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LIT 20S-02 Media Archeology: Time, Space and Techne – 1.1

January 10, 2012

LIT 20S-02: Media Archeology: Space, Time and Techne

MF 2:50-4:05pm

White 105

Syllabus up to Week 8, v.1

Course Description

From clay tablets and the stylus to word-processors and voice-recognition software; from Kythera, the ancient Greek computer, to today’s high-processing computers; from magic lanterns to digital films/videos; pottery/conches to IPods, mediation is more than what we see on our electronic screen, and media archaeology allows us to dig into both our known and less visible past to discover practices and histories of knowledge creation, archaeology, and transmissions that forms and transforms our civilization. In this course, we will discover that what we consider as disciplines and knowledge subjects are not bounded and constrained by artificially enforced delimitations. We will look at what media means within media studies, as it exists today, and at how media has always been present and in constant evolution with civilization from Sumer, Babylon to current nation-states. We will attempt to understand what media means to different groups of people across different civilizations and different knowledge traditions, exploring that demarcation between the East and West. We will learn that the history of art, history of the book, history of informational sciences, history of music and the moving image, and that of scientific instruments are all significant contributors to the history of the technology of media. We will then tie in all with the question of what constitutes the practices of ethics in media and what are the ways in which such questions are pursued. This class will study the history of media in relation to developments in the history of science and technology.

Course Outcomes

By the end of the course, you should be able to:

  1. Connect media history to an understanding of how technology and its politics shape our modern world;
  2. Identify the alignment of seemingly different histories and knowledge fields in the creation of the history of media objects;
  3. Produce a final project in an object an area of immediate interest to you while relating that to what has been learnt in the course;
  4. Able to evaluate and write critically about what that is being presented as facts and to always question the veracity of the ‘facts.’

Course Materials

Required books (you may purchase them at the Textbook stores or obtain them through other means). They will also be available on 3-hour loan at the Lilly Library.


Deep Time of the Media: Toward the Archaeology of Hearing and Seeing by Technical Means by Siegfried Zielinski.

Optical Media: Berlin Lectures 1999 by Friedrich Kittler.

Media Archaeology: Approaches, Applications and Implications eds Erkki Huhtamo and Jussi Parikka

Turing: A Novel about Computation by Christos H Papadimitriou


Literature, Media, Information Systems: Essays by Friedrich Kittler with John Johnston

Devices of Wonder: From the World in a Box to Images on a Screen by Barbara Maria Stafford and Frances Terpak.

New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader eds Wendy Chun and Thomas Keenan


All the other readings will be available on Sakai or be circulated as attachments


Learning Process and Expectations

The first half of the semester will have us going through selections of readings in the required books, including the novel, as well as look at some other reading excerpts that will be posted accordingly. At the same time, there will also be visits to the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, participation in online forums and working groups, and other workshops to be determined.  The purpose for doing so is to provide a strong theoretical and historico-factual knowledge that you can then use to work with more applications-based and interdisciplinary materials in the second-half of the semester. By Spring break, you should begin thinking about the kind of project you would like to do at the end. This will be discussed further the week before the break.

There are a number of events that will be going on in Duke during the semester whereby you will be requested to attend and then write about, such as the CHAT 2012 Festival (Feb 6-9, These events will also be good places to acquire ideas and inspirations for your final projects. Now that writing has been mentioned, this will be a good place to bring up course expectations on your end.

Each week, one of you will be posting on the topic of the week on our class public blog, taking any angle you like but still keeping to topic, by Tuesday evening before midnight, in about 500-600 words (max 800 words), and the rest of you will be required to write articulate comments in response to the post by Thurs before midnight (of about 150-200 words). Some of these posts may also be about specific ‘field-trips’ to festivals, workshops, and sites done in conjunction with the class. There will be some exceptions to the week when you will be asked to post in public discussions boards or public forums, and hence be not required to post on the blog. At the same time, you are all required to post your questions and comments on the readings of the day by noon on the day of the class. It is encouraged to keep your questions and comments concise and to the point. Comments and questions will be posted on Sakai’s class message board.

As for your mid-term writing assignment, you will be asked to hand in a 8 – 10-page response paper (double-spaced) on a particular media object (or a group of media objects) of interest to you and discuss that in relation to the readings we have done (citations of works must be included). You are not expected to produce a research paper so you are not required to include external references (though you will not be prevented from doing so if you so choose). You can use the material from your weekly postings to help you in writing the response paper. Please adhere as much as possible to the page-limit and use it as a practice in concision (overly long response papers will not be received favorably). The assignment should be printed out and handed to the instructor at the beginning of the class on Monday, Feb 20, 2012.  If you are unable to attend class on that day, please inform the instructor beforehand as late submissions will not be accepted otherwise.

For your final project, you have the choice of either writing 10 – 12-page (max 15, double-spaced) research piece in a topic that is relevant to media archeology that include ideas, thoughts and objects that have not been directly explored in class. Or, you can create a multi-modal object (webpage, physical mockups, program) that you need to provide a critical description and analyses of, in about 4-5 pages (double-spaced) of documentation. However, the objects should explore writing in some form.

No late submissions of the mid-term and final assignments will ever be accepted without notice, except in cases of extreme duress.

Tardiness in the regular postings will also result in the penalization of one-point for every day one is late (unless reasonable notice is given in advance). Try not to be late when you are the main blogger for the particular week as that will reduce the amount of time your classmates will have to read and respond properly to your post. Three weeks of consecutive tardiness in any of your posts will be counted as an equivalent to one unexcused absence.

If you would like to receive feedback for your midterm paper, please submit that to me at least 2 weeks in advance to allow for sufficient time to respond. However, this is optional.

For your final paper, you are required to submit a draft, or at least a detailed outline, of your paper 2 weeks before due date and you will have a conference as part of the feedback process and to discuss your plans for the project. On the final week of the class, we will have a small conference where you can present your final projects. On the final day of class, you will be asked to write a self-evaluation of your own progress in relation to the class. This will be counted towards your final grade.

Attendance and Class Participation

Attendance is compulsory and you must notify your instructor at all times if you ever have to miss a class (a failure to do so will result in the deduction of 2 points from your regular postings). You are only allowed to miss up to 2 days of classes without an excuse but with notification to the instructor. Beyond that, you will have to provide a medical certificate, or strong explanation for the circumstances of the absence). All unexcused absences, and absences beyond 2 days (without prior permission), will have a negative impact on your grades. Your final grade will drop by half a grade for each day of unaccounted absence beyond the two days of allowed absences. You are also expected to participate in class discussions at all times.


Grading Rubric

Attendance and Participation in class discussions 15%

Postings, comments and participation in outside class activities 30%

Mid-term   20%

Finals         35%

When your assignments are being reviewed, resourcefulness, originality, creativity in expression and thoughtfulness will be strongly taken into account. While you are not expected to understand everything that you have learned, you are expected to grapple with what you have learned, and your effort in trying to deal with questions and ideas that are difficult to you will be recognized. Also, make sure to edit your work, especially the mid-term and final assignments, as thoroughly as you can so that the typos will not detract from the clarity of your arguments.

You are expected to cite any references that you make use of for your work at all times. Research and reference help will be posted on the course site. Please abide by the honor code.

Working Schedule

Week 1

Introduction: Archaeology of Media, Anthropology of Media

For this week, we will try to grapple with the why and what of media archaeology as theory, history and critical methodology.  How do some of tools and theories in archaeology/anthropology help in ‘excavating’ and connecting the cultures of media with developments in the cultures of science, technology, art, design, and literature, and archives of knowledge.


January 11

Introduction/administrative aspect of the class

There is no reading required for today but we will be watching a film in class, and you will watch the other at your own time.

In-class watching: Inhaling the Spore: A Journey Through the Museum of Jurassic Technology

Out-of-class assignment: Landmarks of Early Film (watch by before next Monday, Jan 16).

Look under the assignment section, at the first assignment, for the guiding questions to the films.


January 13

Archaeology as Historical Science by Bruce G. Trigger. Varanasi: Department of Ancient Indian History, Culture, and Archaeology, 1985.

“Introduction: An Archaeology of Media Archaeology” in Media Archaeology: Approaches, Applications and Implications.

Week 2

Image, Sign, Movement and Sound

Understanding the important elements that constitute a media object, as well as the archive of media archaeology. This week will have more emphasis on the discussion of the readings that will also connect with the second film you’d have watched the week before.

January 16

“Technologies of the Fine Arts” in Optical Media, pp 47-69.

“Technologies of the Fine Arts” in Optical Media, 70-81 (up to “Travelling Players”)

January 20

“Optical Media” 145-155 (before “Marey and Muybridge”), 160-202 (before “Color Film”)

Optional Reading: introductory chapter of the book, “Theoretical Presuppositions.”

Week 3

Experiments, curiosities and scientific worlds

Here begins the exploration into that relationship between the history of scientific objects and ideas with media archaeology. How is science related to media? This will also be a good place to re-evaluate what you’ve observed from “Inhale the Spore.” We will also be looking at how online exhibits of these objects are being curated, and how their digital presence changes the way we study and interact with them. What new categories of knowledge (epistemology) does a digital platform construct? You should go through all the exhibits that are on the site, with particular attention to the exhibit about the microscope. We will be discussing the virtual museum in relation to our readings in class.


January 23

“Seeing and Believing: The Experimental Production of Pneumatic Facts” in Leviathan and the Air Pump by Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer.

Waywiser Harvard’s Digital Collection in the History of Science (you should also begin looking at this database collection from now).

January 27

Waywiser Harvard’s Digital Collection in the History of Science (cont’d from Mon).

“Well Connected to Your Digital Object? E-Curator: A Web-based e-Science Platform for Museum Artefacts” by Mona Hess, Francesca Simon Millar, Stuart Robson, and Sally MacDonald in Literary & Linguistics Computing, 26.2 (2011), pp 193-215.

“Objects and Contexts” by Frances Terpak in Devices of Wonder, pp 143-197.

Optional Reading: “Objects and Contexts” pp 197-220 (you may want to take a look on the section relating to microscopes.)


Week 4

Technics of Writing and Technology of Print: narrating the book and the archaeology of knowledge provenance and transmission.

This week, we will look at the theories and histories relating to the technology of the book; manuscript and print.  Also, Week 4 will extend onto the Monday of Week 5 since we will have field trip on that day


January 30

“The Ancient Book” by William Johnson in The Oxford Handbook of Papyrology, ed Roger S. Bagnall, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

“Book and Science Before Print” in Books and the Sciences in History eds Marina Frasca-Spada and Nick Jardine. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

“Printing the World” by Jerry Brotton in Books and the Sciences in History.

February 3

“Books and Bits: Texts and Technology 1970–2000” by Paul Luna in A Companion to the History of the Book. Eliot, Simon and Jonathan Rose (eds). Blackwell Publishing, 2007. Blackwell Reference Online.

“Magic and Experiment: Giovan Battista della Porta,” chapter four in Deep Time of the Media.


Optional Reading: “Google and the New Digital Future” by Robert Darnton in New York Review of Books, 2009.

February 6

[Fieldtrip]: Visit with the Rubenstein Rare Book Room. You will get to see some of the materials we will have been talking about first hand. All of you will be writing your impressions of the visit in the blog (ca 500 words). Good chance to find material for your mid-term response paper! Class will meet by the sofa area near the computers and the entrance of the von Heyden Pavillion at 2:50 and we will proceed to the beginning of our tour one of the librarians there.

Week 5, 6 and 7

Codes, Cryptography, Simulations, Softwares, Physical Computing, Security and other machines.

We will be focusing on the constitution, medium and concept of the code, and how that relates to issues of data security relating to encryption, cryptography, viral codes and built-in loopholes.  At the same time, we will also look at that relationship to softwares and physical computing. There will be one or two workshops held during this time, and you will also be asked to observe an online working group (details TBD). The specific days for particular readings may be moved to accommodate the days for the workshops once they are confirmed. There will be no specific readings for Feb 20 in light of the deadline for your midterm but we will still be doing something for class.


February 10

Turing: A Novel About Computation


Optional Reading: Turing, A.M. (1950). “Computing machinery and intelligence.”


February 13

Workshop on cryptography, cryptology and physical computing at 2nd Floor, Bay 11, Smith Warehouse.

February 17

“The Anti-Kythera Mechanism” by Jarrett A Lobell, Anthropology 2007.

“Dot-dash-diss: The Gentleman Hacker 1903 Lulz” by Paul Marks. 27 December 2011. New Scientist.

“The Style of Sources: Remarks on the Theory and History of Programming Languages” by Wolfgang Hagen in New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader.

“Archives of Software – Malicious Code and the Aesthesis of Media Accidents” by Jussi Parikka in The Spam Book: On Viruses, Porn, and Other Anomalies From the Dark Side of Digital Culture eds Jussi Parikka and Tony D Sampson, eds. Cresskill: Hampton Press, Inc, 2009.

Have a browse through


Optional Reading: “The Anti-Kythera Mechanism: A Computer Science Perspective” by Diomidis Spinellis in IEEE Computer Society


February 20

No readings. Activity to be determined.

February 24

 “Objects of our Affection: How Object Orientation Made Computers a Medium” by Casey Alt in Media Archaeology.

“Mutant and Viral: Artificial Evolution and Software Ecology” by John Johnston in The Spam Book: On Viruses, Porn, and Other Anomalies From the Dark Side of Digital

Watch the videos in If you have no time to go through all, focus on the talks by Mark Marino, Matthew Kirschenbaum,  Lev Manovich, and Rita Raley.

Week 8

Deep Time in the Machine

For this week, we will round up the first half of the semester by revisiting some of the theories of media archaeology, and the media artifacts we have examined, by connecting them with the concept of the machine, space and time. This opens up a discussion into the question of media geography and ethics in relation to the media machine.

Feb 27


March 2


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