Academic journal article Communication Research Trends

Parikka, Jussi. What Is Media Archaeology?

Academic journal article Communication Research Trends

Parikka, Jussi. What Is Media Archaeology?

Article excerpt

Parikka, Jussi. What Is Media Archaeology? Cambridge UK and Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2012. Pp. viii, 205. ISBN 978-0-7456-5025-8 (cloth) $69.95; 978-0-7456-5026-5 (paper) $24.95.

U.S.-based communication researchers will find this book a good introduction to media archaeology, an approach to communication rooted primarily in Europe and in some areas of German communication study. The book itself "sets out to elaborate the potentials of the media-archaeological method in digital culture research" (p. 2). Parikka asks:

   Where do you start when you begin thinking
   media archaeologically? Do you start with past
   media, like a "proper" historian? Or from our
   own current world of media devices, software,
   platforms, networks, social media, plasma
   screens, and such, like a "proper" analyst of digital
   culture would? Ths proposition of this book
   is that you start in the middle--from the entanglement
   of past and present, and accept the complexity
   this decision brings with it to any analysis
   of modern media culture. (p. 5)

Media archaeology takes its origin from several different sources. First, it draws on the work of Michel Foucault whose use of the very term archaeology provides one point of origin. Here the interest lies in discovering relationships of power, particularly those that have become hidden in past practices and that influence the present. Parikka is interested in how these past practices influence contemporary culture. He writes, "media archaeology is introduced as a way to investigate the new media cultures through insights from past new media, often with an emphasis on the forgotten, the quirky, the non-obvious apparatuses, practices, and inventions" (p. 2).

In addition to this strand taking its lead from Foucault, media archaeology also looks literally at the history of communication technology and the ways in which various technologies have succeeded one another, examining how older technologies have shaped the use of, and our understanding of, new technologies. A source for this approach to media archaeology comes from the New Film History movement in the 1980s. According to Parikka, key themes that emerge from these theoretical approaches and that shape media archaeology are "(1) modernity, (2) cinema, (3) histories of the present, and (4) alternative histories" (p. 7). Parikka adds, "what this book develops are insights into how arts and technology can work in relation to cultural theory--and articulate history, practice, and theory in a fruitful mash-up" (p. …

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