Media Archeology

Table of Contents

    Media Archeology
    Media Archeology

    Here is an interesting article about media archeology, also known as digital archeology, found while random hopping through the Russian Wikipedia. The article talks about media archeology and how archeologists can study media such as blog posts, movies, and other formats to understand the past. In the future, archeologists may not dig up old pottery shards as much as sift through obsolete electronic media archives. Sites such as Youtube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter may become treasure troves of archeological media, much like unearthing the tomb of Tutankhamen or the ruins of the Roman Empire.

    Media Archeology of Electronic Media


    What is media archeology?

    Media archeology is a branch of science that uses specific methods of studying media through the prism of historical development. There are different points of view on the exact definition of the term.

    The essential purpose of this discipline is seen in the possibility of predicting the future based on historical experience. This is particularly noted by the candidate of philosophical sciences Stepanov MA . In his opinion, the practical application of media archeology is to search for “forms and tactics of different visions of the future” among the “informational rubbish” from the past.

    The subject of media archeology according to the definition of the anthology “Media archeology: approaches, applications, meaning”: “archeology of media is a ‘nomadic’ discipline, and this allows it to easily move across the landscape of the humanities and social sciences, also capturing the territory of art.”

    History of the Media Archeology concept

    The origins of this discipline and the articulation of its essential purpose are usually associated with the works of Friedrich Kitler in the second half of the 20th century. In particular, with his doctoral dissertation “Writing Systems” [3], where for the first time the question of the coherence of the qualitative properties of technical media on the literature of the 19th century, as well as the peculiarities of writing and related practices, is actualized.

    In the future, his works develop these provisions. “Gramophone, Film, Typewriter” is devoted directly to technical features influencing the development of media technologies. The exponential growth of technological achievements of mankind, the transformation of the visual environment has caused an increase in the interest of researchers in the field of media in general. Along with this, media archeology received further development in the works of Z. Tsilinski, E. Huhtamo at the end of the 20th century. [1]

    It is also necessary to note the significant influence of the work of one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century, Michel Foucault. Scientific comprehension of his fundamental project “archeology of knowledge” made it possible to divide in more detail the archeology of media according to the criteria of form and content, forming autonomous ways of studying problems.

    Media Archeology - Digging Through Digital Fossils
    Media Archeology – Digging Through Digital Fossils

    For Anglo-American researchers, it seemed more rational to highlight the socio-cultural component, along with the development of the role of discourses in culture. On the other hand, German scientists drew attention to the form of media, its technical features and other material conditions “The famous phrase of McLuhan -” the medium is this message “split into two components: the analysis of the medium itself and the message.” [1]

    At the beginning of the 21st century, there is a tendency towards the crystallization of media archeology among other sciences. This is confirmed by the growing number of scientific works on this topic, the expansion of the conceptual apparatus and the involvement of an increasing number of researchers. [1]


    In modern science, there is no single established opinion regarding the essential content of the term media archeology. So Erkki Huhtamo gives the following definition: “The archeology of media is a view of media culture not only through the prism of the past, present and future, but in the interconnection of all times. It is a way to tie all these time layers together and explain them through each other. ”[4]

    It is also important to note that he tends to interpret the meaning of the term broadly – including, for example, ethical issues, in particular personal space, in the field of media archeology. The argumentation provides a position on the presence of certain patterns in the development of media technologies and their cyclical nature.

    Jussi Parikkaya gives a somewhat different definition: “[the boundaries of the term] are open and the ‘discipline’ is fueled by the active interaction of various fields like film research and cultural studies, cultural techniques and archive theory, art history, influenced by natural sciences, each of which gives a special understanding media archeology as a critical method ”.

    In addition, it is important to understand the conventionality of division and dichotomous approaches to understanding media archeology. For example, the point of view of German researchers can be criticized from the point of view of materialistic determinism. The most urgent problem is the study of the scientific methodology of media archeology.

    Thus, a number of researchers, in particular Siegfried Zilinski, advocate for the “anarchist” traditions of media archeology, refusing to recognize and accept the essential questions regarding various ways of research inherent in science and their methodological limitations. Media archaeologists Erkki Huhtamo and Jussi Parikka, advocating a single methodologically verified concept, see this as a problem and propose a single version of terminology, criticizing the practice of Siegfried Tsilinski, which does not agree with the existing works.

    Video on Media Archeology

    Media Archeology Phenomenon in Western Culture

    The main modern representatives are working in this direction: Siegfried Zilinski, Erki Huhtamo, Jussi Parika, Wolfgang Ernst, as well as many other scientists who can be called media archaeologists, although they have never declared themselves as such, such as, for example, Oliver Grau, specialist in media art or Alexander Galloway. [1]

    Media archeology has made a significant contribution to understanding the authenticity of already existing cultural phenomena. In April 2004, F. Kittler and V. Ernst, who is also a specialist in the field of media archeology, led a “sound archaeological expedition” to the Li Galli Islands. The purpose of the expedition was to assess the reliability of Odysseus’s story about the songs of the sirens. Several experiments were carried out with people and with technical devices. It turned out that the consonants could not be heard at all even in calm water, so Odysseus would have to leave the ship to hear the song of the sirens. [5]

    Many topical issues of our time will require a new analysis from the side of media archeology in the future. Probably, from a media-archaeological point of view, it will be possible to consider various systems of control that societies use. [6] For example, “writing between the lines” can be meaningful from a completely new perspective.

    Original is from here and is available under the Creative Commons license.

    By Translator Mike



    Why learn another language when we can bring you lousy translations!