Monday, 30 November 2009

PhD studentship possibility in digital culture, media archaeology etc. related topics

Research Studentships

Faculty of Arts, Law and Social Sciences

In the recent Research Assessment Exercise the Faculty of Arts, Law and Social Sciences achieved outstanding success, with four subject areas rated as having ‘world leading’ research, five subjects as having ‘international’ level research and History and English being rated among the best in the country. As a result we are pleased to be able to offer the following studentship:

Communication, Film and Media

1 fees-only studentship.

Any area including: Digital and Network Culture, Media Archaeology, Technoculture, Violence and Contemporary Cinema, Horror film, Spectatorship.

Application forms should be downloaded from

and completed quoting ‘HR online studentship’ on the application form. Applications must be submitted, with a covering letter, no later than 4th January 2010.

Queries in the first instance to: Helen Jones, 0845 196 2475,


• The start date is February or September 2010.

• Overseas applicants are welcome to apply but are required to pay the difference between the Home//EU fees and the overseas rate.

• Applicants should hold a Masters degree awarded by a UK university, or an overseas Masters of equivalent standard, provided that the Masters degree is in an appropriate cognate area and that the Masters degree includes training in research and the execution of a research project. Applicants who hold a first or upper second class degree may also be considered.

• Students for whom English is not their first language must meet our required minimum level of English language proficiency (IELTS 6.5 in all skills, or equivalent).

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

From Cybertext to Produsage. Functioning and Production of Digital Texts

ArcDigital and Cultures of the Digital Economy (CoDE) institute guest talk:

From Cybertext to Produsage. Functioning and Production of Digital Texts
By Dr Robert Arpo, Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences

Monday 30/11, 16.00-17.30
Anglia Ruskin University, East Road, Cambridge
Room: Helmore 252

Norwegian Espen Aarseth formulated his theory of cybertext and ergodic literature in mid 1990´s and focused his attention on how user, verbal sign and medium form a textual machine called cybertext. His point of view to the digital texts was user oriented, but the user was seen as an individual reader, whose actions were in the center of textual meaning construction.

Australian Axel Bruns has been formulating his theory of produsage recently and in context of so called social media. Bruns´s point of view raises questions on collective production of digital texts and is linked strongly to the dynamics of participatory economy.

When we look at theories of Aarseth and Bruns, they show us the changes in thinking on digital cultures. Technologies give nowadays users much more freedom to produce their own digital contents whereas in 1990´s user did not have access to for example source code of a publication platform like now the situation is with open access applications. Freedom brings also the need for taking responsibility of one´s own actions. Produser cultures are good examples of ways to control, direct and negotiate practices and principles in collective digital content production communities.

Robert Arpo, Ph.D. is principal lecturer in MA programme for media production and management, Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Finland. His research interests are in the area of virtual communities, digital dialogue, theories of information society and social media.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

The tick and the tack of digital culture

Close your eyes and listen to your computer. Its an audio device as well, and a machine of hissing, churning and various other noises we do not pay attention to. The information technology revolution started with a smoothing rhythmic pattern, as you can listen here, listening to the reconstructed Colossus mark 2:


The soundtrack for the emerging information culture?

Friday, 20 November 2009

Wolfgang Ernst in Cambridge talk -- Media archaeology

We had the pleasure of hosting a talk (November 18, 2009) by professor Wolfgang Ernst from Humboldt University Berlin, who is not only someone who is continuing the spirit of the almost legendary Sophienstrasse 23 address (where Kittler worked as well) but is as much a representative of the new wave of German media theory that still remains to a large extent to be translated. It is rare to hear these German scholars in Anglo-American contexts so our ArcDigital talk was even more significant in this sense of really tapping into what is new and fresh in international media studies.

Ernst’s talk on media archaeology as a method and a theory really introduced the various radical implications that his brand of doing media archaeology has. I have already before pointed towards the points about “operative diagrammatics” or media history that his take on the past and present media encompasses, and the talk outlined well the positions --- even provocative – where he wants to place media studies. What the audience was left with was a number of positions and claims/challenges to tackle. To me, these include:

1) media studies is not only cultural studies, or even cultural technics, but something Ernst wants to brand as cultural engineering. Media studies should be an exact science, not (only?) about semantics and semiotics as he provoked but leaning towards the mathematical conditions of our techno-condition. I.e. media studies curricula should include mathematics. The only way to understand digital media, or technical media more generally, is to understand how it puts mathematics into operation, makes formulas into commands, and how engineering routes and automates so many functions that we mistake as human.

2) Media archaeology is processual, it focuses on the time-critical processes which engineer our lives. This means that media archaeology does not tap only to the past but can dedicate itself to opening up technologies in an artistic vein. Ernst’s examples of media archaeological arts were actually less about artists working with historical material than about hardware hacking, open software and circuit bending. Media archaeology is hence also about microtemporal processes. For an example on such media artistic practices, see the Microresearch lab in Berlin.

3) Arche is not only the beginning but in the Derridean sense a command as well. Archaeology as the beginning of our techno-condition is an active command, perhaps execution in the software sense, of orders, procedures and patterns/routines. Ritualistic but not in the human-religious sense, perhaps?

4) Media archaeology does not narrate, it counts. Because machines do not narrate, they count. Counting, algorithmics etc. precede narration.

5) So why not just relegate media archaeology as part of sciences faculties? Because it is still interested in the epistemological conditions in which the commands, executions and operations take place. This seems to point towards the political contexts of media archaeology, but gets rarely articulated in this brand of German media theory. Still, I would argue, it is radically political and taps into the political economic condition of closed systems, opening them up, and teaching that institutionalised conditioning as contingent. Universities then have according to Ernst a special situation, and a responsibility, to open up systems.

6) Media archaeology is a-historical, even unhistorical perhaps. It is not necessarily about contextual information about past media, but creating such situations where you get into contact with media in its radical operability and temporality. Archives in this sense are time-machines; Ernst told us about going to King’s college library to see Turing’s unpublished papers earlier that day, and that situation was branded not by a historian’s interpretative touch but by sharing the mathematical situation in its non-historical presentness. This applies again to machines as well; their functioning operations are the media archaeological moment that is at its core un-historical.

7) Machines are agents of history as well. They record, transmit, and do not always ask for a permission from the human being.

8) Media archaeology has some connection with software studies. Ernst pointed the connections to Manovich’s point about the double-nature of software studies between the cultural interface and the computational heart. I would add, both share an appreciation of processuality.

9) Provocation is almost methodological to Ernst and certain brands of German media theory.

Questions that I did not have the chance to ask:

What are the implications of this approach to the cultural heritage, display and archiving of culture in the age of technical machines – or culture of technical machines? I am guessing it has to do with processuality, with such methods of curating and archiving that are able to articulate the lived (machine-lived) temporality of such technological assemblages. How do you curate or archive software is a related question, but it also touches on earlier technical media such as radios and televisions. Furthermore, it has to do with the generalisation of the notion of the archive with new modes of distributed archiving, digital objects, and such.

What is time-criticality? I still cannot get my head around it completely, i.e. the question of how it differs from time-based processes? Video artists etc. are doing a splendid job as articulators of temporality and materiality, but where does the dividing line between time-based and time-criticality lie?

Wouldn’t it be possible to develop more positive and affirmative relations with some emerging cultural analytical approaches that come from e.g. the Anglo-American world? This point I flagged already in my short post on the Zeitkritische medien-book, and I keep on insisting that perhaps we can find the common areas of interest and shared agendas with such approaches as media ecology (á la Fuller), radical empiricism and Whitehead (Massumi) and e.g. feminist studies of science and technology (for example Barad).

Monday, 16 November 2009

CFP: Thinking Network Politics: Methods, Epistemology, Process

Call For Papers

Thinking Network Politics: Methods, Epistemology, Process

We invite the submission of abstracts for the first event of the AHRC funded networking project 'Exploring New Configurations of Network Politics'. The event will combine a series of position papers followed by round table discussions and interventions exploring the issues and challenges raised by those papers.

The attempt to grasp the depth and breadth of network politics demands novel and transdisciplinary approaches not always native to the humanities and social sciences, such as graph theory and the study of code as cultural practice. Thus there is a drive to explore the broad spectrum of practices and discourses to help rethink the articulations of politics in network culture. New modes of political activity that take advantage of new platforms from Twitter to YouTube necessitate new conceptual positions for network culture, counter-power and resistance. The papers should work towards adapting concepts such as, for example but by no means exclusively, the Multitude, free and immaterial labour, emergence, swarms and 'smart mobs' and new forms of creation, activism and engagement in civil society. The aim is to rethink what we understand by politics. Further questions which need to be asked include: what kind of epistemologies do we need to incorporate into our analysis? How can we take into account the particularities of networks when approaching the elusive, ephemeral nature of politics of/in networks? These are just examples of the directions into which considerations of “network politics” might lead us. Because this is such a fast developing and challenging arena of research the event will aim to be open and fluid, encouraging engagement, conversation and innovation wherever possible, while focusing on this core problematic of the tools and processes for thinking network politics.

The papers for this event will thus ideally investigate the methods and innovative approaches to mapping and thinking such new network politics. The March event will thus aim elaborate on the nature of the network and forge new routes to thinking about the processual, dynamic nature of networks as well as the particular “objects” such approaches fabricate.

The papers should be in the format of short (10 min) position papers on key concepts or keywords that lead into group work and discussions into the questions of network politics and methods and approaches for analysis. Instead of normal academic papers followed by a short Q&A, we would like the event to encourage collaboration, collective discussions and agenda setting.


The event takes place in Cambridge, UK, Anglia Ruskin University, on Thursday 25 and Friday 26 March 2010.

Please submit your abstracts and any suggestions (max 300 words) by January 8, 2010 to and/or

The research project functions under the auspices of the Anglia Research Centre in Digital Culture (ArcDigital )

Friday, 13 November 2009

Time-Critical Media - a short reminder of a book that deserves attention

I have flagged in many contexts my interest for new materialist cultural analysis, and how it should be articulated together with a new sense of temporality. When I say "a new sense" it's a bit misleading, but I mean the rigorous rethinking of temporality that we find across the board from Delanda to Whitehead-inspired accounts and so forth. Whereas Grossberg already pointed towards a non-signifying accounts as a mode of spatial materialism, we need to develop similar approaches that stem from radical temporality; that the world outside the human being is too dynamic, unfolding, temporal; that temporality is itself folded together with the various material assemblages of the world; that temporality is a crucial non-human force we need to articulate to understand the molecular, as well as the long durations of nature (not least in the midst of our eco crisis).

One key context for my interests comes again from Germany, and has been recently been "summed up" as a book. Axel Volmar as the editor of Zeitkritische Medien (Time-Critical Media, Kadmos Verlag, Berlin, 2009 ) has done a good job in collating together recent trends in German media theory, and approaches to the very peculiar, but even more so exciting version of media archaeology that they have been developing in the Media Studies department at Humboldt University, Berlin. Under the guidance of Professor Wolfgang Ernst, the notion of "time-criticality" and an eye towards temporal processes as a key to understand modern technical media we find a brand of media archaeology that extends not so much historically into past media but towards the microscopic workings of media machines; and how they modulate time, and the structuring temporal processes of societies.

By digging into the "microtemporalities" of media machines the introduction and the chapters try to excavate how such micro-layers are articulating the perception of reality. This means extending the media studies agenda (not surprisingly as we are in the territory of German, Kittlerian inspired media theory after all) to non-human agents and processes that however structure the phenomenological worlds of our perception and reality-effects as well. This leads furthermore to the realisation of the new realms of relations between machines themselves -- no link to the human is always needed in the age of automated processes and machines communicating between themselves before they talk to the human (Guattari -- who however is missing as theorist from this volume).

Paul Virilio who is well used in this book has argued for the importance of time and speed for war (and hence a link to media as well), but this book extends this to a very meticulous technical excavation into the dispositifs of how actually time gets articulated and articulates media. Technophobes beware! This brand of German media theory is not afraid of getting its hands greasy, whether we are talking of analogue media or digital algorithms (or algorythmics as Shintaro Miyazaki extends the concept in his chapter). This is where Virilio's ideas gain real strength, or a new context when by systematic and rigorous steps machines and technologies are opened up from the logic of bitmapping (Peter Berz) to the problems of noise and signal-transmission (Hirt and Volmar).

It would be crucial to see more work of this kind in English in order to really start rethinking fundamentals of media studies. This is happening already, partly due to a Kittlerian influence, and other new waves coming e.g. from Italy (post-Fordist thought), France (e.g. Latour, Guattari, Deleuze of course) and onwards to e.g. games (Pias) with an amount of chapters that with ease move between visual media, the sonic and computational platforms. But definitely new German media studies and archaeology has a lot to say to the problems of materiality of technical media. It would benefit itself from a more elaborated discussion and joining of forces of some other similar approaches that come from different directions. Ideas of temporality have been developed e.g. in materialist feminism (Barad) and e.g. Whitehead inspired radical empiricism (Massumi, Mackenzie,etc.) and through creations of new circuits for circulation of ideas, we could have soon something really exciting on our hands. Well, the previous sentence was not to mean that all this stuff is not already that -- exciting. Just that developing such creative clashes might be seen as a good method for movement of thought. Of course, its not the Germans who are the only ones doing this work; recently I have been following the stuff coming out from Utrecht direction as well whether in terms of some of the feminist work in the wake of Braidotti but also the great ideas from the New Media and Digital culture programme who also address materiality with historical, temporal methods.

Anyhow, media studies is developing into a great articulation of the interlinks between science, art and cultural analysis/philosophy, and we need to keep this movement alive with more translations and engagements. Such are the directions where UK media studies field should turn its attention to.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Intentionally or not, unfinished, drafty, ecological note on research institutions

The creation of a research institute is itself a media ecology – a flood of processes, negotiations, talks, emails, phone calls and such; negotiations of people being placed and displaced, of belongings and outings. Who owns their heads, and their work time; true biopolitics of arranging things. Its what constitutes research in the current world: its mostly arranging stuff to such positions to be called research.

To call it multidisciplinary might be asking for it, but calling it transdisciplinary also risks falling between disciplines in a way that is not romanticized in any booklet on the need for interdisciplinary culture to sustain creative industries. The complexity of getting it working is , well, complex. To be “trans” is indeed risking it as any such huge system as higher education demands a fair amount of recognizability before it gives you necessary access and passage.

How to make it work? How to move on from a romantics of nomadism to a sustainability of movement as a strategy for research institutions? First of all, one needs to recognize that moving outside borders does not mean moving without some borders. Movement itself becomes constitutive of bordering, and tracking lines that were perhaps invisible before but nevertheless effective. This is what institutions are made of, in addition to the walls usually too ugly to be but ridiculed; patterns, habits, “the ways we do things.”

The movement can however become a bordering that is not creating rigid lines that want to stay there just to see the landscape change, but to sustain the dynamics of the energies put into that action. To see the movement reach its peak, and turn into something else. Institutions are not necessarily bad, but we have to envision such forms of institutions that suit our action. Its clear that not many of the old ones are up for the job.

Secondly, you talk in languages, and use languages to deterritorialize positions. You have to find again such passages and access, which you can use as vectors, not positions. Positioning is not what we need; we need vectors.

Thirdly, in the midst of such vectors, you need a minimum amount of identity. As said, things feed on recognizability, whether we want it or not. And for that, you launch numerous emails, actions, requests and meetings which produce logos, slogans, further patterns. Another media ecology.

Fourthly, you need routines. Patterns are mentioned as well, but it’s the routines that make up the borders and settings. Set up the dispositifs; the meetings, the schedules, the arrangement for temporal cycles to turn into action plans, or other ways to control time.

Fifth, fill in with anything considered necessary________________