I have attempted to rehash our discussion on class on Tuesday (2/18/2014) from my notes. Mostly, I have tried to express our observations, notations, and readings of Siegfried Zielinski’s variantology as expressed in Deep Time of the Media: Toward an Archaeology of Hearing and Seeing by Technical Means.
Why don’t we encounter variantological approaches to media studies more often? Certainly, implementing or even discussing variantology is quite difficult. Individually, it seemed that we were able to comprehend the arguments in Zielinski’s text, but alone we were unable to synthesize how one might implement variantology within this archaeological reading of media. Collectively, we worked through identifying how one might seek to read media through such a variantology. The rift of time, Deep Time, might seemingly hinder such an approach. By working to identify a certain set of similarities within a given set, rather than the differences, we might lay the groundwork identifying a clear framework. In chapter 9, figure 9.1 shows a complicated map, a ‘cartography for an archaeology of media;’ this chart appears to complicate this map—indicating that our traditional approaches to reading media cannot always tell the clear narrative we desire. Rather, there is no need to construct a linear narrative that ties together points of interest within an archaeology of media. By focusing on these similarities we may avoid constructing a narrative to fit our expectations—we avoid cognitive biases that want to find logical progression in technology and neatly construct narrative readings that connect each point to the next. We decided to overlay this argument on a concrete example—we looked no further than our surroundings: the Media Archaeology Lab. Since Zielinski encourages us to embrace our readings of media and technology with open curiosity rather than judgment, we looked at the materials on the walls and tables surrounding us. Although there is some sense of chronology in the MAL’s layout, it remains primarily structured around the requirements of the researchers. When accessing the database on the MAL’s website (http://mediaarchaeologylab.com/), we can see that every item on the website is described with labels in a certain metadata scheme. Descriptions of hardware (RAM, Year of Release, Manufacturer, etc.) identify values that link each system with another, rather than ascribe difference. Such a system is practical since it identifies information that researchers have desired in the MAL. Such a system also allows a user to search the database by metadata field, rather than chronology, corporate affiliation, or any number of other ‘traditional’ classification approaches. Though difficult, our discussion helped us as a collective to identify an alternate mode of organizing archaeologies of media and understand how real systems may embrace such values in their database systems. Moreover, we keep an open mind now to the question: how might Zielinski’s approach be more accessible in the digital age in such institutions at the Media Archaeology Lab?