Media theory has a place – and last night it was very much about Sophienstrasse 22, Berlin. Friedrich Kittler was running his institute there, and developed it over years into a classic Berlin location, that was also internationally known not only as the place of Berlin media theory (material, historical, technically specific, and weird) but more specifically as Sophienstrasse 22. This is not to say it’s the only place, and dissemination has worked – in Germany, and internationally.
Yesterday was the final academic event at Sophienstrasse, and our cadre of speakers was spectacular: Ernst, Pias, Hagen, and of course, with his red wine, his cigarettes, his Greek – Kittler. After that, our book presentation on Media Archaeology with some of the same speakers as well as Anthony Enns – a Kittler translator.
Welcome to our July 15 event at Institute of Media Studies, Humboldt University in Berlin – where we are both celebrating the launch of Media Archaeology and even more importantly, processing (excuse the pun) the closing of a certain era of German media theory. The by now legendary address of Sophienstrasse 22 is closing down and the institutes are moving premises. This is the address where Friedrich Kittler worked, and a whole generation of German media theorists can consider their alma mater…
TRANSMIT, PROCESS, STORE
Goodbye Sophienstrasse – Book presentation Media Archaeology
On the 15th of July 2011, the time of the Institute for Media Studies at Sophienstraße 22a is coming to an end and together with the other institutes, we will relocate to the Pergamon Palais on Kupfergraben, on the site of Hegel’s house. This transmission marks an occasion to bring together teachers, researchers, students and friends of Sophienstraße to process and store the times and ideas which emerged in this spot, in order to duly celebrate our farewell. Furthermore, we will present the new volume Media Archaeology, edited by our current research fellow Jussi Parikka together with Erkki Huhtamo.
We cordially invite you to join us in talks, discussion and celebration on Friday, July 15th 2011, starting 4 p.m. Berlin’s best book store Pro qm will be present with a book table.
Location: Medientheater (ground floor of Sophienstrasse 22a):
Welcome: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Ernst, Paul Feigelfeld und Dr. Jussi Parikka
4.15 – 5.45
Contributions by: Prof. Dr. Friedrich Kittler, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Ernst, Prof. Dr. Claus Pias, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Hagen
Book presentation “Media Archaeology” (University of California Press), edited by Jussi Parikka and Erkki Huhtamo. Talks and discussion with Jussi Parikka, Claus Pias, Wolfgang Ernst and Anthony Enns.
Followed by drinks and music, until security shuts us down.
It’s the opposite to “do no evil”, a call to think through the dirty materiality of media. Trick, deceive, bypass, exploit, short-circuit, and stay inattentive.
Hence, it is not only about “evil objects” as I perhaps myself have focused on (in Digital Contagions, and in other places), even if such objects can be vectors for and emblematic of stratagems of evil media. Evil media studies focuses on strategies that are mobilized as practices of theories. These strategies reach across institutions, and hence it is no wonder that Geert Lovink recently flags this as one approach through which to energize media studies.
Or more formally – Evil Media Studies “is a manner of working with a set of informal practices and bodies of knowledge, characterized as stratagems, which pervade contemporary networked media and which straddle the distinction between the work of theory and of practice”, write Andrew Goffey and Matthew Fuller in the chapter by the same name in The Spam Book.
For me, the attraction in Goffey and Fuller’s call is that it is material – material that is dynamic, non-representational, machinating and filled with energies that flow across software, social and aesthetic.
- Bypass Representation
- Exploit Anachronisms
- Stimulate Malignancy
- Machine the Commonplace
- Make the Accidental the Essential
- Recurse Stratagems
- The Rapture of Capture
- Sophisticating Machinery
- What is Good for Natural Language is Good for Formal Language
- Know your Data
- Liberate Determinism
- Inattention Economy
- Brains Beyond Language
- Keep Your Stratagem Secret As Long as Possible
- Take Care of the Symbols, The Sense Will Follow
- The Creativity of Matter
(the list from “Evil Media Studies” by Goffey and Fuller, in The Spam Book: On Porn, Viruses and Other Anomalous Objects From the Dark Side of Digital Culture, eds. Parikka & Sampson, Hampton Press 2009).
June 1st, I am starting a new job at Winchester School of Art (University of Southampton) as Reader in Media & Design. I am excited to be joining such a vibrant community of lecturers, researchers and ambitious plans for the future. I am part of an initiative to build an extensive research concentration on Global Media and Art – where the interchanges between art, technology and science are a key part of the agenda. It was not easy to leave behind Anglia Ruskin, ECFM, ArcDigital and CoDE – but they will continue to prosper with the help of their body of wonderful researchers!
I am giving a talk in Berlin as part of the MediaSoup-colloquium convened by Paul Feigelfeld (Institut für Medienwissenschaft at Humboldt University where I am a visiting research fellow for this Spring and Summer). On June 8, 6 pm (starts 6.15) I will be talking on MediaNatures, abstract below.
Place: Medientheater. Institut für Medienwissenschaft, Humboldt Universität Berlin, Sophienstraße 22A, 10178 Berlin.
This talk riffs off from Donna Haraway’s influential concept of naturecultures which established one framework to think about the topological continuity from nature to culture. As such, it was an important spark for the discourse on “new materialism” in cultural studies, a form of rethinking materiality in new ways outside a Marxist or a representational framework. Naturecultures – also resonating with a range of positions such as Latour’s – is a way to think through the multiple materialities we encounter in terms of contemporary technological society.
The talk extends naturecultures into a more medium-specific direction with the concept of medianatures. By discussing media materialism and its relation to “new materialist” debates as well as “medium-specificity”, the talk addresses ways to think through the technical and scientific specificity of contemporary media – beyond meaning, representation and the human body, the fact that technical media engage in such processes, speeds, and phenomena that escape the phenomenological human register per se.
Yet, the talk points towards a different kind of reading of media materiality than often found in accounts for instance in media theory. We can question the notion of specificity and argue that there are various specificities from which we can draw upon. While German media theory (acknowledging that the term is in itself not very apt) has been insisting on drawing on materialities that can be directly connected to the important scientific contexts of technical media, we can think through a milieu theory of media: how media establish but also draw on nature, animals and other non-human intensities, forces and potentialities. Instead of thinking nature here in terms of the metaphorics it has offered for a long time for media cultural phenomena, and avoiding proposing any form of purity of nature, I want to look at the continuums of not only naturecultures, but medianatures that is slightly different from the emphasis of media cultures as the “new” environment for us human beings. Instead we approach medianatures as affordances, as intensities, as regimes of affects and relations and as processes of mediatic nature that offer a non-human view to new materialist media theory. Hence, we end up talking about minerals, waste and nature.
The best way for media studies to really make sense is to think outside media – of where it expands, takes us, if we persistently follow its lead. So far, for a long time, it took us to think about humans, human relations, intentions, unconscious desires, economics as much as politics as power. Such paths need to take us to the other direction too; to things less intentional, but as important; to nature, bacteria, chemicals, forms of life outside our headspace but inside our gut; to milieus of living in which our conscious agency is only a minor part of what matters. To such time scales which take into account uses and practices, but as part of larger concert where some things last thousands, millions, billions of years.
Just like humanities more widely, media studies needs to be transversal – perhaps a concept we can tightly link to “transdisciplinary” as well.
To quote Félix Guattari:
“Now more than ever, nature cannot be separated from culture; in order to comprehend the interactions between ecosystems, the mechanosphere and the social and individual Universes of reference, we must learn to think ‘transversally.’” (Three Ecologies, 2000:43).
The biggest reason why we should be worried about death and finitude is less in the existential manner, or even what makes our Dasein authentic, but in the way that milieus of life are dying. This relates to fears about “the sixth mass extension” of species, this time caused by humans. The only death we need is that of the subjectivity that cements the economic, political and aesthetic practices that kill nature. This is as much a question for the sciences and engineering, as it is for media theory, arts and humanities.
As Guattari argues, talking about ecosophy, we need to reinvent a multitude of relations where economic struggles, political struggles and struggles of representation, as well as aesthetics, are those that expand the horizon to nature. Hence, media – both in terms of the technologies that return to nature as heavy metals and toxins and as mediators of the mental ecologies in which our destructive tendencies are sustained – is surprisingly close to this problem too.
The affective regimes of media are affective in terms of the relations they sustain – relations between humans, but also to ecosystems, mechanospheres and more. Media studies is thus in a good position to really develop itself into a study of relations, of mediations in that much wider sense.
Now that Insect Media is out, I am organizing a couple of events sort of as book launches—with a little help from my friends!
One takes place in Berlin, at the Generalpublic.de cultural venue on Schönhauser Allee 167c ( 10435 Berlin) on March 4, Friday, 7 pm – Shintaro Miyazaki will be interviewing me, and hopefully with drinks and nibbles (there has been talk of some Japanese finger food!). Also the book is on sale there, with a small launch discount.
Even before that, in Cambridge, we are organizing a joint event with Joss Hands whose own book @ is for Activism came out in December as well! This takes place February 22, Tuesday, 5 pm at Anglia Ruskin University at 5 pm. The room will be Helmore 251.
Below, a short blurb about that event which we use to discuss more widely some interesting current and future directions of media studies as well:
‘New Directions in Media Studies: Questioning The Digital Turn’.
In their new books Anglia Ruskin lecturers Joss Hands (@ is for activism) and Jussi Parikka (Insect Media) address some of the pressing new issues in Media Studies emerging from the digital revolution in communication technology. This event will act as a book launch, but also offers the chance to address the relevancy of innovative cross disciplinary themes in contemporary Media Studies.
Both books are characterized by distinct theoretical and political perspectives on issues such as the impact of digital networks on collective action, the ontology of politics, economic production, the ‘post-human’ subject and science-arts interdisciplinarity.
Hands and Parikka will offer short introductions to key themes in their books and welcome questions and discussion over wine and nibbles.
The event is sponsored by CoDE – Cultures of the Digital Economy research institute at Anglia Ruskin, and the campus bookshop John Smith’s is offering both books to be purchased during the event.
Some information on our forthcoming Media Archaeology: Approaches, Applications, Implications-book that we edited together with Erkki Huhtamo, forthcoming Spring 2011 from University of California Press… no cover image yet, and no table of contents online, hence I am posting at least the contents here! For clarity’s sake, this is the one that is ready, and I am writing at the moment another book, a single authored one on the same topic.
1. Introduction: An Archaeology of Media Archaeology –Erkki Huhtamo and Jussi Parikka
Part I: Engines of/in the Imaginary
2. Dismantling the Fairy Engine: Media Archaeology as Topos Study –Erkki Huhtamo
3. On the Archaeology of Imaginary Media –Eric Kluitenberg
4. On the Origins of the Origins of the Influencing Machine –Jeffrey Sconce
5. Freud and the Technical Media: The Enduring Magic of the Wunderblock –Thomas Elsaesser
Part II: (Inter)facing Media
6. The “Baby Talkie,” Domestic Media, and the Japanese Modern –Machiko Kusahara
7. The Observer’s Dilemma: To Touch or Not to Touch –Wanda Strauven
8. The Game Player’s Duty: The User as the Gestalt of the Ports –Claus Pias
9. The Enduring Ephemeral, or The Future Is a Memory –Wendy Hui Kyong Chun
Part III: Between Analogue and Digital
10. Erased Dots and Rotten Dashes or How to Wire Your Head for a Preservation –Paul DeMarinis
11. Media Archaeography: Method and Machine versus History and Narrative of Media –Wolfgang Ernst
12. Mapping Noise: Techniques and Tactics of Irregularities, Interception, and Disturbance
13. Objects of Our Affection: How Object Orientation Made Computers a Medium –Casey Alt
14. Digital Media Archaeology: Interpreting Computational Processes –Noah Wardrip-Fruin
15. Afterword: Media Archaeology and Re-presencing the Past –Vivian Sobchack
[edit 21/12/10]: Endorsement by Sean Cubitt:
“Huhtamo and Parikka, from the first and second generations of media archaeology, have brought together the best writings from almost all of the best authors in the field. Whether we speak of cultural materialism, media art history, new historicism or software studies, the essays compiled here provide not only an anthology of innovative historical case studies, but also a methodology for the future of media studies as material and historical analysis. Media Archaeology is destined to be a key handbook for a new generation of media scholars.”
- Sean Cubitt, author of The Cinema Effect
>Oh Mr. Tory, why do you hate media studies so much? It’s amazing that you claim the education system of dumbing down, as if it was somehow connected to the popularity of what you claim to be “soft subjects”, as media studies. Of course, I am sure that English is not on that list — it does after all represent the finest in British culture, right? Languages in general are seen as “tough topics.” And what they teach there in English lit., or languages? — literature, books, practices of reading and interpreting — does not have anything to do with media? Well, Mr. Tory, if you would study media studies, you might see things differently. Literature too is a medium, it just happened to be the key medium for production, consumption, governance and distribution of information before the internet came along. Perhaps you should study media studies to get a bit of perspective.
Why do you Mr. Tory hate media studies so much? I wonder whether you would be yourself able to pass the courses? Do you know what media studies is about? No, its not what BBC suggested through its Media Studies test. It’s not about learning to what social class/audience category teachers belong (as suggested in the BBC test), or what font BBC website uses (another question in that test). I wonder how you might survive reading Adorno, tackling Marx, engaging with Hall, writing an essay about Guattari, or coping with the centrality of software for contemporary culture. Badly, based on the statements you give.
Why do you Mr. Tory hate media studies so much? Because it might actually produce critical knowledge that is not only aware of the centrality of maths and sciences for the contemporary media culture of “creative industries” (e.g. through software studies), but also because it is able to create such connections that reveal their relations with other fields, including economics, politics and like. Its for this reason, Mr. Tory, that actually I would claim the centrality of media studies to understand contemporary culture. It is in an ideal position to understand the links between arts, sciences and technology, with yet another source of inspiration coming from philosophy. Too much for you? I am sure it is — after all, it might make you question so many of your own defining beliefs. To freely quote the Finnish poet Pentti Saarikoski: the conservatives, the right wing, they don’t need philosophy — their world view is ready and sealed. To update it: the tories don’t need media studies, it might question too much and critically their world. Better damp it down, before it gets too far.