Via (Creative Commons License)

Via (Creative Commons License)

Next week I’m heading to Scandinavia to give two talks:

Hearing Urban Infrastructures: A Sonic Archaeology of the Media-City

HUMlab, Umeå University, Sweden
May 13, 1:15 – 3:00pm

For over a century, scholars and designers have acknowledged the existence of a spatial form commonly known as the “media city,” which encompasses both the modern city as represented through photographs, film, and digital technologies; and the city as shaped by those same technologies. In this seminar I argue for the need to acknowledge the longue durée of the “media city,” and to move beyond ocularcentric models of urban history. Drawing on the growing body of research on infrastructure that’s emerging from across the design fields, and on work in “media archaeology” within my own field of media studies, I’ll argue that we need to “excavate” the deep history of urban mediation, and I’ll take as an example an aspect of the media city that wouldn’t seem to lend itself easily to excavation. I’m referring to the “sonic city” – the city of public address and radio waves and everyday conversation. How does one dig into a form of mediation that seemingly has no physical form? What can we learn about how our cities have functioned as material sounding boards, resonance chambers, and infrastructures for various forms of sonic communication?

Deep Mapping the Media City

Keynote, Spectacular / Ordinary / Contested Media City Conference
Helsinki, Finland, May 15 – 17
May 16, 4:00 – 5:45pm

The “media city” is typically presented as a product of modern times and modern technology — a spatial construction that came into being with the rise of photography and film and is evolving into our sentient cities of tomorrow. Yet our cities have always been mediated. Supplementing the methodologies of media archaeology with those of archaeology-proper, I aim to excavate the “deep time” of urban mediation and thereby show the entangled temporalities of our various media networks, including the continued power of “old” media in shaping our contemporary and future cities.

The “deep map,” a multimodal form of critical cartography, is one tool that can help us to appreciate the historical and spatial entanglement of urban media infrastructures. As Kittler reminds us, “A city…is not a flattenable graph. In a city, networks overlap upon other networks” — and deep maps can help to “make sensible” this layering. I’ll begin my talk by exploring my current work in theoretically mapping the deep time of the media city, a space simultaneously aural, graphic, textual, electroacoustic, digital and haptic. Then I’ll share recent praxis-based work, including that of students in my own “Urban Media Archaeology” graduate studio, that aims to map historical urban media infrastructures.

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