Fall 2020 // Week 5 Discussion by Maris Hutchinson

By in Blog on January 21, 2021

Sharon Matterns Code and Clay, Data and Dirt led me on a visual  journey  into understanding media archaeology ​and the role of reconstructing the anthropological/humanist through the material centered.
It reminded me of a book I read recently of various attempted and successful burglaries. The dominant theme in the book was how  thieves studied buildings, neighborhoods and architecture, sleuthing into their infrastructures to know where external fire escapes generally sit in relation to stairwells or master suites or what sorts of walls tended to accommodate safes in order to better access their targeted space. This way of flipping what the given purpose of the form— building to house/protect persons and their belongings— to suit the invaders struck me as a similar process to how Mattern was describing looking at the infrastructures of urban areas. By looking at what exists, you can see what is being protected or facilitated, and valued,  piecing together who had the capital or interests to begin with.
This Lykke quote in the Skågeby piece clarified the importance of who is able to piece together those parts for me:
 ‘the aim is to suggest a process of ‘thawing’ – in a retrospective move to transform a ‘frozen’ and reified ‘object’ of research into a subjective-objective, discursive-material, organic-technological, human-nonhuman, factional, macro-micro-social process, process, that is, a process with great relevance for Feminist Studies and its radical problematization of seemingly self-evident and given power structures.’
Those that are allowed to help ‘thaw’ are those that are able to re-represent the impact of that given object/media from their understanding of it.  The invention of the washing-machine didn’t have the same impact on men vs women, the American flag to a Russian vs a Chilean doesn’t hold the same value or narratives.
I found both of these readings to be a helpful exposure to those different established ‘theoretical lenses’.  In Skågeby’s essay, the game terms for reconstructing the values and climate of the given time when the media was created were helpful. I found those prompts of who ‘wins or loses’ or who ‘made the game’  introduced  how demand, production, and then consumption are at the origins as to why things are made. They beg the questions of what kind of audiences needs are being catered to, whose actively aren’t, and how selecting a previously silenced perspective might start to rectify the impact of its not having been seen or heard historically.

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