Reflection: Playful Encounters in the Depot

Before I came to media studies or media archaeology, I trained as a theater artist. The word “train” weighs heavily in that sentence. Over our week-long course, we talked a fair amount about “training”: how disciplination emerges from the various ways that scholars are trained into practices, and how we code those various ways with residues of geography, culture, language, and tactics. Training is theoretical, contextual—the intellectual environments in which we thrive and that we find tactically familiar. Training is also practical, on the level of tools and skills (by which I include theorists as much as soldering irons). And, as good ol’ Foucault reminds us, training individuates us: “it separates, analyses, differentiates, carries its procedures of decomposition to the...

/ June 19, 2017

The Video Game Archaeologist

Darren Wershler dusts off old consoles that say a lot about our culture

/ June 8, 2017

Reflections on the experience of building an arcade table

During my week at the Residual Media Depot, I participated in a group of two teams, with 2-3 members each, and transformed an IKEA coffee table into an arcade table using after-market arcade parts and a raspberry pi emulator. In this post, I discuss some of the ideas that emerged from the experience. Design is a collaborative process informed by phenomenology of play: One’s experience of play adapts and iterates over time. One’s experience of play is linked to one’s experience of control; one’s concept of play is informed by one’s conception of controller. Differences in these conceptualizations manifest when designers draw on their experiences to redesign or remake a familiar concept. In my group, for example, each of us seemed...

/ June 7, 2017

Notes from the Media Archaeology Summer Class: working with Action Max and Pong Sports IV

These notes are the first attempt to report in a more systematic way the presentation given in class on Saturday. If media archaeology can be defined as a militant approach to the study of media in its privileging non-canonical history, by taking this class, I have been primarily interested in the meanings that a practical, hands-on, approach on media objects add to the traditional framework of a graduate seminar. In particular, the afternoon sections of this class have allowed me to explore the possible advantages and limitations of the theories around media archaeology discussed through the readings in the mornings. The encounter in the Residual Media Depot with two machines from the past, the Action Max and the Pong Sports...

/ June 5, 2017

Re-versioning as a cultural technique of nostalgia? – Final Presentation

I decided not to use any digital device for my final presentation, but instead decided to go “analogue” and partly use the reading materials which we had become familiar with during the course. In my presentation I wrote and drew everything on a whiteboard which demonstrated, firstly, the ephemerality or obsolescence of things since everything was erased from the whiteboard after the presentation apart from my notes on my hand. John Durham Peters argued in his article that “The body and language themselves can – with the right viewfinder – be seen as media”. He also wrote that “Old media rarely die; they just recede into the background; they become more ontological”. [1] So, the second point was to convey...

/ June 2, 2017

Press START: Reflections on the Making of the Arcade Table

In the first class, we discussed media archaeology’s relationship relative to culturally-oriented and hardware-oriented academia. A project such as the construction of an arcade table or softmodding a Nintendo Wii are very much located between these two extremes, which I see as profoundly productive. During my probe on nonnarrative media, I argued that, just as it is problematic to focus solely on an object’s narrative history, it is equally problematic to read objects as entirely independent of their cultural contexts and the ways they have been narrativized. The arcade table project ultimately allows us to to think through both aspects of a cultural object simultaneously; constructing a fully operational model requires ideology, aesthetics, theory and materiality to work together, despite...

/ June 1, 2017

Action Max: Notes on a Deictic Dispositif

As a Cinema Studies scholar focusing on analogue video, I was excited to find an old Action Max gathering dust in the wonderful depot Darren Wershler has termed “research collection”. This peculiar 1987 console relies on a special, if not entirely unique technical condition: it uses VHS tapes as its storage medium for live action “gaming” sequences. This leads to a number of bizarre consequences from a gaming point of view, which also make it a fascinating media object to “archaeologise” in toto – that is to say trying to figure out the relation between its intended technical operations, implied discursive formations, and the aesthetic expressions found both on the “outside” (the boxes) and the “inside” (the “games” themselves). Understanding...

/ June 1, 2017

ghosts ; replicants ; parasites — Excavating the Spectravideo CompuMate

These are the notes I used for my final presentation in the summer Media Archaeology Class, alongside images I used as slides. As such, they’re quite provisional, and once I have some time to hammer them into more coherent thoughts, I’ll update this post accordingly! So this presentation is about articulating and beginning the work of theorizing what I’m provisionally calling “computational parasites.” This is provisional because I don’t particularly like the term myself but I figured it would be good to give it a shorthand so I don’t have to be overvague or verbose about these objects and practices throughout this presentation. As most of you know, I came to this class with a set of research questions about...

/ May 29, 2017

Flooding notes_ Winthrop-Young

I’m going to present Winthrop-Young’s paper, and in particular, I will address the three different meanings that the notion of cultural techniques has received during its history. The probe I’ll use to highlight this evolution of the uses of the concept of cultural techniques will be an agricultural case. This way I will play during the presentation with an idea that is present in Winthrop-Young’s paper: that although the differences between the stages of this evolution are clear, there are liminal situations that inform us about the richness and the variety of possibilities of the cultural techniques approach. I’ll start then with the first use of the word Kulturtechniken, linked to agriculture. It designated the large-scaled procedures aimed to transform...

/ May 26, 2017

Remake as an object of history – Thoughts on Jentery Sayers’ writings

For the probe, I chose to discuss the writings from Jentery Sayers, especially his thoughts on The Relevance of Remaking which is close to my own research interests. I will, of course, make some notions on the other two writings as well but the main focus lies in the practice of remaking and remakes. The key question Sayers claims he has to answer every time regarding remaking is, how is remaking scholarship. The definition of remaking according to Sayers is as follows: need not to be an exact replication of artifacts (appeals to authentic not required) remake doesn’t necessarily lack something the original doesn’t what isn’t at hand, or what we don’t know, or what we are willing to conjecture...

/ May 25, 2017