Later this week I’ll be heading to Chicago for my seventh (seriously?!) Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference, and I’m stoked to be joining a group of super-genius whippersnappers — Laine Nooney from Stony Brook, Jacob Gaboury from NYU, and Rory Solomon from Parsons — on a panel exploring “New/ Media/ Archaeologies: Extensions and Interventions in Media Archaeology” (we got extra credit for using not only the obligatory colon, but also the ever-provocative slash — not one, but two of them!). I’m grateful to Laine for bringing us all together and chairing the panel. She’s offered a nice overview on her website, and I’ll share it here, too:
Rory Solomon | Parsons the New School for Design
“Software Stratigraphy: Media Archaeology of/as the Stack”
Shannon Mattern | The New School
“Echoes and Entanglements: A Sonic Archaeology of the City”
Laine Nooney | Stony Brook University
“Materialist Methods for Mystery House(s): A Feminist Media Archaeology of Early Video Games”
Jacob Gaboury | New York University
“An Archeology of Uncomputable Numbers: Queer Media History”
Over the past 20 years, media archaeology’s emphasis on non-progressive media histories, dead and failed media, and media materialism has refreshed the theoretical domains of media studies. Scholarship in media archaeology has long been united by a methodological focus on the primacy of the technological medium itself, rather than its representational content. However, these methods, by outrightly rejecting questions of discursivity, subjectivity and political economy, produce their own academic difficulties. The anti-hermeneutic tradition of media archaeology has produced a body of scholarship that often leaves unaccounted the ghostly or immaterial components of media studies that do not leave technological registers in our material world.
This panel re-assesses the intersections of objects, subjectivities and environments that typically lie beyond media archaeology’s reach, extending media archaeological methods across disciplinary boundaries. Rory Solomon offers a programmer-oriented view, complicating the notion of a purely non-discursive technical substrate using the software model of the “stack.” The “stack” illustrates that operative layers always exist above and below any substrate; methods are best imagined as “both/and” rather than “either/or.” Shannon Mattern productively confuses the distinction between media archaeology and archaeology “proper,” in an effort to address the very literal “digging” required to write a history of urban sound. Mattern insists media archaeology should learn from actual excavation, as material practices are all the more significant when one must unearth forms of mediation that themselves have no physical instantiation. Laine Nooney continues to focus on material context, arguing that media archaeology remains deeply gendered when scholars privilege objective analyses of media objects that forgo cultural and human materiality. Nooney intersects feminist materialism with media archaeology to highlight the largely “invisible” female affective and material labor at work in video game history. Jacob Gaboury locates a queerness in media archaeology demanding further attention to identity-based critiques. Gaboury suggests that media archaeology’s attention to failed, glitched and re-occurring processes dovetails with queer theory’s turn toward a politics of failure and anti-sociality, and reads computer history against its grain to offer a queer alternative to the telos of “successful” communication.
My presentation will pick up on some ideas I explored in my “Dirty Media Archaeology” talk at the fabulous Network Archaeology conference last April, and in my “Hearing Infrastructures” public lecture at the Canadian Centre for Architecture last June. Since then, I’ve been reading a lot of classics and archaeology, and talking to some archaeologists, acousticians, and engineers — and the insights I’ve gleaned from these resources and encounters will, I hope, allow me to expand both the historical and practical dimensions of this particular talk. Plus, I hope to be able to play some “dug up” sounds, rather than simply talking about them, this time.
If my presentation shapes up decently, I’ll post it here. If not, I’ll keep working on it and perhaps share it later on as a draft book chapter. Regardless, part of this work will emerge this summer as “Ear to the Wire,” an article in the recently-launched Amodern journal.