Dead Media Research Studio
This course is devoted to media archaeology, that is, historical research on forgotten, obsolete, or otherwise “dead” media technologies. Examples range from Athanasius Kircher’s seventeenth-century magic lantern to the common slide projector, discontinued by Kodak in 2004. Our goal is to acquire the skills and resources necessary for producing rigorous scholarship on obsolete and obscure media. It will include an exposure to recent contributions to the field of media archaeology; an intensive introduction to research methods; instruction on the localization and utilization of word, image, and sound archives; and a continuing emphasis on the need to restore media artifacts to their proper social and cultural context. The course stems from the premise that media archaeology is best undertaken, like any archaeological project, collaboratively. Hence the course follows a research studio model commonly used in disciplines such as architecture.
Course requirements consist of archival research for textual, visual, and sonic material. After a three-week introduction to the methodology of media archaeology, students will begin to work in small groups on specific research topics. Each topic is pursued over a four-week period. Upon completion of one topic a new topic is selected and the cycle repeats itself. Each student group produces a coauthored research dossier containing texts, images, and, when appropriate, sounds on the given topic. The dossiers are published online using Wiki software. Classroom time consists of each student group presenting its research findings for the week, followed by criticism and feedback from the instructors and other students. Since the weekly course requirements are relatively demanding, the course does not have any additional exams or papers. Over the course of the semester a collection of research dossiers accumulates based on the student work. These remain online as public documents, accessible both to other students as well as the general public.
Some entries in the archive are drawn from the Dead Media Project, an email list devoted to the topic started by Bruce Sterling and more recently moderated by Tom Jennings. Ironically their email list is now dead.