Hacking this assignment
Through critical engagements with dead media artifacts, some of the dossiers on this site question the definitions implicit in the assignment, which was to engage with a piece of dead media, or a dead media problematic. Perhaps some of the dossiers can qualify as hackings of the assignment insofar as they subvert its formal prohibitions, thereby changing the assignment's outcomes.
The following categories are either implicitly or explicitly deconstructed in the dead media dossiers:
Death: The problem of death, or obsolescence, was rethought in relation to the question of remediation; do media ever die, or are they simply incorporated into new media? The dossier on The Market addresses this question in its suggestion that the market is actually not dead because a kind of market function survives, although the market is no longer embodied in a specific place or media technology. The question of death is discussed more explicitly on the pages, Mediatic Etymology, and Where do media go to die?.
History: The problems of death and remediation sometimes come into tension when one attempts to assemble the history of a medium. How should it be determined which facts or artifacts are part of a medium's history, and which are placed outside of that history? When approaching a new technology from a historical perspective, how might one decide which prior forms of media belong in the same history? This question is implied in the dossier on Political Effigies, which traces the postmortem treatment of the bodies of political figures and the construction of effigies representing them. The dossier suggests that an effigy in one political regime and historical era, is the same medium as an effigy in another political and historical frame.
When attempting to name and trace a media problematic, rather than a piece of technology, this problematic inevitably crosses different technologies and epochs. Materialist readings of problematics move the determination of a medium's boundaries from the technology to the student.
Media: The boundaries of a medium can be difficult to discern. The dossier on the Hollerith Punch Card raised questions about whether the card could be considered an independent medium, or whether the machine that encoded it had to be included. To push this question further, Can a medium ever include its humans users or its social context? The dossier on the Nansen Passport asks whether the Nansen Passport can be considered dead simply because the context in which it was read has changed. Additionally, the page on Mediatic Etymology questions the difference between the medium and the message, asking whether something that used to be the content of a medium (i.e. the message) can become incorporated into its form.