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Buried Media: Archaeologies, Histories, Practices

Sat, May 27, 8:00 to 9:15, Hilton San Diego Bayfront, Floor: 4, Sapphire 410A

Session Submission Type: Panel


Media archaeology has been understood as theory and method for reading “old” media alongside “new” media, excavating pre-existing experiences and uses of media and mediation to shed new light on both past and present. Parikka discusses media archaeology as a method that inherently recognizes the non-linearity of media history. Instead, it emphasizes alternate routes and uncovers forgotten or neglected texts and technologies. ‘Buried media’ is aligned with the aims of media archeology, but also reverses a central move within this approach: rather than study how technologies and practices may ‘resurface,’ we focus here on how the material and conceptual ‘layering’ within media cultures is produced, and the productive powers of such layering itself. Buried media in this sense can refer to obsolete media, broken links, lost historical narratives, physical infrastructures out of sight, intransparent calculative or algorithmic operations, but also infrastructural media which contribute to the functionality of other media.

Each paper seeks to understand the cultural, economic, imaginative and political work of buried media. What are the power relations that shape dormant network infrastructure, buried cables that remain “always-off”? What kinds of layering are assumed and neglected in current software preservation efforts? What is the cultural work of metaphors of buried ‘time capsules’ in digital archiving? How do buried flows of sensory data impact not only how we use and experience apps but how this use may be preserved and studied? As a collection, these papers present four distinct approaches to the interpretation of media that is buried under physical, metaphorical, or ideological ground.

The intervention of buried media reframes communication history not as a practice of surfacing but enfolding, where meaning is derived from the practices and processes of layering and not the uncovering. Retracing, following and enfolding buried media does not aim at creating transparency but allows to account for media histories, practices and operations as distributed accomplishment. Exploring buried media thus asks media archaeologists to explore what is looked over, forgotten, beyond the surface, or not in insight. However, buried media may also refer to methodological challenges, re-calibrating a sensitivity towards sources, data and perspectives which are otherwise passed over or appear too complicated to attend to.

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