Lit 80, Fall 2013
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Media Arch Response

October 22nd, 2013 | Posted by Matt Hebert in Uncategorized

The point that intrigued me most during our discussion with Jussi Parrika was the idea of analyzing media by understanding the processes through which they were created. The particular example given during the discussion was recreating the printing of an old journal with a long outdated printing press. The process of assembling raw materials and physically producing the journal was naturally much more difficult than it would be in modern times. I believe that understanding the way in which something was created can help us understand it more completely. Of course the end result, having a copy of the journal assembled from comparable materials, is not significantly different from a scan of the document stored on a Google server. But by taking part in the process of creating it, these scholars now better understand the mindset of its original creators. It is very rare for creators to have full autonomy to create whatever they wish. They are restricted by the means of production and distribution. Modern recording artists release albums short enough to be contained on a single CD. Painters decide what to create as much according to what hues and brushstrokes are available to them as they do out of self-expression. For having investigated the constraints that the original creators worked within, these scholars are more aware of how important the information within the document was to its creators, or what might have been included out of pragmatism or convention. Although this is a more low-tech example than most of what we discuss in this class, I would argue that this process of understanding through re-creation is a form of augmenting reality.

I think this, in conjunction with the field’s focus on the margins of society rather than the mainstream, is one of the most interesting sides of media archaeology. Historians have given a good deal of attention to the advantages and limitations of past technologies, but sometimes in broad strokes and often focused on the most prominent media of the era. It is very valuable to give more detailed consideration to the less studied pieces of history. Even technologies that are well-understood by historians may offer some interesting implications about specific works or creators which are not as well-studied. Also, using these methods of creation offers scholars a more intimate understanding of the technologies limiting creators than merely studying the theory could.

 

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