Media Archaeology: Approaches, Applications, and Implications

By Erkki Huhtamo; Jussi Parikka | Go to book overview

7
The Observer’s Dilemma
To Touch or Not to Touch

Wanda Strauven


THE RULES OF THE (MEDIA-ARCHAEOLOGICAL) GAME

After one hundred years of existence, cinema’s position in media and art history has been questioned by several scholars, leading to the assumption that it was either an “intermezzo” (Zielinski) or a “detour” (Uricchio) in the history of television, a sidetrack in the history of animation (Manovich), or simply a new form of painting (Michaud).1 Especially from the digital perspective, Lev Manovich has made a strong point by claiming that the default mode of cinema is graphic instead of photographic, allowing us to make a bridge between Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s Sin City (2005) and Émile Reynaud’s precinematic “Pantomimes Lumineuses” of the early 1890s.2 Or to quote Manovich himself: “Born from animation, cinema pushed animation to its boundary, only to become one particular case of animation in the end.”3 In this chapter, I would like to push this view a bit further and inquire whether a similar assertion cannot be made about gaming, especially when keeping in mind not only the “new wave” of mind-game cinema but also the ever-growing market of film-based computer games (such as the PSP Godfather game) and computer game-based films (such as the Lara Croft series).4 Has cinema not just become another type of gaming in today’s game culture? And, to echo Manovich’s statement, was cinema after all not “born” within the context of optical toys and arcade games?

To propose a revision of cinema’s history from the viewpoint of gaming (or, more generally speaking, playing), I will first problematize the notion of “precinematic” as commonly used in film historical overviews.5 My general goal is to rethink cinema’s position within media history. My media-archaeological

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