new grad class Spring 2018 // Media Archaeology, Revisited and Reimagined

I’m thrilled I have the opportunity to revisit a grad class I taught five years ago on Media Archaeology – both revisiting the classics of the field and reimagining what the field is or could be. I will post the full syllabus in the coming months but for now, here’s the brief course description.


Media archaeology, Returned and Reimagined
essor Lori Emerson
IAWP 6800 // Spring 2018
Wednesdays 3pm to 5:30pm

This course explores the now established field of Media Archaeology by looking at texts that are considered foundational for the field as well as looking at ways in which the field is now expanding to include urban media archaeology, cultural techniques, infrastructure studies as well as work by women and people of color. While we will do conventional reading and writing in a seminar setting, our class will also do hands-on experiments in the Media Archaeology Lab with its collection of old and new media.

Media archaeology (with Michel Foucault and Friedrich Kittler as two of its deep influences) has long been seen as a field that provides us with a sobering conceptual friction to the current culture of the new that dominates contemporary computing. In this way, certain theorists identified with the field such as Geert Lovink work media archaeologically as they undertake “a hermeneutic reading of the ‘new’ against the grain of the past, rather than telling of the histories of technologies from past to present.” On the whole, media archaeology does not seek to reveal the present as an inevitable consequence of the past but instead looks to describe it as one possibility generated out of a heterogeneous past. Also at the heart of media archaeology is an on-going struggle to keep alive what Siegfried Zielinski calls “variantology”–the discovery of “individual variations” in the use or abuse of media, especially those variations that defy the ever-increasing trend toward “standardization and uniformity among the competing electronic and digital technologies.” Following Zielinski, our class will move from the present through the past as we look at accounts of media phenomena that position themselves as avoiding reinstating a model of media history that tends toward narratives of progress and generally ignores neglected, failed, or dead media and that instead focus on a archaeological, heavily materiality, perhaps even geological approach to media. At the same time, we will also look at the formation and the evolution of the field itself – what have been the limits and the possibilities of this approach in the past and what is the field now?