About media archeology, (in)security, data analysis and anomalies. In dialogue with Jussi Parikka

Rareș Iordache: We live in a information or data culture…I like to say information-data culture, which makes possible our transformation: we are now analysts, data analysts. Can this be placed in connexion with your media archeology? I saw your recent conference in Istanbul, where you talk about the visibility and memory of such events as those from Gezy park. This is about how we became media archivists and analysts…intelligence analyst in a culture of tehnological remediation

Jussi Parikka: Software has reached a new visibility with some important public cases of past years: Wikileaks for instance has raised issues of information leaks on the public agenda, similarly as the recent Snowden revelations have demonstrated the extent to which data is a gateway to the private sphere. Data leaks and our knowledge about our own data dependency is now even more underlined. People on a much wider level, not just specialists, are realizing the specific nature of software systems, from email to online platforms. And it is not a nice picture we are discovering, rather different from the imaginary dreams we were sold in cyber culture commercials.

Media archaeology has been a methodology to investigate new media cultures through the old. It has deliberately wanted to challenge the emphasis on the digital and the new. Instead media archaeology has been keener to look at the old as the more fresh, new way of understanding media technologies. Indeed, in the quirky pasts, one finds often more innovative case studies than in the bland corporate discourses that characterize majority of our digital culture of marketing and surveillance.

Media archaeology can however also be seen as an attitude to dig under the surface: to develop a hacktivist interest in how systems work, and how we can descend deeper into the layers of the machine in order to understand how technology conditions behavior. It is in this sense we can cultivate an archaeological attitude to the conditions of knowledge inside the machines too. In social media and “big data” culture, it means excavations to the software and hardware realms in which data about ourselves circulates. And why stop in software and hardware? Why not continue by discussing and analyzing the environmental effects and ecological burden media technologies of networks pose? For instance through cloud computing and its energy demands!

R.I.: In Digital Contagions you rediscover the virus with an diachronic perspective combined with his location into the (in)security culture. Sure, we can talk about informationalism, data culture, template culture, society of risk, etc., but virus seems to be a transgressive entity. From viruses and worms, and the early analysis on this framework via Cohen, we are abble to discuss about viral into web 2.0 or web 3.0. On the other hand, in your recent book you came into the noise and accidents fields, cartographies, alghoritms and digital heritage. Can we discover any approach bettwen thw works or it is a kind of further research?

J.P.: I am interested in the anomalous as an alternative perspective to digital culture. I pitched my Digital Contagions as an alternative history of network culture: one that starts from the accident and the seemingly harmful scum entity, not the progress stories of stevejobs’ and others corporate innovators that are being celebrated now as ruthless gurus of the entertainment information culture. It is in this context that I continued writing about spam (in The Spam Book, co-edited with Tony Sampson) and for instance noise. I wanted to map the notion of noise outside its use in sound, and in relation to communication: what is the element of noise that is the excluded third (in Michel Serres’ terminology) but hence persists as part of any communication event? We always communicate in the presence of noise, but what is counted as noise keeps on changing from the environmental to the political. Cyberwar is now a constantly discussed topic with nation states investing heavily in cyber defence. It has longer roots, part of the discourses of (in)security of several decades: this is the media archaeology of security in the age of corporate digitality.

R.I.: What do you think about this preparation to translate web 2.0 into web 3.0. Can this kind of web grammar adjust the chaos from cyberspace? And if it is a kind of translation, would be a negative one, because every translated text is a bad one (Sur la traduction, Ricoeur).

J.P: I am cynical of any branding of webs such as web 2.0 or web 3.0 It is emblematic of the way in which corporate jargon infiltrates our vocabulary of internet culture. Perhaps that is indeed a way of trying to weed out the unwanteds from online and network culture. This relates to attempts to try to create the internet into a safe zone which however is undermined by such revelations as the NSA prism…well, it just underlines that the state has not disappeared, safety and security are issues where national interests meet up with corporate ones, and the net is governed through nation state interests that are an extension of other sorts of realpolitik that we see in various energy wars in Middle-East and Africa, for instance. Mining and data mining are two key businesses of our age – persistently.

R.I.: In present it is very difficult to be original, to write something relevant for current culture, for this situation in passage. Philosophy is included in this trend, too. You combined virology, cibernetic, computer science with deleuzo-quattarian writings, with a kind of resuscitation of Tarde (via Tony Sampson), with the sociological point of view about culture (Castells and his informationalism), etc. What’s next? I mean, it is necessary to make updates and to conceive new research fields, but there is a huge gap between traditional domains and new disciplines. Can we recover a traditional theory from philosophy, for example, into a related new field?

J.P.: Contemporary philosophical field is so much wanting to discover a new Big Thing, a new trend or so. This is partly because of the celebrity and spectacle system penetrating academia, and in this way, part of the marketing logic through which university disciplines are expected to work. Producing something new is the key requirement. But there is a long tradition in crossing discplines, whether in media arts (crossing borders of media/art/technology/science reaches back thousands of years, as Siegfried Zielinski keeps on demonstrating in his work on variantology). I am not sure what traditional means! Actually a lot of the current work IS traditional in the sense that despite the rheotirical insistence on cross disciplinary work not many university systems are ready for radically experimental work. Universities are deeply conservative so often, especially when they in management and business school style try to constantly talk of “disruption”, “innovation” and “the digital”.

In any case, in our theory discussions what I am interested in are genealogies as well. We need to be aware of predecessors and influences, and not write out important traditions. Tradition should not suffocate, but enable. I am interested in expanding the media archaeological spirit to theory as well: what are the lost paths of the past, the forgotten ideas, the cross disciplinary perversions that need to be resurrected?

R.I: In What is Media Archaeology? You discuss about German media theory. Geert Lovink discuss, also, about how relevant can be german media theory for our research and culture, but isn’t so accessible. Are some common lines between you and Lovink?

J.P: Yes, lots. Geert Lovink is one of the most important commentators of this field and someone who is able to look at it from the outside. Lovink makes great observations. His position is more geared toward network culture analysis, mine is more about media archaeology. We both emphasize the necessity of more translations – it is clear that the Anglosphere is not going to sign up on German language courses en-masse just to read that sort of theory! Hence, there is a need for more good translations. I am involved in such work with a new book series I am co-editing with Geoffrey Winthrop-Young and Anna Tuschling. Also Lovink is on the advisory board. It will be launched in the near future, and promises very good, very significant German theorists translated into English. I won’t mention too much as the official launch is forthcoming but in short it is a book series about German media theory. It however wants to make it more international – to offer variations on the themes of media materialism, media archaeology and for instance cultural techniques, another concept that stems from this theory tradition influenced by Friedrich Kittler, but not reducible to his work.

R.I: Tell about your current and future project?

J.P.: Besides this book series, which I am excited about I am involved in various projects. One relates to ecological and geological contexts of media, another one to the work of the pioneering Finnish media artist Erkki Kurenniemi. I am also writing about some theoretical cross breeding: how to make Italian political theory talk with German media theory? In other words, how to find a more political angle to the media-specific analysis that the material media theory often coming from German speaking language areas offers. And how to pump up the hardware levels of the fabulous political vocabulary offered by theorists such as Lazzarato, Bifo and others. These are to me burning questions that I want to dig into.

Jussi Parikka este un teoretician media, scriitor şi îşi desfăşoară activitatea academică la Winchester School of Art (University of Southampton). Parikka are un doctorat în Istorie Culturală la Universitatea din Turku, Finlanda, şi este docent în Teoria Culturii Digitale la Universitatea Turku, Finlanda. Parikka a publicat pe teme precum cultura digitală, arhive şi cultura vizuală, societatea reţelei şi teoria media. Cercetările sale pe arheologia media i-au adus reputaţia internaţională şi câteva premii. De axemplu, cartea sa Insect Media (2010) a câştigat în 2012 premiul Anne Friedberg pentru bursă inovatoare. Mai multe detalii despre Parikka puteţi găsi pe site-ul său oficial.

Rareş Iordache este editorul proiectului VV – hybridmedia, autor, doctor în filosofie al Universităţii Babeş-Bolyai și jurnalist. A coordonat revista academică Irregular F şi scrie în mod regulat pentru mai multe reviste naţionale şi internaţionale. A publicat cartea experimentală Imersiune în virtual. Dincolo de graniţele ecranului. Teza sa de doctorat este: Viralitatea în virtual. Introducere în teoria viralului.

Acest interviu a fost publicat pe Liternet, traduc în limba română. Ceea ce regăsiți aici sunt frânturi din discuțiile originale purtate cu Jussi Parikka.

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