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Digital Memory and the Archive

2012
Author:

Wolfgang Ernst
Edited and with an Introduction by Jussi Parikka

Digital Memory and the Archive

Explores how media infrastructure, not content, shapes contemporary digital culture

Digital Memory and the Archive, the first English-language collection of the German media theorist’s work, brings together essays that present Wolfgang Ernst’s controversial materialist approach to media theory and history. His insights are central to the emerging field of media archaeology, which uncovers the role of specific technologies and mechanisms, rather than content, in shaping contemporary culture and society.

Digital Memory and the Archive offers the most compelling and insightful account published to date of how and why objects matter. Moving beyond textual analysis, its careful, theoretically rigorous engagement with the relic—the physicality of the archive—promises to change the direction of the digital humanities. Thanks to this book, we will all now be addressing the microtemporality of archives and the mechanics of remaining. Finally, a definitive collection in English of one of the most brilliant and influential media archaeologists.

Wendy Hui Kyong Chun

In the popular imagination, archives are remote, largely obsolete institutions: either antiquated, inevitably dusty libraries or sinister repositories of personal secrets maintained by police states. Yet the archive is now a ubiquitous feature of digital life. Rather than being deleted, e-mails and other computer files are archived. Media software and cloud storage allow for the instantaneous cataloging and preservation of data, from music, photographs, and videos to personal information gathered by social media sites.

In this digital landscape, the archival-oriented media theories of Wolfgang Ernst are particularly relevant. Digital Memory and the Archive, the first English-language collection of the German media theorist’s work, brings together essays that present Ernst’s controversial materialist approach to media theory and history. His insights are central to the emerging field of media archaeology, which uncovers the role of specific technologies and mechanisms, rather than content, in shaping contemporary culture and society.

Ernst’s interrelated ideas on the archive, machine time and microtemporality, and the new regimes of memory offer a new perspective on both current digital culture and the infrastructure of media historical knowledge. For Ernst, different forms of media systems—from library catalogs to sound recordings—have influenced the content and understanding of the archive and other institutions of memory. At the same time, digital archiving has become a contested site that is highly resistant to curation, thus complicating the creation and preservation of cultural memory and history.

Digital Memory and the Archive

Wolfgang Ernst is chair of media theories at Humboldt University, Berlin. He is the author of several books, including most recently M.edium F.oucault, Das Rumoren der Archive, Im Namen von Geschichte, Das Gesetz des Gedächtnisses: Medien und Archive am Ende, and Chronopoetik.

Jussi Parikka is reader in media and design at the Winchester School of Art (UK) and adjunct professor at the University of Turku in Finland. His books include Insect Media (Minnesota, 2010) and What Is Media Archaeology?

Digital Memory and the Archive

Digital Memory and the Archive offers the most compelling and insightful account published to date of how and why objects matter. Moving beyond textual analysis, its careful, theoretically rigorous engagement with the relic—the physicality of the archive—promises to change the direction of the digital humanities. Thanks to this book, we will all now be addressing the microtemporality of archives and the mechanics of remaining. Finally, a definitive collection in English of one of the most brilliant and influential media archaeologists.

Wendy Hui Kyong Chun

This book is critical for those interested in the creation of preservation of cultural memory and history. Other works have examined the theoretical challenges of studying digital culture... but only Ernst offers a philosophically textured and comprehensive understanding of this subject via an accessible narrative style.

CHOICE

Digital Memory and the Archive

Contents

Archival Media Theory: An Introduction to Wolfgang Ernst’s Media Archaeology
Jussi Parikka
Media Archaeology as a Trans-Atlantic Bridge

Part I. The Media Archaeological Method
1. Let There Be Irony: Cultural History and Media Archaeology in Parallel Lines
2. Media Archaeography: Method and Machine versus History and Narrative of Media

Part II. From Temporality to the Multimedial Archive
3. Underway to the Dual System: Classical Archives and Digital Memory
4. Archives in Transition: Dynamic Media Memories
5. Between Real Time and Memory on Demand: Reflections on Television
6. Discontinuities: Does the Archive Become Metaphorical in Multi-Media Space?

Part III. Microtemporal Media
7. Telling versus Counting: A Media-Archaeological Point of View
8. Distory: 100 Years of Electron Tubes, Media-Archaeologically Interpreted vis-à-vis 100 Years of Radio
9. Towards a Media Archaeology of Sonic Articulations
10. Experimenting Media‐Temporality: Pythagoras, Hertz, Turing

Appendix. Archive Rumblings: An Interview with Wolfgang Ernst
Geert Lovink

Acknowledgments
Notes
Publication History
Index