What is Media Archaeology?

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Fascination with old media technologies can help understand the new and the emerging digital culture, argues Dr Jussi Parikka in his new book

Written with a steampunk attitude, What is Media Archaeology? (POLITY PRESS, ISBN: 978-0-7456-5025-8) examines the theoretical challenges of studying digital culture and memory. Dr Parikka, Reader in Media & Design and Senior Fellow of the Winchester School of Art’s Centre for Global Futures in Art Design & Media, offers an introduction to the emerging field of media archaeology and analyses the innovative theoretical and artistic methodology used to excavate current media through its past.

The book is already being viewed as essential reading for anyone interested in the interdisciplinary ties between art, technology and media.

“Media archaeology offers us a way to address digital culture and economy through its past - to highlight such aesthetic and cultural practices as well as devices that are like the hidden history of our digitality,” said Dr Parikka. “For me, it is an exciting theoretical opening to think about material media cultures in a historical but a rather quirky perspective that looks at sidekicks of media history, oddball histories and ideas as alternative inspiration to the often too mainstream way of describing what our digital culture is about. Our culture is mad about things ‘retro’ and ‘vintage’, and this drive applies to media technologies as well, from 8-bit pixelated aesthetics to fascination with the styles of old media devices.” What is Media Archaeology? expands into an experimental set of questioning about time, obsolescence, and alternative histories as well.

“The book also shows how deeply intertwining humanities, art, technology and media are, and we need these historical perspectives to really grasp of what is happening in terms of Digital Economy - in Britain, with its long roots of computer history which we should celebrate this year, Alan Turing's 100th anniversary, as well as globally,” he continued.

Dr Parikka’s cutting-edge text contextualizes media archaeology in relation to other key media studies debates while also presenting an engaging and accessible overview for students of media, film and cultural studies.

“A lot of the media archaeological work expands to strong theoretical arguments as well as quite different sorts of historical inquiry than one recognizes in media historical work,” Dr Parikka concluded. “Having said that, perhaps this is where the interesting connections are emerging; how media archaeology can contribute to media historical inquiry as well as to thinking about archives and cultural memory. Is our retromania a nostalgic drive, and whether we should consider obsolescence also from the environmental perspective of abandoned computer junk as well?”

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