Media Archaeology (ENGL603) looks at obsolete and forgotten apparatuses, practices and inventions in order to scrutinize our rapidly-evolving media culture. Participants learn through a mix of writing, thinking, discussing, and, most importantly, through hands-on encounters with materials in the collection of the Concordia Residual Media Depot.
Whether you’re looking to demystify hardware modification, software hacking and digital forensics, or to develop a critical and theoretical relationship with material media technologies, knowledge production is a collaborative process where participants from any discipline bring different approaches to the table.
Local, national and international graduate students from any discipline with an interest in contemporary media culture.
Darren Wershler, Ph.D.
Associate Professor - Research Chair, Media & Contemporary Literature
What is media archaeology? As Jussi Parikka describes, it is a subfield of media history that scrutinizes contemporary media culture through investigations of past media technologies and creative media practices. Media archaeology takes a special interest in recondite and forgotten apparatuses, practices and inventions. At an historical moment when our own media technologies become obsolete with increasing rapidity, the study of residual forms and practices provides valuable context for analysis, and perhaps the possibility for the emergence of something new.
This course deals with the theory, current practice, and possible trajectories of media archaeology as a discipline. Our object of study will be the research collection of the new Residual Media Depot of the Media History Research Centre at the Milieux Institute. Work will consist of a mix of writing, thinking, talking, and hands-on encounters with materials from the collection, according to student skills and interests.
This intensive one-week graduate course (5 days, Tuesday 23 May - Saturday 27 May 9 am - 5 pm inclusive) will run for the second time this year. It will consist of approximately 20 graduate students (PhD level preferred), approximately half from Concordia and half from elsewhere. Dr. Darren Wershler (CURC in Media & Contemporary Literature, Concordia) will lead the course, with special guests Dr. Jussi Parikka (Winchester School of Art) and Dr. Lori Emerson (University of Colorado Boulder).
During the actual course, mornings will follow a seminar model. Course members will receive their reading packages digitally in early May, and they will be expected to arrive ready to discuss this material. We will make frequent use of breakout groups of various kinds, concept mapping and daily individual blog posts to structure our conversation. In order to provide further context, all seminar members will also spend time locating media examples for in-class screenings in order to provide further contextual information.
Afternoons will consist of work time for an individual or collective project in applied media archaeology. Students must propose their project before being accepted to the course (see APPLICATION PROCESS, at the end of this document). Students will have access to the Depot collection, some support from Research Assistants, plus any other necessary supplies that Milieux can provide (after a student is accepted, the instructors will determine what we can supply and what students will have to supply themselves). Projects might include, but are not limited to, the following:
- visual studies of the collection’s hardware
- readings of boxes, manuals and other textual materials
- platform studies of individual consoles in the collection
- media archaeologies, genealogies or geologies of particular consoles
- software studies of particular programs supported by the Depot’s machines
- modding of a particular console (either supplied by the student or purchased for them to work on while here)
- experiments with the Depot's upscaling and signal processing equipment and displays
- fieldwork (e.g. a trip to the old Coleco factory, which is now an office loft, or trips to local retro stores, or arcades)
- white papers on the use of particular equipment in the Depot (e.g. how to set up RF consoles like the Atari 2600 or 5200 for classroom use)
- databasing the Depot collection (now underway)
- use the collection to test media-archaeological theory against real technology
- build an emulator, like a Retropie
- build an upscaler or a Supergun (a home-made console that plays old arcade boards)
- do some online bibliographic work around retro media collections, archives and labs
Students will have access to a full range of Milieux workspaces and equipment during this period.
Readings will be circulated before the course begins (and after all students are accepted). All seminar participants will arrive having completed the readings in advance. The readings themselves will consist in part of major texts from media archaeology, material media studies, cultural technique theory and articulation theory, and in part of new work that the instructors are preparing.