Media archaeology explores the components that make up various media elements and technologies and how the origins and interactions between these components have affected the way these medias have developed and established a role in our world. Jussi Parikka presents ideas and observations obtained through media archaeology in his article “The Geology of Media” and his book “Media Archaeology”, yet it was when our class met with the author that we were able to delve into the topic. One of the concepts associated with media archaeology that we discussed was reverse speculation—imagining what the world would have been like if things had gone differently, from a technology standpoint. I found it interesting to wonder, what would our world be like today if Bill Gates did not invent Microsoft? Where would computer programming be now? Would it have taken a completely different route in its design and function? And furthermore, how would that have affected other technologies—such as the development of Apple as a company, or computer software in general? Thinking in this way helps us to understand why our world is the way it is now, and thus we are able to trace the impacts the technology did have on our society and the development of other technologies based on the comparison between the path it took and the path it could’ve taken. This concept is related to William Gibson’s “The Difference Engine”, which explores what the 18th century would have been like if Charles Babbage had succeeded in the creation of the Babbage Engine. The speculative writing draws comparisons between what our world is like today and how it would have been (or how we imagine it would have been) in the past. By looking at the past in this light, we are able to see both how the computer plays a role in our society through the comparison between the known past and the speculative past.
Another component of media archaeology that I found interesting was the observation of technological effects and developments through their relation to Earth. It is easy to overlook that resources play a fundamental role in what is able to develop at what time. Media is more than just data, as it is the device that portrays the data that interprets it and has an effect on how it is perceived—the device gives the data meaning. Development of technology—specifically why certain technologies developed at certain times and how they became the way they are—can be analyzed based on the political economy of the time, particularly in relation to minerals and metals. Similarly, trends in wastes, energy usage, and exploitation of resources provide tracking sources for the development of media elements. The history of media can be traced through what it is made of—chemicals, the developmental processes, and subsequently the develop of technological processes necessary to create and produce the media element. Technology itself can be tied in to the destruction of the world as well, as it has just as much—if not more—of an impact on the world as it develops as the world has on its development. Media develops are thus correlated to pollution, changes in populations, and environmental factors such as storms, weather patterns, or events that affect availability of or accessibility to resources. And environmental pollution isn’t the only kind of pollution that can be traced through technological developments, but mental pollution as well. Though abstract, we are able to see how technology affects our everyday lives and the way we behave and interact. Essentially, geology affects our exposure to media, and our exposure to media affects how our reality is augmented—thus geology is the direct source from which our reality is augmented.
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