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.
So this is a sort of an announcement: I was happy to receive my first copy of A Geology of Media during my visit to UNSW in Sydney. In other words, the book is now more or less out – a bit ahead of schedule and gradually available in online and offline bookshops, and of course in different e-formats (Kindle, epub, etc) already!
The earlier published little e-booklet The Anthrobscene was a short preview single of this main book that is also now out!
My talk in Sydney was the first “book talk” after the book is actually out, and it will be followed by several more during the Spring. The talks are primarily in Europe, and some launch celebrations are planned for May in Winchester (at WSA), and also London, Vienna, Utrecht and Stockholm. More details of dates and places to follow.
Please find below the official release text with information on how to obtain a review copy! Please spread the word to people who might be interested and consider asking your university library to order a copy.
A sweeping new ecological take on technology
A GEOLOGY OF MEDIA
By Jussi Parikka
University of Minnesota Press l 224 pages l April 2015
ISBN 978-0-8166-9552-2 | paperback | $24.95
ISBN 978-0-8166-9551-5 | hard cover | $87.50
Electronic Mediations, Volume 46
Media history is millions, even billions, of years old. That is the premise of Jussi Parikka’s pioneering and provocative book, A Geology of Media, which argues that to adequately understand contemporary media culture we must set out from material realities that precede media themselves – Earth’s history, geological formations, minerals, and energy.
PRAISE FOR A GEOLOGY OF MEDIA:
“Jussi Parikka’s A Geology of Media really expands what media theory can do. The materiality of media is no longer restricted to questions of economies of technics but extends all the way to its molecular composition. It connects the fast calculations of digital time to the deepest of temporalities, that of the earth itself. An essential contribution to a media theory for the Anthropocene.”—McKenzie Wark, author of Molecular Red
“A Geology of Media does not complete or close down an area of research, but rather opens one up. This book is vital to any continuing consideration of media today.”
— Steven Shaviro, author of The Universe of Things: On Speculative Realism
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jussi Parikka is professor in technological culture and aesthetics at Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton. He is the author of Insect Media (Minnesota, 2010), Digital Contagions, and What is Media Archaeology?
For more information, including the table of contents, visit the book’s webpage:
For review copies or author interview requests, contact:
Heather Skinner, Publicist
University of Minnesota Press
111 3rd Ave S, Ste. 290
Minneapolis, MN 55401-2520
skinn077 — at — umn.edu
v * 612-627-1932
f * 612-627-1980
Nora Khan has written a lovely review of the Anthrobscene. She picks up on the implications for a material theory of media, and elaborates how “In a stunning essay-book titled The Anthrobscene, Jussi Parikka argues that our media era is fundamentally geophysical, that geology itself is a media resource […]”.
Khan elaborates on this aspect of the material off-screen digitality through great references: “as Marvin Jordan and Mike Pepi recently wrote, ‘the most interesting things are happening off screen: in cables and wire, in climate-controlled data centers, in mySQL and at DLD, in Hadoop and MapReduce'”.
Napoleon III’s wife was filled with awe. “De ma vie, je n’ai vue rien de plus beau”, voiced Eugenie de Montijo at the opening festivities of the Suez Canal. I’ve never seen anything as beautiful.
As Sebastian Gießmann notes about the scene, it was such a crystallisation of aesthetic sentiment with colonial aspirations, something that set the bar for the 19th century technological enthusiasm for progress and the planetary projects that defined a new global order. It was, after all, that the ceremonial boats passing through the canal were followed up by one last one; the one that lay down the telegraphic cable. Lewis Mumford’s later analysis coined already the late 19th century’s material basis as not national not continental but planetary – and this drive was visible in many of the transport projects and technological engineering too; planetary but always tied to a variety of geopolitical interests.
Gießmann’s extensive Die Verbundenheit der Dinge [rougly translates as the “connection of things” but there are many nice connotations for the word Verbundenheit in German, from proximity to affect, communion and bond] narrates such scenes but more broadly speaking the study functions as an inspiring cultural history of nets and networking. Even if “network theory” has been debated for 10-15 years, Gießmann is able to bring interesting angles to the material, symbolic and imaginary aspects of a truly historical view to webs, nets and more. Besides being highly readable, Die Verbundenheit der Dinge works through interesting case studies from classical literature and the history of nets in hunting, as traps, also to the legal aspects of “binding” contractual states; to spiders and webs, infrastructural networking such as canals, and onto the more computational 20th century. The diagrammatics of operational research offer a pre-internet view to how information handling was to be rationalised in visual circuits; connections of nodes and switches. Gradually the management of optimised information messages became the focus of the technical diagrams.
The book has a wonderful way of being able to account for the material and yet also aware of the cultural history of the concept in its changing forms from visual to the informatic. Gießmann is drawing on the cultural techniques-tradition of German theory in many ways. However, what distinguishes the book are the specific examples elaborated. Through addressing such historically far-reaching plans of planetary networks as the canals of the 19th century etc., the book is able to remind that at its core, networking is also currently about big infrastructural projects; Gießmann notes the early use of “networks” in the 1827 planning of Paris watersystems and it is clear that this is a lineage that is of important focus: the infrastructural engineering both of the urban realm and the connections across national interest space but also in close relation with non-governmental corporations. In many ways Gießmann’s book speaks to the same themes as recently translated study by Markus Krajewski, World Projects.
Die Verbundenheit der Dinge acknowledges the importance of mathematics and geometry in the modern history of networks, but does not cave-in to the a-historical definitions of networks that we have grown accustomed to hearing; nodes and edges might be important but also need to be historicized as the specific epistemological frameworks in which such connectivity becomes mobilized over the past 200-250 years.
Networking divides into a variety of constitutive cultural techniques such as synchronisation and switching; there is a technical element well presented in this analysis, which accompanies the political and social history. The technological becomes embedded in a history consisting of various scales of agencies. The partly automated networking finds one of its important historical events in the 1890s with the patent for Automatic Telephone-Exchange, which with the help of the switching cylinder slowly replaces the parasite in between – the telephone operator girl.
Indeed, Die Verbundenheit der Dinge alludes to how things are not purloined by humans anymore- like in the much often quoted Allan Poe’s The Purloined Letter as one ur-scene of communications. Letters and messages get lost in other ways than human hands in the technological networks by way of transmission problems as an effect of the automated situation over noisy lines. Information theory but also concrete engineering solutions emerge as one key switch in the history of networking. From capture of animals the emerging networks and later the web become an infrastructural arrangement that now sets the tone for the Internet of Things as capture.
I am pretty chuffed about this visit: I received one of the University of New South Wales (Sydney) Distinguished Visiting Scholar awards and will be giving some talks and a workshop, as well as meeting loads of people during my time in the Southern hemisphere.
It’s not a big surprise that my talks and workshop will focus on media theory, materiality and history. In the workshop, or “master class”, we will be reading key texts of German media theory, especially focusing on the concept of cultural techniques.
One of the talks (on March 17) will be on the geophysical materialities of media in art and technology, “a story less about extensions of Man than extensions of the planetary.” It’s a preview of the forthcoming book A Geology of Media.
In addition, another talk (March 16) is an early attempt on what might become a research/book project together with Lori Emerson and Darren Wershler on humanities labs/media archaeology labs. Below is the abstract for that. Thanks to Tom Apperley at UNSW for coordinating and facilitating the visit. For any queries related to the talks, contact Tom.
A Laboratory Practice? Media Archaeology Labs and Humanities Knowledge as Creation and Hacking
This talk will address media archaeology but from the angle that considers it as a spatialised, institutionalized practice. By addressing existing and emerging media archaeology labs such as in Berlin, Boulder (Colorado) and other places, it aims to offer ideas how to contextualize the idea of “labs” in contemporary humanities. Media archaeology labs are often pitched as a way to think cultural heritage and contemporary technology outside the more established institutional practices of archives and museums. Instead, the labs seem to have become sites of “hacking”, opening up technologies and pedagogical ways of appropriating past technologies as epistemological ways of understanding modern technological culture. Besides offering examples and introduction to some key ideas and practices, the talk aims to expand to artistic practices and other cross-disciplinary ways of humanities knowledge-creation.
The Finnish Institute in London has an interview series “Made By”. Alongside earlier interviews with designers, artists, etc., they did a little chat with me which you can find here.
Around the same time as this came out, early February, we had a conversation event at the Institute on historical knowledge, technology and the digital humanities. Notice the Finnish design and wooden materials that characterize the space – a sea of Aalto waiting for the audience.