While reading Parikka’s chapter on Media Theory and New Materialism, I found myself questioning his assertion (or rather Kittler’s) that we are subject to “new technological and physical regimes introduced by media” (loc 1661), systems to which “we have to accommodate ourselves in order to be functioning subjects” (loc 1661). Tempting as it is to recognize how my own thinking and writing conform to the media to which I’m subject – I’m thinking of traditional scholarly publication formats in particular – I wonder if this argument accounts for technologies and alternative forms of media that resist the power structures Parikka describes. I suppose you could argue that by emerging through resistance they technically arise in response to those structures, but I think there’s an important difference here between resistance versus submission.
To illustrate this, I look at the emergence of melodrama, pantomime, and other alternative theatrical productions in 18th century Britain.* While certainly subject to the “regimes of sensation and use” (loc 1661) of the period, writers and producers of alternative stage productions helped to usher in variations on traditional drama by working around the rules governing theatrical media. The manuscripts of spoken plays, for instance, were subject to state censorship, so producers of melodrama and pantomime often wrote their works in song to avoid having them subject to this restriction. Additionally, there were only 2 theaters in London permitted to perform drama, so a number of venues instead produced what Jane Moody calls “illegitimate theatre,” forms like melodrama and pantomime which did not strictly count as drama. While these hybrid dramatic forms arose in response to restrictions imposed by “protocols…of which our technical media systems are made” (loc 1661) – which I understand to be the limits and restrictions of print technology, as well as performance – they seem to arise as methods of resistance, rather than conformity.
I wonder, then, if all forms of variation in media technologies are acts of resistance. In my future work in media archeology, I look forward to being challenged and confused by technologies that diverge from technological standards, or at least those with which I’ve been subject.
*I apologize to Renee and Kyle, and anyone else who took the Romantic Drama seminar with me last semester, as I’m sure you’re tired of hearing about this.