Smartphones, laptops, tablets, and e-readers all at one time held the promise of a more environmentally healthy world not dependent on paper and deforestation. The result of our ubiquitous digital lives is, as we see in The Anthrobscene, actually quite the opposite: not ecological health but an environmental wasteland, where media never die. Jussi Parikka critiques corporate and human desires as a geophysical force, analyzing the material side of the earth as essential for the existence of media and introducing the notion of an alternative deep time in which media live on in the layer of toxic waste we will leave behind as our geological legacy.
Forerunners: Ideas First is a thought-in-process series of breakthrough digital publications. Written between fresh ideas and finished books, Forerunners draws on scholarly work initiated in notable blogs, social media, conference plenaries, journal articles, and the synergy of academic exchange. This is gray literature publishing: where intense thinking, change, and speculation take place in scholarship.
In the popular imagination, archives are remote, largely obsolete institutions: either antiquated, inevitably dusty libraries or sinister repositories of personal secrets maintained by police states. Yet the archive is now a ubiquitous feature of digital life. Rather than being deleted, e-mails and other computer files are archived. Media software and cloud storage allow for the instantaneous cataloging and preservation of data, from music, photographs, and videos to personal information gathered by social media sites.
In this digital landscape, the archival-oriented media theories of Wolfgang Ernst are particularly relevant. Digital Memory and the Archive, the first English-language collection of the German media theorist’s work, brings together essays that present Ernst’s controversial materialist approach to media theory and history. His insights are central to the emerging field of media archaeology, which uncovers the role of specific technologies and mechanisms, rather than content, in shaping contemporary culture and society.
Ernst’s interrelated ideas on the archive, machine time and microtemporality, and the new regimes of memory offer a new perspective on both current digital culture and the infrastructure of media historical knowledge. For Ernst, different forms of media systems—from library catalogs to sound recordings—have influenced the content and understanding of the archive and other institutions of memory. At the same time, digital archiving has become a contested site that is highly resistant to curation, thus complicating the creation and preservation of cultural memory and history.
A Geology of Media
Jussi Parikka University of Minnesota Press, 2015 Library of Congress P90.P3355 2015 | Dewey Decimal 302.23
Media history is millions, even billions, of years old. That is the premise of this pioneering and provocative book, 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. And to do so, writes Jussi Parikka, is to confront the profound environmental and social implications of this ubiquitous, but hardly ephemeral, realm of modern-day life.
Exploring the resource depletion and material resourcing required for us to use our devices to live networked lives, Parikka grounds his analysis in Siegfried Zielinski’s widely discussed notion of deep time—but takes it back millennia. 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. He 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.
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. While looking backward to Earth’s distant past, it also looks forward to a more expansive media theory—and, implicitly, media activism—to come.
Since the early nineteenth century, when entomologists first popularized the unique biological and behavioral characteristics of insects, technological innovators and theorists have proposed insects as templates for a wide range of technologies. In Insect Media, Jussi Parikka analyzes how insect forms of social organization-swarms, hives, webs, and distributed intelligence-have been used to structure modern media technologies and the network society, providing a radical new perspective on the interconnection of biology and technology.
Through close engagement with the pioneering work of insect ethologists, including Jakob von Uexküll and Karl von Frisch, posthumanist philosophers, media theorists, and contemporary filmmakers and artists, Parikka develops an insect theory of media, one that conceptualizes modern media as more than the products of individual human actors, social interests, or technological determinants. They are, rather, profoundly nonhuman phenomena that both draw on and mimic the alien lifeworlds of insects.
Deftly moving from the life sciences to digital technology, from popular culture to avant-garde art and architecture, and from philosophy to cybernetics and game theory, Parikka provides innovative conceptual tools for exploring the phenomena of network society and culture. Challenging anthropocentric approaches to contemporary science and culture, Insect Media reveals the possibilities that insects and other nonhuman animals offer for rethinking media, the conflation of biology and technology, and our understanding of, and interaction with, contemporary digital culture.
Ioana B. Jucan University of Minnesota Press, 2019 Library of Congress T37 | Dewey Decimal 609.009
Engaging with remains and remainders of media cultures
As new, as current, as now—this is primarily our understanding of technologies and their mediating of our social constructions. But past media and past practices continue to haunt and inflect our present social and technical arrangements. To trace this haunting, two performance theorists and a media theorist engage in this volume with remains and remainders of media cultures through the lenses of theatre and performance studies and of media archaeology. They address the temporalities and materialities of remain(s), the production of obsolescence in relation to the live body, and considerations of cultural memory as well as of infrastructure and the natural history of media culture.