Introduction & Media Archaeology

What is media Archaeology?

  • An alternative approach towards the study of media
  • Interlinking connections between users, devices, distributors, producers and environments
  • Historical and future trajectories… How/What influence do these have on current or future media texts;
  • The development, evolution or changes of different media forms [Lots of overlapping media forms/influences]
  • Technological Determinism – technological change is an independent phenomenon alongside social, cultural and economic pressures
  • E.g. Stiegler and ‘technicity’

‘Classic’ Media studies:

  • Concerned with ‘Political Economy’ of media as modern/mainstream communications or entertainment.
  • Ownership? Regulation? (State or Private?) The functionality of the product?
  • Influences on social, political and economic equilibrium?
  • Representation and effects? -> Audience Reception/response
  • Social Constructivism – technological development is not shaped by technical and scientific progress but by social, cultural and economic pressures (Ben Roberts)

Jussi Parikka – Media Archeology;

  • Understood as heterogeneous sets of theories and methods [Forgotten but interconnected trajectories]
  • Challenges contemporary media and digital culture, concerned also with temporality
  • Re-examining deep layers of meaning, dismantling ‘the fallacy of linear development.’
  • Against the natural evolution of media, technology and society [Shared with ‘classic’ media] -> Against simple cause and effect simplifications, not a single or linear line of development.

Example 1: Video Games

  • Representational media forms with genres, franchises and economics
  • Strong and historical ties with the military [Like all technology] from 1940 – 1950s and scientific war analysis gaming

Example 2: Citizen Journalism/Fake News

  • Systematic exploitation and Systematic phenomena -> Digitial networks of ‘relational objects’ [Yuk Hui]
  • Standards for format, categorization, functionality, networking etc. (HTML, JPEG PNG etc)
  • Algorithmic influence over user attentions, online journeys and consumption (clickbait, recommendation systems, predictive texts…)
  • connecting impacts on knowledge acquisition, sense of world and self, political involvement etc.

Creative Cultural Research: 

  • The exploration/investigation into urban cultures, how / why do we situate ourselves within a particular landscape? [Media Archeology / Media Futures]
  • Cultural understanding of our surrounding media landscape, how does media appear? How is it consumed? What are our experiences of media consumption [Psychological, embodied or visceral?]
  • Reshaping media experiences… Participatory or immersive media?
  • Historical recollection/investigation into media forms, trends and developments (18th Century -> Participatory media forms emerging)
  • How does immersive media affect the body/mind of audience members? why?
  • How do producers, distributors and audiences/consumers all interact? [Media Ecologies? Media Collectives?]
  • How does media intersect or share roles and functions?
  • ‘Bottom Up’ Medias such as Storytelling, Word of Mouth
  • How is data used for social, personal, cultural or economic profit? think VALUE!!!

Cultural Milieux: refers to a city’s resilience when living with turbulent or unpredictable changes, how are cities becoming resilient?

  • Modularization?… Each city is broken down into small areas and ecologies that have its own resources and ecosystems
  • Culture/Sociability?… Based on trust, ownership, communities all work together to effectively maintain the city and surrounding cultural heritage,
  • Technology?… Often deployed in times of crisis, eg. smart cities, how does technology enrich or develop people/environments further?

Further Reading / Exercise:

Makers: The New Industrial Revolution (P33-52) – The History of the Future (Chapter 3)

  • James Hargreaves, witnessed a spinning wheel fall on its side, it continued to spin; from this he invented to ‘spinning jenny’ that span 8 threads simultaneously.
  • Egyptian looms and Chinese Silk spinning was present from 1000BCE, such devices are precursors… do we exist is a world of development rather that creation?

“First, unlike silk, wool and hemp, which were used in many of the earlier machines, cotton was a commodity that could reach everyone. It was simply the cheapest and most available fibre in the world, even more so once expanding the British trade empire brought bales of the stuff from India, Egypt and the New World.” :34

“Britain in the 1700s was going through an intellectual renaissance, with a series of patent laws and policies that gave artisans the incentive to not only invent but also share their inventions.” :34

[Cites William Rosen] … “The Industrial Revolution was, first and foremost, a revolution in invention. And not simple a huge increase in the number of new inventions but a radicle transformation in the process of inventions itself.” :34

  • Not only did productivity increase dramatically, so did the size of the population at large. “Between 1700 and 1850, the population of Great Britain tripled.”:36

“Mass-produced cheap cotton and good-quality soap allowed even the poorest families to have clean clothing and practice better hygiene, since cotton was easier to wash and dry than wool.” :36

“The main difference was the decline in child mortality. But even for those who survived childhood, life expectancy grew by about twenty years over that period, a jump of a magnitude never before seen.” :37

  • Living conditions improved greatly as people got richer, mechanization acted to amplify individual ability and skill.

“But at its core, “industrial revolution” refers to a set of technologies that dramatically amplify the productivity of people, changing everything from longevity and quality of life to where people live and how many there are of them” :38

  • Second Industrial Revolution – Transportation such as railroads combined with chemical industries, petrol refining, combustion engines and electrification etc. à Henry Ford’s model T automobile, domestic transportation was now made available on a wide scale.

“We were able to break out of the cycle of most other animals, were everyone’s job is to feed themselves and their offspring, and pursue division of labour, where we each do what we do best. This created spare time and energy, which could be invested in such things as building towns, inventing money, learning to read and write, and so on.” :39 à Make connections with co-creativity of today such as creative commons [Participatory interactions] and cognitive surplus.

“We became more valuable for our brains than for our muscles. And in the process, it made us richer, healthier, longer-living, and hugely more populous. Revolutions should be measured in their impacts on people’s lives, and as such the Industrial Revolution is unparalleled.”

“What the Industrial Revolution did create, more than anything else, was a vast surplus of time, which was reallocated to invent practically everything that defines the modern world.” :39

“The primary effect of steam was not that it helped to colonize a new land, but that it started the colonization of time.” :39

  • The Third Industrial Revolution – The age of the computer?…

“Rather than amplifying human muscle power, they amplify brain power. They can also drive productivity gains in existing industries and create new ones. And by allowing us to do existing jobs faster, they free us up to do new ones.” :40

“Only when the computers were combined with networks, and ultimately the network-of-all-networks, the Internet, did they really start to transform our culture.” :40

“…the Third Industrial Revolution is best seen as the combination of digital manufacturing and personal manufacturing: the industrialisation of the Maker Movement.” :41

“Why did the First Industrial Revolution take of in Manchester? There were other cities and region that had early factories, including Birmingham and smaller towns of Lancashire. But Manchester has several key advantages. First, it has plenty of free space and relaxed building laws, which made it possible to build factories and housing for the workers, something that would have been hard in the more built-up and restrictive port cities such as Liverpool.” :42 à Links to course details, what makes a city productive, under what conditions?


  • Free/easily accessed space
  • Rivers, connections to water, canals; shipping, goods, resources, travel etc.
  • Railways, abundant transport networks.

[Industrial Rev. Fashion Industry was fundamental!]

“It was the perfect combination: an inland city with room for industrial expansion that, thanks to the big canal, could ship good nearly as efficiently as a port city. Meanwhile, the railroads were doing the same on land: Manchester became one end of one of the world’s first intercity rail lines, the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.” :43

“Yet amid this postindustrial landscapes are pockets of hope and growth. One of them is on a former factory site next to former cholera hospital, on the banks of one of Manchester’s many canals. Here a huge modern building stands, with stacks of floors, each angled a bit from the one below and painted tastefully matched accent colours of pink, brown and peach. Called Chips, supposedly because the architect piled up French fries (“chips”) to brainstorm its shape, it was designed to be the model of a modern work/live/play space.” :45

Manchester’s FabLabs… “Projects made on free days are supposed to be documented online so others can share them. On other days, members pay to use the facility, and those projects can be proprietary and closed.” :46 à Multi-use spaces of innovation, bricolage and recreations.

“Small-scale enterprises can thrive in the new world of distributed manufacturing. Ironically, this is almost a return to the very earliest days of the Industrial Revolution.” :47

“Cottage industries were a distributed form of production, which complemented the centralized factories by being more flexible and making things in smaller batches than the big factories could gear up for.” :49

“Today’s cottage industry is more typically an Etsy marketplace seller with a computer controlled vinyl cutter making cool stickers for Mac-Books or making and selling perfect replacement part for vintage cars.”:50

“Once again, new technology is giving individuals the power over the means of production, allowing for bottom-up-entrepreneurship and distributed innovation.” :50-51

 Makers: The New Industrial Revolution (P225-230) – DIY Biology

“But thanks to the DIY revolution and Arduino, the open-source circuit board, big thinkers like Cowell and engineers like Perfetto (whose OpenPCR device sells for just $599) are reverse engineering the big-budget tools. And then they’re sharing their methods to the world.” :225

“This microbial fuel cell tech isn’t good enough to be scaled up to wide use yet, but the open-source model for distribution means that people start making advances in their backyards.” :226 à Everyday individuals are now suggesting improvements and feedback which is acting to further develop tech such as this; due to suggestions of this nature, double the power has been produced through this method.

“Today we can amplify and identify DNA at the kitchen table. Tomorrow we’ll be able to sequence it, too. But after that comes synthesizing it, modifying it, and the rest of genetic engineering.” à Future potential if hacking life; however, “We’ve been doing that for thousands of years with cross-breeding and agricultural genetics, but that was always within the bounds of nature.” :229

“Nature has created the most powerful factories of all. Who knows what can happen when we command them, too?” :230

  • Every invention etc. life is based upon natural progression, each break-through technology is linked and interconnected with past products, life is an art of reinvention, improvement and bricolage.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, by Klaus Schwab

“This Fourth Industrial Revolution is, however, fundamentally different. It is characterized by a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human.”

“The world has the potential to connect billions more people to digital networks, dramatically improve the efficiency of organizations and even manage assets in ways that can help regenerate the natural environment, potentially undoing the damage of previous industrial revolutions.However, Schwab also has grave concerns: that organisations might be unable to adapt; governments could fail to employ and regulate new technologies to capture their benefits; shifting power will create important new security concerns; inequality may grow; and societies fragment.”

“Schwab calls for leaders and citizens to “together shape a future that works for all by putting people first, empowering them and constantly reminding ourselves that all of these new technologies are first and foremost tools made by people for people.”..”

“Consider the unlimited possibilities of having billions of people connected by mobile devices, giving rise to unprecedented processing power, storage capabilities and knowledge access. Or think about the staggering confluence of emerging technology breakthroughs, covering wide-ranging fields such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the internet of things (IoT), autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage and quantum computing, to name a few. Many of these innovations are in their infancy, but they are already reaching an inflection point in their development as they build on and amplify each other in a fusion of technologies across the physical, digital and biological worlds.” :1

“New ways of using technology to change behaviour and our systems of production and consumption also offer the potential for supporting the regeneration and preservation of natural environments, rather than creating hidden costs in the form of externalities.” :2

“While the profound uncertainty surrounding the development and adoption of emerging technologies means that we do not yet know how the transformations driven by this industrial revolution will unfold, their complexity and interconnectedness across sectors imply that all stakeholders of global society – governments, business, academia, and civil society – have a responsibility to work together to better understand the emerging trends.” :2

“The changes are so profound that, from the perspective of human history, there has never been a time of greater promise or potential peril. My concern, however, is that decision-makers are too often caught in traditional, linear (and non-disruptive) thinking or too absorbed by immediate concerns to think strategically about the forces of disruption and innovation shaping our future.” :2

“Velocity: Contrary to the previous industrial revolutions, this one is evolving at an exponential rather than linear pace. This is the result of the multifaceted, deeply interconnected world we live in and the fact that new technology begets newer and ever more capable technology. Breadth and depth: It builds on the digital revolution and combines multiple technologies that are leading to unprecedented paradigm shifts in the economy, business, society, and individually. It is not only changing the “what” and the “how” of doing things but also “who” we are. Systems Impact: It involves the transformation of entire systems, across (and within) countries, companies, industries and society as a whole.” :3

“Above all, this book aims to emphasize the way in which technology and society co-exist. Technology is not an exogenous force over which we have no control. We are not constrained by a binary choice between “accept and live with it” and “reject and live without it”. Instead, take dramatic technological change as an invitation to reflect about who we are and how we see the world.” :4

“The fundamental and global nature of this revolution means it will affect and be influenced by all countries, economies, sectors and people. It is, therefore, critical that we invest attention and energy in multistakeholder cooperation across academic, social, political, national and industry boundaries. These interactions and collaborations are needed to create positive, common and hope-filled narratives, enabling individuals and groups from all parts of the world to participate in, and benefit from, the ongoing transformations.” :4


Crogan, P. (2017) Media Archeology. Media Culture 2. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 16 January 2017]

Parikka, J. (2012) What is Media Archaeology, beta definition ver. 0.9. Available from: [Accessed 15 January 2017]
















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