It’s Not Digital Humanities – it’s Media Studies

Thanks to the generosity of people at the Library of Congress such as Trevor Owens, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to interview media archaeologist Wolfgang Ernst on the LOC’s blog The Signal. I especially wanted to talk with Ernst not only about his Media Archaeological Fundus (MAF), which bears a strong affiliation to my Media Archaeology Lab (MAL), but also about whether he sees a connection between his archival approach, the MAF, and preservation. Ernst responded by explaining that the emphasis in the MAF is more on training and “enforcing” media research through excavation and even a mathematical mode of thinking than on preservation. In terms of the latter, then, it’s no surprise that Jussi Parikka points out on his blog that “Ernst is very reluctant to call this ‘Digital Humanities’: it’s media studies!” While DH is certainly deeply invested in doing and making as thinking, as (and as a response to) theory, I think that Ernst is still coming out of a Kittlerian project to “drive the spirit out of the humanities” and in this sense, no matter how inclusive DH becomes, perhaps media archaeology will steadfastly remain media studies, not DH.

You can find the entirety of the interview with Ernst here. As always, comments welcome.

Wolfgang Ernst’s Media Archaeological Fundus

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3 thoughts on “It’s Not Digital Humanities – it’s Media Studies

  1. It’s a really an interesting set of questions, re. media studies and DH. I don’t think it is only about the Kittlerian project of the human/spirit out of humanities, but the wider question of histories and genealogies: I think a lot of media studies of this sort is keen to point towards different, more theoretical histories, as well as the long history of tech-humanities collaborations; to histories that also question the primacy of the digital, and want to elaborate on the relation to “other” technical media. There is much more to technical media than the digital. Anyway, such an interesting question that we need to unfold, this question. Thanks again Lori for the interview!

    • That’s a great point Jussi – and I’ve noticed that DH is very often ahistorical even about its own digital history; or, in the few instances where it IS historically oriented, it is normally with an eye to outlining lineages leading up to the digital.

  2. I appreciate Matt Kirschenbaum adding to the discussion on Twitter where he usefully points out that MITH’s Deena Larsen and Bill Bly collections of vintage computers and software/e-literature are appropriate extensions of their digital humanities center – especially insofar as they work toward “integration with university special collections and archives.” From this, I’m starting to think that while there are some benefits to saying the media archaeology at work in the MAF or the MAL is media studies and not DH, it’s also perhaps not particularly necessary or useful to draw these hard-and-fast distinctions. I do wonder, however, what the status of DH is in Germany and whether it carries the same resonances as it does in the US and Canada.

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