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CMS 597 B: Special Topics In Cinema And Media Studies

Media Archaeology

Meeting Time: 
T 2:30pm - 5:20pm
MGH 097
Tweedie profile 21
James Tweedie

Syllabus Description:


Course Description:

This course will provide a graduate-level introduction to the emerging field of media archaeology. Rather than focus on the newness and modernity of media, this course will examine archaic, obsolete, or just plain old-fashioned media viewed as both material artifacts and discursive phenomena, as both physical objects and the focus of critical and theoretical writing. It will dramatically expand the definition of the term “media” to include unfamiliar media objects, while also seeking out a more precise and productive understanding of that concept. Although the course will circulate around the topic of media archaeology, it will also venture into film theory, television, philosophy, sound studies, visual culture, science and technology studies, and other disciplines. The reading will begin with an overview of the field and a contemporary illustration of the present and future of media archaeology. It will examine precursors of media archaeology like Walter Benjamin and Marshall McLuhan, as well as foundational work by Tom Gunning, Thomas Elsaesser, Wolfgang Ernst, Friedrich Kittler, Carolyn Marvin, Siegfried Zielinski, and others. The second half of the course will be devoted to more contemporary developments in the field, including recent work by Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Alexander Galloway, Lisa Gitelman, Erkki Huhtamo, Eden Medina, Lisa Parks, Jussi Parikka, Nicole Starosielski, Jonathan Sterne, and others.

Course Requirements and Grading:

The written work for this quarter will revolve primarily around the reading and your independent research. Each student will be required to write three (3) response papers (about two pages, double-spaced, in a reasonably large and legible font). As a general rule these assignments should be handed in at the class meeting when the reading is discussed, though they may also review material from more than one section of the course. Each response paper will count for 10% of the final grade. Students will also be asked to make two (2) presentations of their archival or theoretical research, one focused on a media object (more on this in class), and the other a 15-minute, conference-style presentation of your final project. Students will also be asked to co-facilitate one class meeting during the quarter. This will involve writing a series of questions related to the reading on the syllabus that week, circulating those questions the night before class, possibly introducing some material outside the scope of the course (though this should be a discussion not a presentation), and helping to lead the discussion for about a half hour. The presentations and co-facilitation of a class meeting, together with your participation in class throughout the quarter, will count for your participation grade, which counts for 20% of your final grade. The final assignment, worth 50% of your final grade and due on March 14 (Wed. of Finals Week), will be a conference-length paper (about 10 pages) based on your own research. I will meet with you individually to help you launch that research project.

Note on Response Papers:

A response paper should include most of the following: a) what you understand the theorist or scholar’s argument(s) to be (and the substance of the argument should usually be paraphrased in your own words, not quoted directly from the text); b) the methods that the authors use to develop and support their arguments; c) the dialogue that these texts appear to be taking participating in (i.e., who are the explicit or implicit interlocutors?); d) the major omissions or blind spots of the author or research tradition (especially as they manifest themselves in an analysis of a particular film or series of films); and e) how the arguments and/or methodology might inform how you do research.

Plagiarism and Academic Misconduct: Academic misconduct is a serious offense. It undermines the fundamental mission of the university and sanctions are therefore severe. For information about the definition of plagiarism and the mandated UW penalties, please see the section titled “academic misconduct” at the following website:

Disability-Related Needs: To request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact UW Disabled Students Services, and please contact me as soon as possible to discuss any necessary accommodations.

Required Texts:

All materials will either be posted on the course’s Canvas site under “Files” or will be accessible through links on the “Syllabus” page.


Week 1: What Was Media Archaeology? What Is Media Archaeology Now?

Erkki Huhtamo and Jussi Parikka, "Introduction: An Archaeology of Media Archaeology" (ebook accessible here:

Shannon Mattern, “Introduction: Ether/Ore” (from Code + Clay…Data + Dirt: Five Thousand Years of Urban Media)

Week Two: Old and New Media

Tom Gunning, "The Cinema of Attraction: Early Film, Its Spectator, and the Avant-Garde" (pdf, from Wide Angle)

Thomas Elsaesser, "The New Film History as Media Archaeology" (pdf, from Cinémas)

Carolyn Marvin, “Introduction” and “Dazzling the Multitude: Original Media Spectacles” (from When Old Technologies Were New)

Lisa Gitelman, “Introduction: Media as Historical Subjects” and “New Media Publics” (from Always Already New: Media, History, and the Data of Culture)


Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History” (pdf, from Illuminations)

Marshall McLuhan, “The Medium Is the Message” (pdf, from Understanding Media)

Week Three: German Media Theory

Friedrich Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter

Week Four: German Media Theory (II)

Wolfgang Ernst, Part I (“Let There Be Irony” and “Media Archaeography”) and “Discontinuities” (Chapter 6) (from Digital Memory and the Archive)

Siegfried Zielinski, “Introduction: The Idea of a Deep Time of the Media” and “Conclusion: Including a Proposal for the Cartography of Media Anarchaeology” (pdf, from Deep Time of the Media: An Archaeology of Hearing and Seeing by Technical Means)

Bernhard Siegert, “Cultural Techniques: Or the End of the Intellectual Postwar Era in German Media Theory” (pdf, from Theory, Culture & Society)

Cornelia Vismann, “Cultural Techniques and Sovereignty” (pdf, from Theory, Culture & Society).

Week 5: Cybernetics

Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think” (pdf, from Life Magazine; two versions, one original, the other more legible)

Norbert Wiener, “Cybernetics in History” (pdf, from The Human Use of Human Beings)

Eden Medina, “Introduction: Political and Technological Visions” and “Cybernetics and Socialism” (from Cybernetic Revolutionaries: Technology and Politics in Allende’s Chile)

Week Six: The Control Society

Gilles Deleuze, “Postscript on the Societies of Control” (pdf, from October)

Alex Galloway, “Protocol, or, How Control Exists after Decentralization” (pdf, from Rethinking Marxism) and “The Unworkable Interface” (pdf, from The Interface Effect)

Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, “Why Cyberspace?” (pdf, from Control and Freedom: power and paranoia in the age of fiber optics)

Friedrich Kittler, “There Is No Software” (see here:

Week Seven: Infrastructure

Paul Edwards, “Force Time, and Social Organization in the History of Sociotechnical Systems” (pdf, from Modernity and Technology)

John Durham Peters, “Understanding Media” (pdf, from The Marvelous Clouds: Toward a Philosophy of Elemental Media)

Nicole Starosielski, “Introduction: Against Flow” (pdf, from The Undersea Network)

Lisa Parks and James Schwoch, “Introduction” (from Down to Earth: Satellite Technologies, Industries, and Cultures)

Week Eight: What Is a Medium?

Eugene Thacker, “What Is Biomedia?” (from Biomedia)

Jussi Parikka, “Introduction: Insects in the Age of Technology” (from Insect Media: An Archaeology of Animals and Technology)

Lisa Gitelman, “A Short History of ____ “ (pdf, from Paper Knowledge: Toward a Media History of Documents)

Jonathan Sterne, “Format Theory” (pdf, from MP3: The Meaning of a Format)

Erkki Huhtamo, “Moving Panorama: A Missing Medium” (pdf, from Illusions in Motion: Archaeology of the Moving Panorama and Related Spectacles)

Week Nine: Presentations

Catalog Description: 
Varying topics in cinema and media studies. Offered by resident or visiting faculty.
Last updated: 
January 10, 2018 - 9:32pm