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Code and Clay, Data and Dirt

Five Thousand Years of Urban Media

2017
Author:

Shannon Mattern

Code and Clay, Data and Dirt

A breathtaking tour through thousands of years of urban life and its attendant technologies, rewriting the history of our cities

Offering powerful new ways of thinking about our cities, Shannon Mattern goes far beyond the historical concepts of origins, development, revolutions, and the accomplishments of an elite few. Her vivid prose leads readers through a historically and geographically broad range of stories and takes media archaeology to the city’s streets, revealing new ways to write our urban, media, and cultural histories.

Code and Clay, Data and Dirt has style and method, originality and purpose. Each dig into this exceptional work has brought pleasure and scholarly respect.

Malcolm McCullough, author of Digital Ground

For years, pundits have trumpeted the earthshattering changes that big data and smart networks will soon bring to our cities. But what if cities have long been built for intelligence, maybe for millennia? In Code and Clay, Data and Dirt Shannon Mattern advances the provocative argument that our urban spaces have been “smart” and mediated for thousands of years.

Offering powerful new ways of thinking about our cities, Code and Clay, Data and Dirt goes far beyond the standard historical concepts of origins, development, revolutions, and the accomplishments of an elite few. Mattern shows that in their architecture, laws, street layouts, and civic knowledge—and through technologies including the telephone, telegraph, radio, printing, writing, and even the human voice—cities have long negotiated a rich exchange between analog and digital, code and clay, data and dirt, ether and ore.

Mattern’s vivid prose takes readers through a historically and geographically broad range of stories, scenes, and locations, synthesizing a new narrative for our urban spaces. Taking media archaeology to the city’s streets, Code and Clay, Data and Dirt reveals new ways to write our urban, media, and cultural histories.

Code and Clay, Data and Dirt

Shannon Mattern is associate professor in the School of Media Studies at The New School in New York. She is author of The New Downtown Library: Designing with Communities and Deep Mapping the Media City, both from Minnesota.

Code and Clay, Data and Dirt

Code and Clay, Data and Dirt has style and method, originality and purpose. Each dig into this exceptional work has brought pleasure and scholarly respect.

Malcolm McCullough, author of Digital Ground

Code and Clay, Data and Dirt is a vital new contribution to media archaeology. Using multisensory, archival, and speculative methods, this book’s riveting journey through the deep time of media explores how cities inscribe, transmit, perform, and reverberate. Responding to the current fascination with big data and smart cities, Shannon Mattern powerfully demonstrates that cities have always been sites of urban intelligence.

Lisa Parks, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

This is highly synthetic and sophisticated work, and Shannon Mattern is generous to her readers, serving as an informed guide to a complex past. She pushes us to a rich archaeological encounter with the layered presence of the past, as well as its vanished remains and traces, to think about ways of reading the world in its full artifactuality. The book is a wonderfully vivid account and analysis of the intersections of media technologies and urban landscapes.

Johanna Drucker, University of California, Los Angeles

Shannon Mattern has long been a go-to source for provocative and insightful accounts of cities and media, and cities as media. Now at last we have her book-length, cultural materialist history of mediated cities, and it is wonderful. Beautifully written and genuinely interdisciplinary, Code and Clay, Data and Dirt will be required reading for anyone interested in understanding the media's temporal and geographical urban entanglements.

Gillian Rose, University of Oxford

Code and Clay, Data and Dirt

Contents
Introduction: Ether/Ore
1. Waves and Wires: Cities of Electric Sound
2. Steel and Ink: The Printed City
3. Of Mud, Media, and the Metropolis: Aggregating Histories of Writing and Urbanization
4. Speaking Stones: Voicing the City
Conclusion: Coding Urban Pasts and Futures
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index