theory.
The Recursions series revolves around the material and hardware understanding of media as well as media archaeology – a body of work that addresses the contingent historical trajectories of modern media technologies as well their technological condition. But we are also interested in addressing the wider field of cultural techniques. The notion of cultural
techniques serves to conceptualize how human and nonhuman agencies interact in historical settings as well as to expand the notion of media to include the many techniques and technologies of knowledge and aesthetics. This expansive – and yet theoretically rigorous – sense of understanding media is also of great use when considering the relations to biology and other sciences that deal with life and the living; another field where media studies has been able to operate in ways that fruitfully overlap with social studies of science and technology (STS).
Overall, the themes emerging from the Recursions book series resonate with some of the most interesting debates in international media studies, including issues of non-representational thought, the technicity of knowledge formations, and the dimensions of materialities expressed through biological and technological developments that are changing the vocabularies of cultural theory. We are interested in the mediatic conditions of such theoretical ideas and developing them as new forms of media theory. Over the last twenty years, and following in the footsteps of such media theorists as Marshall McLuhan, Friedrich Kittler, Vilem Flusser and others, a series of scholars working in Germany, the United States, Canada and other countries have turned assumptions concerning communication on their head by shifting the focus of research from communication to media. The strong – and at times polemical – focus on technological aspects (frequently referred to as the ‘materialities of communication’) has since given way to a more nuanced approach evident in appellations such as ‘media archaeology’ and ‘media ecology’. These scholars have produced an important series of works on such diverse topics as computer games, media of education and individuation, the epistemology of filing cabinets, or the media theories underlying the nascent discipline of anthropology at the end of the nineteenth century, thereby opening up an entirely new field of research which reframes our understanding of media culture and the relationship be tween media, culture, politics, and society.
In other words, these approaches are distinguished by the emphasis on the materiality of media practices as well as the long historical perspectives they offer. A major part of the influences of recent years of media theory, including fields such as software and platform studies, digital forensics and media ecology, has been a conjunction of German media theory with other European and trans-Atlantic influences. The brand name of ‘German media theory’ commonly associated with, though not restricted to, the work of Friedrich Kittler – is a helpful label when trying to attempt to identify a lot of the theoretical themes the book series addresses. However, we want to argue for a more international take that takes into account the hyphenated nature of such influences and to continue those in refreshing ways that do not just reproduce existing theory formations. We also want to challenge them, which, once again, refers to the core meaning of recursions: variation with a difference.