Jussi Parikka’s What is Media Archaeology? made me feel better about my considerable collection of obsolete bric-a-brac and flea market-finds that clutters my apartment. Maybe I have been collecting ephemera out of an interest in how the present and past complicate and reflect upon one another, and not out of a minor hoarding habit. Maybe.
Parikka’s conceptualization of media archaeology as a non-linear network of interactive pasts, presents, and potential pasts and presents, evoked a sense of spatial and temporal limitlessness and connectedness, which I found to be quite an incredible and inspiring concept. I thought the beginning and ending of Parikka’s book were the most effective parts, because, in my opinion, those parts maintained a streamlined focus on what media archaeology is, how it manifests itself in our contemporary society, and how it has manifested itself in the past. Some of the middle material, while informative, seemingly fell victim to what Parikka referred to as his desire to “have [his] cake and eat it too,” a desire to include a vast array of “the best ideas” from social-constructionist and German-media theory. The ideas were relevant, but I found myself wondering whether the theoretically-based, textualized form that this book takes is the most effective means for answering the very question that forms the title of Parikka’s book.
For example, when Parikka discusses the various artistic representations of media archaeology, I felt let down because I was not given easy access to experiencing those works of art for myself. I feel that the format of the written word, even with the inclusion of pictures, is too limiting for this subject matter, and that perhaps a more interactive and multimedia-friendly format would have been more appropriate. For me, a digital tour of a media archive, or a look at some detailed pictures or videos of artistic renditions of media archaeology, would have perhaps illuminated the concept of media archaeology just as well, or perhaps even better, than Parikka’s book, with its emphasis on theory, managed to do. But, at the same time, my reaction speaks to my bias against theoretical works, as I am the type of learner who benefits most from tangible examples and physical rootedness within contemporary life.
I am realizing that this blog post sounds rather negative and critical, but all in all I found Parikka’s book to be quite inspiring, and I think he has given me an entirely new way to view the world.