ENGL 561 Studies in Technology and Culture: Examination of key concepts, tools, and possibilities afforded by engaging with technology through a critical cultural lens. (Crosslisted course offered as DTC 561, ENGLISH 561).
This course will act as an introduction to the multidisciplinary field of media archaeology, which studies the residual forms and practices of media as a critique of contemporary media culture. Focusing particularly on quirks, accidents and haphazard inventions, media archaeology imagines alternate histories and futures of technologies. Additionally, it combines these cultural histories of technology with a focus on the media operative capabilities of time-critical devices and geological and environmental phenomena to demonstrate how media process our experiences of history and temporality. While this course begins with central readings in the field — including Jussi Parikka’s survey of the variantologies of media practice in What is Media Archaeology?, Siegfried Zielinski’s call for “anarchaeological” attention to the curiosities of media history in Deep Time of the Media, and Wolfgang Ernst’s argument that operative media technologies “short circuit” through media history — we will pivot to explore some of the ways media archaeological investigations have been applied to and complicated by a variety of topics: racist infrastructure and surveillance, cybernetics and critical theory, guerilla warfare in the 1970s, and environmental humanities and extractive visualization technologies.
In terms of the latter, we will explore so-called operative images, images that were never intended to be seen by human beings but used in machine automation and artificial intelligence, along with their complicity in the so-called ‘extractive view’: what Macarena Gomez-Barris identifies as a nexus of “colonial paradigms, worldviews, and technologies that mark out regions of ‘high biodiversity’ in order to reduce life to capitalist resource conversion.” Requirements include two presentations, weekly text responses, and a final project that can take the form of a seminar paper, digital project, or pedagogical intervention.
“The personal and social consequences of any medium — that is, of any extension of ourselves — result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.”
Discuss Passages from:
“Media archaeology sees media cultures as sedimented and layered, a fold of time and materiality where the past might be suddenly discovered anew, and the new technologies grow obsolete increasingly fast.”
Read: Jussi Parikka, What is Media Archaeology? London: Polity, 2012.
Read: Garnet Hertz and Jussi Parikka, “Zombie Media: Circuit Bending Media Archaeology into an Art Method.” Leonardo. 45.5 (2012): 424-430.
Check Out: Bruce Sterling, “The Dead Media Project.”
Workshop 1: Write a one-page proposal for your final project.
Anarchaeologies and Time Criticalities
“Magical, scientific, and technical praxis do not follow in chronological sequence for anarchaeology; on the contrary, they combine at particular moments in time, collide with each other, provoke one another, and, in this way, maintain tension and movement within developing processes.”
Read: Siegfried Zielinski, Deep Time of the Media: Toward an Archaeology of Seeing and Hearing by Technical Means. Boston: MIT Press, 2006.
Read: Wolfgang Ernst, “From Media History to Zeitkritik.” Theory, Culture, and Society. 30.6 (2013): 132-46.
Workshop 2: Revise Your proposal using at least one recommendation you received last week.
Cybernetics of Critical Theory and Informatics
“The very definition of cybernetics already assumes a complex relationship to temporality and history — bridging the past with an obsessive interest in prediction, the future, and the virtual. As the etymology of the word suggests, cybernetics is a science of control or prediction of future action. In further adjoining control with communication, it is an endeavor that hopes to tame these future events through the sending of messages.”
Read: Bernard Dionysius Geoghegan, “From Information Theory to French Theory: Jakobson, Levi-Strauss, and the Cybernetic Apparatus.” Critical Inquiry 38 (Autumn 2011): 96-126.
Read: Bernard Dionysius Geoghegan, “The Family as Machine: Film, Infrastructure, and Cybernetic Kinship in Suburban America.” Grey Room 66 (Winter 2017): 20-101.
Read: Orit Halpern, “Chapter 1. Archiving: Temporality, Storage, and Interactivity in Cybernetics.” Beautiful Data: A History of Vision and Reason Since 1945. Durham: Duke UP, 2014. 39-78.
Workshop 3: Write a 5-page close reading of a primary source.
Media Archaeology and the Archive
“Contemporary labs are places where the “digital” is specified, historicized, sampled, materialized, discussed, fabricated, printed, and theorized, often in conjunction with much older (media) technologies. In hybrid sites such as media archaeology labs, material objects are in a historical situation that stymies blithe assumptions about the status of the analog as antiquated or of the digital as brand new.“
Read: Darren Werschler, Lori Emerson, and Jussi Parikka. “Lab Apparatus.” The Lab Book: Situated Practices in Media Studies. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota Press, 2022.
Meet: WSU’s MASC in the library. Media Archaeology presentation.
No Class, President’s Day
“In place of these conventional forms of mediation [traditional forms of resistance such as strikes and mass protests], which could be described as belonging to disciplinary regimes, the key site for mediation was now the media themselves, which were not only a major new sphere of work and immaterial production, but were increasingly integrated within every aspect of both labour and capital in a process that would ultimately be realized in the implantation of digital technologies in all spheres of production, circulation, and consumption.”
Read: Michael Goddard, Guerilla Networks: An Anarchaeology of 1970s Radical Media Ecologies. Amsterdam: Amsterdam UP, 2018.
Workshop 4: 5-source annotated bibliography of secondary and tertiary sources. One-paragraph descriptions summarizing content and use.
“Despite its name, this process [visualization] is not composed simply of visual perceptions in the physical sense, but is formed by a set of relations combining information, imagination, and insight into a rendition of physical and psychic space. I am not attributing agency to “visuality” but, as is now commonplace, treating it as a discursive practice that has material effects, like Foucault’s panopticism, the gaze or perspective.”
Watch: John Berger, Ways of Seeing, BBC Television, 1972.
Read: Nicholas Mirzeoff, The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality. Durham, Duke UP, 2011.
Workshop 5: Draft Outline of Final Project. Draft introductory and positioning paragraphs.
No Class, Spring Break
Black Media and Surveillance
“[T]hese cameras are trained not only on the potential thief, but also on the employee working on the shop floor who is put on notice that the video surveillance is perpetual.”
Read: Simone Browne, Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness. Durham: Duke UP, 2015.
Workshop 6: Complete an equivalent of 4 pages of material that you will connect to your introduction and positioning paragraphs.
“[M]y interest was focused upon […] [f]ilms or photos that were taken in order to monitor a process that, as a rule, cannot be observed by the human eye. Images that appear so inconsequential that they are not stored – the tapes are erased and are used again. Generally the images are stored and archived only in exceptional cases, but exceptional cases one is sure to encounter. Such images challenge the artist who is interested in a meaning that is not authorial and intentional, an artist interested in a beauty that is not calculated. The US military command has surpassed us all in the art of showing something that comes close to the ‘unconscious visible.'”
Watch: Harun Farocki, “Images of the World and the Inscription of War”
Watch: Harun Farocki, “Serious Games”
Read: Harun Farocki, “Phantom Images.” Public. 29 (2004). 13-22.
Read: Thomas Elsaesser, “Harun Farocki: Filmmaker, Artist, Media Theorist.” Harun Farocki: Working on the Sight-Lines. Ed. Thomas Elsaesser. Amsterdam: Amsterdam UP, 2004. 11-40.
Read: Trevor Paglen, “Invisible Images (Your Pictures are Looking at You).” The New Inquiry. 8 December 2016.
“Operational images refer to those practices and infrastructures of images that are not necessarily interesting to watch or see while they organize much of what contemporary culture fundamentally looks at, including figures, graphs, diagrams, trajectories, models, plans, simulations, control screens, spreadsheets, etc. Images might not necessarily want anything, but they do lots and get lots done.”
Watch: Abelardo Gil-Fourier and Jussi Parikka, “Seed, Image, Ground.”
Read: Jussi Parikka and Abelardo Gil-Fournier, “An Ecoaesthetic of Vegetal Surfaces: on Seed, Image, Ground as Soft Montage.” Journal of Visual Art Practice. 20. 1-2. (2021): 16-30.
Read: Adrian MacKenzie and Anna Munster, “Platform Seeing: Image Ensembles and Their Invisualities.” Theory, Culture, and Society. 36.5 (2019). 3-22.
The Planet is A Mine
“The content of these mediations, then, is not the pursuit for ‘hegemonic status’ within the interstate system. Rather it is the production of a technological exoskeleton that extends to multiple resource frontiers — in the form of railways, ports, waterways, power plants, roads, debt instruments, digital platforms, and so forth — in order to support the expanded reproduction of capital on the basis of machinofacturing.”
Read: Martin Arboleda, Planetary Mine: Territories of Extraction Under Late Capitalism. London: Verso, 2020.
Workshop 7: Complete a Draft of the Final Project
“Since dense genetic plant life and natural resource regions often overlap with Indigenous territories, then we must work to analyze how Native peoples are both constructed by the state and corporate entities as obstructions to the expansion of extractive capitalism and literally block its reach.”
Read: The Extractive Zone: Social Ecologies and Decolonial Perspectives. Durham: Duke UP, 2017.
Workshop 8: Exchange a draft of your project with another student. Suggest up at least 10 changes that would make the project better.
Another View is Possible
“For ecopolitics, every human is a concentration of interactions with its environment, which it in turn remakes by breathing, ingesting, excreting, moving, sheltering. We may become conscious of breathing in certain circumstances, or by an act of will, but rarely even then as an ecological entanglement. The seismograph operates in this plane: we can remain largely unconscious of the Earth’s constant seismic motion; we only need become aware of it in moments of crisis.”
Read: Sean Cubitt, “Three Geomedia.” Ctrl-Z: New Media Philosophy. 7 (2017).
Read: Gökçe Önal, “Media Ecologies of the ‘Extractive View’: Image Operations of Material Exchange.” Footprint. Autumn/Winter 2020: 31-48.
Read: Lukáš Likavčan and Paul Heinicker, “Planetary Diagrams: Toward an Autographic Theory of Climate Emergency.” Photography Off the Scale: Technologies and Theories of the Mass Image. Ed.
Lori Emerson, “Media Archaeologies Reconfigured.” Fall 2020: U of Colorado, Boulder.
Jussi Parikka, Email. 30 October, 2022.
Policies and Design
John Aycock and Jim Uhl. “Choice in the Classroom.” ACM SIGCSE Bulletin. 37.4 (2005): 84-88.
Ashley Boyd. “Young Adult Literature.” Fall 2015: Washington State U.
Anne-Marie Womack, Annelise Blanchard, Cassie Wang, Mary Catherine Jesse. Accessible Syllabus. Web. 3 August 2016.