What strikes me most about our introduction to Media Archaeology is the materiality, the physical and tangible existence of objects that become the basis of such studies. I cannot say I am surprised, the methodology of archaeology focuses on the investigation of material history preserved over time, but this perspective feels contradictory to my usual mode of thought. Through the study of science fiction I dwell on the intangible and the speculative. For me the most pertinent section of reading this week, then, was Parikka’s third chapter “Imaginary Media: Mapping Weird Objects.” If part of Parrika’s efforts is to establish a non-linear understanding of technological history then I find we equally need to be critical of our present position in time.
We find ourselves placed in a particular moment, past behind and future ahead, but due to human perception of the linear progression of time some media move from imaginary to actualized. Parikka concedes to this possibility that “what was once imaginary might have become part of reality later” (44) and that with “hindsight, imagination does not always seem that imaginary or impossible” (45). While science fiction is referenced occasionally in this chapter, it appears to me that speculative fiction can be a great source for imagining alternative constructions of the often linearly defined technological history. If “media-archaeological work puts the spectator/user/viewer into a new relation with the imaginary, and hence forces us to engage creatively with the presence of media – new and old, imagined and real” (Parikka 43), then the fiction and speculation of science fiction can help imagine new possibilities, conceptualize social constructions and reactions to imagined media, and provide insight into which technological avenues to explore in our exponentially modernizing society.
Parikka modifies Zizek’s thought experiment to remove elements of horror from horror films to reveal social relations to apply to imaginary media: “remove the imaginary, remove the supposedly fantastic or otherworldly, and see what is revealed” (58), a methodology routinely applied to science fiction studies. Looking beneath the confines of “real,” “actual,” or even “thinkable,” fluid constraints that appear to be particular to the historical moment we are caught in, science fiction and imagined media represents contemporary human concerns and ambitions. We are able to read more into the social, cultural, and economic meditations expressed through the speculative imagination engaged to create such fantastical objects. In doing so we can see the divergent paths available to humanities future. What is listed as imaginary or fictional today may be the reality of tomorrow.