Anxieties of Scale and Infrastructure Aesthetics

While we discussed briefly during Wednesday’s seminar some of the epistemological distinctions between media archaeology and the digital humanities, our work in the afternoon seems to suggest to me a shared methodological concern: the need (real or imagined or both) for dedicated spaces, resources, and labor practices that enable and foster particular kinds of technological and imaginative work. The Residual Media Depot and the Milieux Institute more generally, both as physical space and institutional configurations, are our most immediate and tangible examples of this; Patrik Svensson’s chapter also gives us a glimpse into the HUMLab at Umeå University as yet another. Svensson offers a substantial and considered response to a very straightforward question, though one that he wants us to think...

/ May 24, 2017

Deform, Destroy, Erase: On the Residue of Cultural Techniques

I find myself pondering over probing as an analytical exercise in which things–here, ideas, texts, media objects, to name a few–are handled and investigated, gently quite gently, in hopes that they offer something back in substance, whether it’s answers or questions. And I can’t help but turn to a book of probes for an example of how to structure this: Marshall McLuhan’s Book of Probes (2003), in fact–a text that could belong in any media classroom as well as on top of any coffee table for its probey photographs (often featuring pointy probe-like items like cactuses that look like fingers) and single, grandiose aphorisms-per-page. His observations about media, literacy, and culture probe and puncture, not at all gently, but like...

/ May 24, 2017

Working Notes on Sterne’s reformulation of Bourdieu

Sterne, Jonathan. “Bourdieu, Technique and Technology.” _Cultural Studies_ 17.3/4 (2003): 367–89. Sterne begins his article by framing the critical study of technology within the humanities and then responding to what he viewed as a critical lack of nuance and specificity about technology in critical study.1“For instance,  consider the use and non-use of the word ‘digital’  as a modifier to the word  ‘technology’  in academic discourse.  Academic job descriptions, grant announcements and journal articles joyfully collapse the historically specific instance of digital technology with the category of ‘technology’  itself.  In this logic,  if you are to care about technology,  then your work is supposed to be driven by  an interest in that which is new and digital. Alternatively,  take the example...

/ May 23, 2017

Comparative Study of Early Home Computers/Game Consoles

For the afternoon project, I propose to work on a comparative study of educational computers/game consoles of the 1980s. It started with my interest in the history of home computers in Mainaland China. The first real home computers that entered into the lives of Chinese families in the 1980s, it turns out, was not computers proper but the so-called Educational Computers or Learning Machines (学习机). They were not computers proper but clones of various models of contemporary home computers in Japan and the U.S., such as the Nintendo NES systems, the Microsoft MSX home computers, and Apple-II series. This, however, does not mean they were derivatives either. Rather, they were redesigned in ways significantly different from the original models in order...

/ May 22, 2017

Gesturing Towards Writing: Reflecting upon Inscription using Terrible Keyboards

I write about writing. My interest in writing interfaces made me hone in on the Residual Media Depot’s Aquarius home computer (came out in 1983), Atari 500 (1979), and the Commodore VIC-20 (1980; currently doesn’t work). I tested out the Aquarius in the Depot by typing out some of the code programs, and I noted how difficult the keyboard was to use: it has a kind of gummy material that offers little in terms of tactile “give,” and the placement of keys is unlike that of modern QWERTY keyboards. Later, I spoke to Darren Wershler about this keyboard: might its shittiness have anything to do with why the Aquarius was so quickly discontinued (4 — 5 months after it was...

/ May 22, 2017

Thinking Materialist Media Archaeology through the E-book Reader

Introduction The strand of media archaeology that looks at the concrete technology supporting the complex media infrastructure and identifies a meaningful agency to nonhuman elements is particularly influenced by the work of F. Kittler. In the 4th chapter of What is Media Archaeology?, Parikka examines Kittler’s major theorizations to establish a link between what is usually referred to as German Media Theory and the most recent threads in media studies. In this probe, I will highlight how a media archaeology that gives primary importance to the engineering of media machines is particularly relevant in the deconstruction of the rhetorical discourse on the immateriality of digital culture. Moreover, I will highlight the major problematic nodes that emerge from Parikka’s critique and...

/ May 22, 2017

Grinding out desire through media

I am interested in the ramifications of digital technology and online new media in social and personal constructions of gay identity. My research explores how gay men perform their identities in online domains, and studies the materials gay men create and share online to communicate and express themselves, including pictures, profiles, text messages and avatars. A chapter of my dissertation focuses on the use of dating apps, Grindr especially, as technologically constructed sites of erotic engagement, and articulates how users negotiate and construct identities on these apps. This chapter considers the determinative roles of digital media in social attitudes and identities of homosexual men in Canada. The aim is to investigate how the interrogative nature of social media profiles allows...

/ May 22, 2017

Decaying Plastic Play: Flappy Bird’s Hacked Afterlife as Media Archaeological Praxis

On March 28th, 2016, prolific YouTube streamer SethBling posted a video demonstrating how, using only timed button presses and graphical glitches present in the console original, he injected three hundred and thirty-one new bytes into the seminal 1990 Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) platforming game Super Mario World—bytes corresponding to the 2013 viral iPhone game phenomenon Flappy Bird. The hack allows users to play a fully functional port of Flappy Bird within Super Mario World, grafting the former’s computational logic into the latter’s graphics. The choice of game here is striking: while Super Mario World has been re-released across a variety of hardware platforms—to say nothing of Mario’s cultural ubiquity—Flappy Bird remains fascinating for its inaccessibility, both in its frustratingly...

/ May 22, 2017

A Feature, not a Bug: Fractals and Video Game Glitches as Nonnarrative Media

In 1975, Benoit Mandelbrot coined the word fractal to describe an iterative curve or geometric shape that can be divided into parts that each possess the same statistical character as the whole (“Stochastic Models” 3825). Taking its etymology from the Latin fractus, meaning broken (“Fractal”), his research sought to concretize a theory of roughness—that is to say, to provide a model for describing the recursive fractioning of the Earth’s coastlines, the structure of plants and leaves, the distribution of galaxies, the biology of blood vessels, and even human recreations such as music, architecture, and the stock market (The Fractal Geometry of Nature). Mandelbrot was not alone in his interests in such patterns: Gottfried Leibniz contemplated the phenomenon of self-similar recursion...

/ May 22, 2017

Syllabus: Media Archaeology 2017

Materiality, Cultural Technique, Space, Infrastructure

/ May 21, 2017