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The lab as a symptom

I am giving a talk on Laboratory Fever in Amsterdam later in May and I am currently drafting some notes for that. This talk is part of the larger research and book project with my colleagues Lori Emerson and Darren Wershler, and most of our research process is documented on the What is a Media Lab-website. Below however a short excerpt from the forthcoming Amsterdam talk, and relating to a passage about (culture/humanities) labs as places of making, and the lab as  a symptom.

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In her historical contextualisation of the laboratory (“The Laboratory Challenge”), Ursula Klein puts it in rather clear terms: the laboratory was not merely a place of pure science and before the institutionalisation of the site since the 19th century as part of the scientific set up, it had many artisanal connotations as well. The lab was anyway part and parcel of a set-up of making and things, where knowledge was produced in material settings. Indeed, her interest is articulated relating to this “laboratory tradition that meshed studies of nature with technological innovation.” Now, I wonder, how much could we gain and how far could we venture with the poached idea if we did a sort of a minor tweak and see how it sounds when considering the rhetorical promise as well as conditions how we think of labs in the humanities interested in culture and making?

“the laboratory tradition that meshes studies of culture with technological innovation”.A simple and elegant hack, and an update of the scientific lab to a more humanities one? Acknowledging both the relation to “critical making” and also the nexus of culture and technology? Would this solve some of our problems and establish a seeming relation to the scientific labs as labor and elaboration of nature?

But too easy quips aside, there is something in the ways in which the lab as a site of technological making and artefactuality, in some ways, can be seen relating to the arguments by historians of science. Indeed, have we arrived at a situation where we return to the pre-scientific contexts of experimentation and wonder, where also romantic poetry is pitched as such a mode of experimentation, as Novalis once had it, and cultural realities can also found their sites of tests and experiments? Is the lab the neo-romantic but also the pre-scientific lab – a place of making and apparatuses, a place happy to borrow from the scientific aura of the science lab but not merely as an imitation of that model, but a sort of a institutional move that fits in with the issues of basic funding for departments too? Some might critique it as exactly a nostalgic move: at a time when most technocultural processes seem to be escaping the horizon of phenomenological perception and the tool-making Man’s hand, we establish sites of such nostalgic proximity to individual technologies that are merely at most interfaces to the massive planetary level technological infrastructures. And yet, establishing concrete sites might be one way of interfacing not only with technologies but educational possibilities of intervention with that technological reality.

Because of the magnitude of questions “the lab” triggers, the number of separate and distinct labs there exists, and that  every lab could produce  their own particular answer, I would suggest that it is more fruitful to consider the lab not so much as a solution but as a symptom itself; just like Thomas Elsaesser (2016) recently asked about the discipline of media archaeology the question: instead of what is, we should ask why now? And we can extend the same logic of questioning to labs: not just what is a lab but why now? What is it about the lab not merely as an internal place of new methods or new forms of creative or academic activity but as a fold between such techniques and external political and economic conditions of current institutions that makes it a symptom? What are the sort things that temporalise this spatial setting as a question of the now – a question that defines it as a contemporary setting for particular experiments in not only academia or creative industries, but in “political anthropology of new institutional forms” to use Brett Neilson and Ned Rossiter’s ideas.

Shannon Mattern at WSA

April 17, 2016 Leave a comment

We are happy to host Shannon Mattern at the Winchester School of Art. She is giving a talk on Infrastructural Tourism on May 3rd, at 12 – details below! The talk is organised by our Centre for Global Futures and the emerging new research group AMT – Archaeologies of Media & Technology, about which more information later.

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Here’s the information about the talk:

Abstract: Infrastructural Tourism

We seem to have come to a sudden recognition that the Internet is a place made of countless material things – cables and data centers and rare earth minerals. We’ve witnessed a dawning realization that our Amazonian consumptive appetites are dependent on similarly heavy logistical systems and exploitative labor practices. We’ve surrendered to the reality of the Anthropocene and its precarious infrastructural, environmental, political, and ethical futures. This emergent infrastructural intelligence has spawned an explosion of infrastructural “literacy” and engagement projects that seek to “make visible the invisible,” to call out the unrecognized, to bore into the “black-boxed.” Grand Tours of nuclear infrastructures and key sites in telecom history have inspired many a recent Bildungsroman, in myriad mediated forms. Apps and data visualizations, sound walks and speculative design workshops, DIY manuals and field guides, urban dashboards and participatory mappings, hackathons and infrastructural tourism – strategies employed by artists and activists and even some city governments and federal agencies – all seek to “raise awareness” among a broader public about infrastructure’s existence and its politics. They aim, further, to motivate non-specialist communities to contribute to infrastructure’s maintenance and improvement, to inspire citizen-consumers to advocate for more accessible and justly distributed resources, and perhaps even to “engineer” their own DIY networks. In this talk I’ll explore various pedagogical strategies, representational techniques, and modeling methods that have been employed to promote “infrastructural intelligence” — and consider what epistemologies, ontologies, ethics, affects, and politics are embedded in those approaches.

Bio

Shannon Mattern is an Associate Professor of Media Studies at The New School. Her writing and teaching focus on archives, libraries, and other media spaces; media infrastructures; spatial epistemologies; and mediated sensation and exhibition. She is author of _The New Downtown Library: Designing with Communities_ and _Deep Mapping the Media City_ (both published by University of Minnesota Press), and she writes a regular column about urban data and mediated infrastructures for _Places_, a journal focusing on architecture, urbanism, and landscape. She has also contributed to various public design and interactive projects and exhibitions. This spring she is a senior fellow at the Internationales Kolleg für Kulturtechnikforschung und Medienphilosophie at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar. You can find her at wordsinspace.net.

Media Theory in Transit – a symposium at the Winchester School of Art

October 6, 2015 2 comments

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Media Theory in Transit: A one-day symposium at the Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton,

November 24, 2015.

organised by Jussi Parikka and Yigit Soncul

Media theory is in transit: the concepts travel across space and time, claiming new meanings for new uses along the way. We are not dealing with a static body of knowledge, but a dynamic, situated process of articulating knowledge and perceiving reality. Media theory crosses both geographical and disciplinary boundaries. It trespasses the border between Humanities and Sciences, and is able to carve out new sites of knowledge. It moves across conceptual lineages from human to non-human, and supposedly distinct senses such as sight, hearing and smell. Media theory is not merely a reflection on the world but an active involvement that participates in creating the objects of interest.

This event investigates such conceptual, geographical and sensorial passages of media theory. The talks address contemporary media theory and issues that are now identified as urgent for academic and artistic practices. The speakers represent different fields of arts and humanities as well as media theory, and engage with the question: how does theory move, and itself occupy new areas of interest, across academic fields and across geographies, in which theory itself is set to be in movement.

The event is supported by the Santander-fund, via University of Southampton and the Faculty Postgraduate Research Funds.

Media Theory in Transit is open and free to attend but please register via Eventbrite!

Schedule

The PhD Study Room (East Building)

10.30 Introduction by Yigit Soncul and Jussi Parikka

10.40 Erick Felinto (State University of Rio de Janeiro, UERJ): “Vilém Flusser’s ‘Philosophical Fiction’: Science, Creativity and the Encounter with Radical Otherness”

11.30 Joanna Zylinska (Goldsmiths, London): “The liberation of the I/eye: nonhuman vision”

12.20 lunch break

14.00 Shintaro Miyazaki: (Critical Media Lab, Basel): “Models As Agents – Designing Epistemic Diffraction By Spinning-Off Media Theory”

14.50 Seth Giddings (WSA): “Distributed imagination: small steps to an ethology of mind and media”

15.20 Jussi Parikka (WSA): “Labs as Sites of Theory/Practice”

15.50 short summary discussion

16.10-16.30 Jane Birkin (WSA) “The Viewing of Las Meninas (performance)

Terms of Media 2: Actions

September 15, 2015 Leave a comment

Part two of the Leuphana University and Brown University collaboration “Terms of Media” is taking place in October in Providence, US. I am extremely glad to be part of it, talking in the section “Remain”. If all goes as planned, the talk will move from the “remains” or “remainder” in the sense of the archival and the epistemological to emphasize issues of remains of media technologies in actioned situations. Remains are not merely of the archival, but part of a design brief with a hands-on relation to epistemology; labs, studios that address the remain as in the context of media archaeology but also design, sometimes implicitly, sometimes explicitly. The remainder becomes further detached from a nostalgic object to an issue that relates to contemporary ecologies of architecture, extended urbanism, supply chains and the “alternative worlds, alien landscapes, industrial ecologies and precarious wilderness” (Unknown Fields). I also will try to conclude with a mention of the methodological and thematic dilemma of infrastructural remains with a hat tips to Shannon Mattern and Unknown Fields (Liam Young & Kate Davies).

Below more info about the conference!

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TERMS OF MEDIA 2: Actions
Brown University
October 8-10, 2015
with Marcell Mars, Rick Prelinger, Lisa Parks, Claus Pias, Timon Beyes, Reinhold Martin, Jussi Parikka, Rebecca Schneider, Goetz Bachmann, Lisa Nakamura, Gertrud Koch, Bernard Stiegler, Finn Brunton, Mercedes Bunz, Wolfgang Hagen, Eyal Weizman, Kara Keeling, Luciana Parisi
Please forward any questions to termsofmedia@brown.edu
RSVP HERE: https://goo.gl/csrNhR

An international conference to analyze and reshape the terms—limits, conditions, periods, relations, phrases—of media.

“Me­dia de­ter­mi­ne our si­tua­ti­on,” Fried­rich Kitt­ler in­fa­mous­ly wro­te in his in­tro­duc­tion to Gra­mo­pho­ne, Film, Ty­pewri­ter. Alt­hough this dic­tum is cer­tain­ly ex­tre­me – and me­dia ar­chaeo­lo­gy has been cri­ti­qued for being over­ly dra­ma­tic and fo­cu­sed on tech­no­lo­gi­cal de­ve­lop­ments – it pro­pels us to keep thin­king about me­dia as set­ting the terms for which we live, so­cia­li­ze, com­mu­ni­ca­te, or­ga­ni­ze, do scho­lar­ship etc. Af­ter all, as Kitt­ler con­ti­nued in his opening state­ment al­most 30 ye­ars ago, our si­tua­ti­on, “in spi­te or be­cau­se” of me­dia, “de­ser­ves a de­scrip­ti­on.” What, then, are the terms of me­dia? And, what is the re­la­ti­ons­hip bet­ween the­se terms and de­ter­mi­na­ti­on?

This conference will serve as the concluding half of a two-part project, following an earlier conference at Leu­pha­na Uni­ver­si­ty in Lüne­burg, Ger­ma­ny, and will be followed by a se­ries of pu­bli­ca­ti­ons ba­sed on each which will seek to re­po­se and up­date these fun­da­men­tal ques­ti­ons of me­dia theo­ry: Does our si­tua­ti­on in­di­ca­te a new term, un­ders­tood as tem­po­ral shifts of me­dia­tic con­di­tio­n­ing, which de­ser­ves a re-de­scrip­ti­on? How and on what terms are me­dia chan­ging, re­flec­ting chan­ges in me­dia its­elf? What are the terms of con­di­ti­ons that we ne­go­tia­te as sub­jects of me­dia? How do the terms of me­dia theo­ry re­la­te to such con­di­ti­ons? What are the terms of con­di­ti­ons of me­dia theo­ry itself?

Thursday Keynotes to be held in the Martinos Auditorium, Granoff Center:
154 Angell Street
Providence, Rhode Island 02906 USA

Remaining talks to be held at Pembroke Hall:
172 Meeting Street
Providence, Rhode Island 02906 USA

Schedule is as follows:

Thursday, October 8, 2015
Conference Introduction, 7 p.m.
• Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Professor and Chair, Department of Modern Culture and Media, Brown University
Keynote Address, 7:15 p.m.
• Marcell Mars, Public Library Project
• Rick Prelinger, Professor of Film and Digital Media and Board Member of the Internet Archive, University of California, Santa Cruz
Opening Reception, 9 p.m.

Friday, October 9, 2015
Session 1: Structure, 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
• Lisa Parks, Professor of Film and Media, University of California, Santa Barbara
• Claus Pias, Professor for Media Theory and Media History, Institute of Culture and
Aesthetics of Digital Media, Leuphana
Session 2: Organize, 11:45 a.m. -1:15 p.m.
• Timon Beyes, Professor of Design, Innovation and Aesthetics, Copenhagen Business
School
• Reinhold Martin, Professor of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia
University in the City of New York
Lunch, 1:15 p.m. -2:30 p.m.
• Presenters and invited guests
Session 3: Remain, 2:30 p.m.-4:00 p.m.
• Jussi Parikka, Professor in Media & Design, University of Southampton
• Rebecca Schneider, Professor, Theatre Arts and Performance Studies, Brown University
Session 4: Work, 4:15 p.m.-5:45 p.m.
• Goetz Bachmann, Professor for Digital Cultures, Institute of Culture and Aesthetics of
Digital Media, Leuphana
• Lisa Nakamura, Professor, Departments of American Cultures and Screen Arts and
Cultures, University of Michigan
Conference Dinner, 7 p.m.
• Presenters and invited guests

Saturday, October 10, 2015
Session 1: Animate, 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
• Gertrud Koch, Visiting Professor, Department of Modern Culture and Media, Brown University
• Bernard Stiegler, Head, Institut de recherche et d’innovation, Centre Georges Pompidou
Session 2: Communicate, 11:45 a.m. -1:15 p.m.
• Finn Brunton, Assistant Professor, Department of Media, Culture and Communication,
New York University
• Mercedes Bunz, Senior Lecturer, Communication and Media Research
Institute, University of Westminster
Lunch, 1:15 p.m. -2:30 p.m.
• Presenters and invited guests
Session 3: Forecast, 2:30 p.m.-4:00 p.m.
• Wolfgang Hagen, Professor, Institute of the Culture and Aesthetics of Digital Media,
Leuphana University
• Eyal Weizman, Professor of Spatial & Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths, University London
Session 4: Mediate, 4:15 p.m.-5:45 p.m.
• Kara Keeling, Associate Professor of Critical Studies and American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern California
• Luciana Parisi, Reader, Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London

Negotiating Affect in Media/Cultural Studies

July 14, 2015 1 comment

I came across this earlier review essay ” Negotiating Affect in Media/Cultural Studies” (PDF)  of Jodi Dean’s, Steven Shaviro’s and my own book (Insect Media) which might interest some people out there.

It was published in WSQ: Women Studies Quarterly 40 (1&2, Spring/Summer 2012).

Geology of Media reviews and more

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:

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In addition, Kunstkritikk published an interview with me on the themes and topics of the book!

The Kittler e-special is out

Kittler_e_coverTheory, 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.

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