Lit 80, Fall 2013
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Media Archaeology Chat Reflection

October 22nd, 2013 | Posted by Zhan Wu in Uncategorized

After reading Chapter One on the book of Media Archaeology [1], written by Jussi Parikka and subsequently attending a symposium with the same person on Friday, I gained a more comprehensive understanding about media effects in our society, specifically, how the nature of a medium influences us as well as our environment.

One element that Dr. Parikka was talking about during the symposium which I especially liked was the impact, both deleterious and benign, of the physical essence of media in our lives. In terms of ourselves, our habits are concretely shaped by repeated utilization of the same form, or physical essence, as Parikka dubs it, of media. For example, having read more hard-copied books back during childhood, we simultaneously grew more accustomed to the presence of written media that we could touch and hold. Thus it is not surprising that most of us find it more comfortable and maybe even more reasonable to obtain a hard-copy of specific media, whether that be a newspaper, manual, textbook etc., rather than perusing said media on digital devices, such as PCs, laptops, and tablets.

Additionally, detrimental effects of the physical essence of media can be seen by environmental influence, specifically the creation of “dirty energy”, some mediums create in our world. Dr. Parikka talked about how an old watermill in his hometown in Finland got converted into a Google Data storage, and how the storage used hydroelectric energy as well as other forms of power sources to operate on a full scale, possibly polluting the ecosystem at the expense of creating more digital data “clouds” for Google users. Thus, we can see that the transmission of media, often considered invisible, often has an apparent physical essence to it. This physicality of media is also expressed in Neuromancer, where both hardware and software are abundant in the cyberpunk world.

Another very interesting aspect brought up by the authors during our discussion session was that whether a medium would become well-known or obsolete in mostly dependent on accident, which means that the fate of a medium customarily happens by accident, and cannot be physically manipulated into any direction. A classic example is the introduction of SMS text messaging in Europe, with phone companies at that time advertising the many advantages of text messaging. What the companies didn’t realize, however, was that the rapid proliferation of texting was not due to people’s recognition of it as a more advantageous method of remote communication than phone calls or other media, but that texting was simply cheaper and a better way to save money for households. This piece of history strongly demonstrated that how well-known a media can really become happens mostly accidentally.

The graphic-novel Daytripper that we will read and discuss this week in class presents some additional insights into media archaeology by furnishing different accounts of alternate history.

Sources:

[1] Parikka, Jussi, Media Archaeologyhttp://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520262744. Accessed Oct. 16, 2013

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