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.
France has not really been known for any particular warm academic embrace of media studies despite the otherwise interesting legacies of theories of technology. However, Sorbonne at Paris 3 is running now a seminar on media archaeology, more specifically called “Archéologie des médias et histoire de l’art” convened by Larisa Dryansky together with Antonio Somaini and Riccardo Venturi.
Their list of speakers is very exciting and for its own part demonstrates that there is a body of really interesting work on new technologies and media archaeology in France. A lot of scholars all around the country are working actively on philosophical and historical themes that pertain to media histories and contemporary culture. The Sorbonne series is part of the National Institute of Art History (INHA) and you can download the full programme (as PDF) here.
Besides individual researchers’ work and the recent MCD special issue, also future translations of work such as Friedrich Kittler’s is bound to have an impact on the conversations happening in French. Two Kittler translations are expected to come out in 2015.
In the new e-flux issue #62 you will also find an interview Paul Feigelfeld conducted with me: “Media Archaeology Out of Nature“. It focuses primarily on the themes of media theory, ecology and interfaces also with the work we do with the emerging Consortium (with WSA, University of California San Diego and Parsons School of Design, New School); synthetic intelligence, the planetary media condition, remote sensing, etc.
With a focus on the “media ecology”-trilogy of Digital Contagions, Insect Media, and the forthcoming A Geology of Media, the interview maps topics related to the ecopolitics of technological culture. A warm thanks to Paul for the interview and supporting my aspirations to be a digital thought deserter.
“Media theory would become boring if it were merely about the digital or other preset determinations. There are too many “digital thought leaders” already. We need digital thought deserters, to poach an idea from Blixa Bargeld. In an interview, the Einstürzende Neubauten frontman voiced his preference for a different military term than “avant-garde” for his artistic activity: that of the deserter. He identifies not with the leader but rather with the partisan, “somebody in the woods who does something else and storms on the army at the moment they did not expect it.”7 Evacuate yourself from the obvious, by conceptual or historical means. Refuse prefabricated discussions, determinations into analogue or digital. Leave for the woods.
But don’t mistake that for a Luddite gesture. Instead, I remember the interview you did with Erich Hörl, where he called for a “neo-cybernetic underground”—one that “does not let itself be dictated by the meaning of the ecologic and of technology, neither by governments, nor by industries.”8 It’s a political call as much as an environmental-ecological one—a call that refers back to multiple (Guattarian) ecologies: not just the environment but the political, social, economic, psychic, social, and, indeed, media ecologies.”
Besides that longer e-flux text, two other short texts appeared the same day: a general audience text on media and the Anthropocene in Conversation and also a mini-interview conducted by the Finnish Institute in London as part of their Made By-series.