giovedì 17 ottobre 2013

An Interview with Jussi Parikka: CONCEPTS: NETWORKS AND MEDIA ARCHAEOLOGY @ Amodern2 : Network Archeology, September 2013


An Interview with Jussi Parikka

Braxton Soderman and Nicole Starosielski:
“What makes books happen?” Jussi Parikka asks in the acknowledgements of his recent book What is Media Archaeology? (2012). His answer: “A lot of great colleagues, whether in the same institution, or through other networks; several discussions on- and off-topic; things you consume through your eyes and brains, but also the gut.” What makes media archaeology happen? Our gut response: the creative energy, innovative thought, and prolific networking of Jussi Parikka. One need only recall a few of Parikka’s recent works (including the above) to grasp his dedication to the development, deployment and propagation of the media archaeological method:Media Archaeology: Approaches, Applications, and Implications (2011, edited with Erkki Huhtamo). Insect Media: An Archaeology of Animals and Technology (2010), and Digital Contagions: A Media Archaeology of Computer Viruses (2007). In these influential books media and archaeology consistently return, simultaneously etching the contours of a burgeoning methodology while providing disruptive possibilities for new directions in research.
While Alan Liu – the other interviewee in this issue – stands as a paramount proper name that signifies the invaluable contribution of the digital humanist, the proper name Jussi Parikka leads us down the opaque, though necessarily noisy, entrails of the nonhuman. Parikka does not abandon the human but diagnoses “the urgent need for a cartography of potential forces of inhuman kinds that question evolutionary trees and exhibit alternative logics of thought, organization, and sensation.” The gut, no doubt, is not where most academics might think that books are made – this is what brains are for – but perhaps this is where media archaeology thrives, in digesting other disciplines to fuel the body of new forms of thought and new sensations for the consumer of our hyper-mediated culture. Whether discussing noise, viruses, swarms, the animal, the materiality of the machinic, micro-temporalities, software below the senses, Parikka’s corpus festers with insights concerning the forms of inhuman mediation beyond brains and eyes, insights which burrow into a contemporary digital landscape that often operates pre-cognitively and post-visually.
“Networks are processual and not just a stable diagram of nodes connected,” as Parikka notes in the interview that follows. Indeed, in Insect Media Parikka embraces “an affect view of networks” that seeks to trace their “temporal becomings.” In other words, networks are alive, spawning connections between human affect and inhuman processes, creating assemblages that link together diverse domains such as technology, politics, aesthetics, and economics. Like a network, Parikka’s writings are electric with the expressive poetics of a theory that leaps and gathers, packet switching amongst disciplines until the message is constructed and delivered. We hope that his interview provides an ample frame for what follows in this special issue, a border off which a reader’s thought might carom as he or she consumes the ideas that percolate within.
How does the concept of the network inform your work?
Network(s) are present in a lot of my work in two overlapping ways: first as an object of study, second as methodological operations.
In terms of an object of study, my first book in English was on computer viruses and about understanding network culture through its anomalous sides and its accidents. I pitched the idea of a “general accident” of network culture that adopted the notion from Paul Virilio and “applied” it to network objects like viruses. In a way, it was thinking the primacy of the accident as an epistemological tool for our notions and practices of networking from 1960s to 1990s. The idea of “virality” and “contagion” were mapped as characteristic discursive notions as well as practical experiments for the emerging network culture: processes of semi-autonomous nature as defining how network entities interact and have agency; how networks of digital kind have a specific relation to ideas of the social as contagion, although I did not really go into social media. There is a new book out by Tony D. SampsonVirality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks, that covers these aspects of social contagion much better. Mine was an archaeology of these later developments, although admittedly more focused on the production of “maliciousness” as a characteristic of software. I am constantly interested in how various people involved in the field are producing the idea of networks as a political ontology of our age.
In terms of methodological choices, networks are present in many ways: it is a figure of connection and disconnection and the various links that are established. Not the banal idea that “everything is connected” but the necessary specification of how things are connected and disconnected. Networks are processual and not just a stable diagram of nodes connected. It is more of an active process of how networks are made and unmade, and doing research is exactly about this. Of course, as one can guess there is a bit of Bruno Latour and John Law in my thinking.
For sure, there is a specific interest of knowledge that I have concerning technological networks, but instead of networks I often speak about other related features: media archaeology of swarms as a phenomenon that itself was transported from entomological research in early 20th century to popular network talk; viruses and worms and their non-malicious roots in computer science; concepts of nature adopted as part of technological vocabulary; various critical and slightly historically tuned “archaeologies” that ask the question of what is the depth of the current moment, what are the various networks that sustain it – the hinterland, to use a notion from John Law. (...)
Pic post: The Joshua Light Show and The Sliver Apples/Media Archaeology Festival/All images courtesy Aurora Picture Show

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