What is Media Archaeology?

Alright, I will address Jussi Parikka’s question.

I have long supposed that, inasmuch as archaeology or material culture or stuff we desire, accumulate, circulate and eventually dump, communicates agency, identity and status it defines our genus Homo as much as our individual selves.

Archaeology is media and media are us.


And, of course, the stuff of media the transmitters, carriers, receivers and all the ancillary equipment and associated infrastructure of audio-visual recording, playback, signal processing and broadcast are material culture: archaeologies of the contemporary world.

If perhaps, a pertinent observation this all-inclusive definition is not too illuminating and hardly research friendly. Nevertheless, set in train by an

IMG_0057invite to BBC TV Centre for a relaunch of the ill-fated and hugely expensive Domesday Project, which was developed using bespoke technology made instantly obsolete by the World Wide Web and a tangle of unwound cassette tape discovered on a Bristol pavement, I began to think about abandoned media technology and in 2011 to collect relict media objects encountered ‘on the street’.


Given my catch-all definition of media-archaeology I would rely on definitions of what might constitute a ‘media object’ to emerge from practice and be refined with each find. While my initial find – the tangle of unwound cassette tape – was unambiguously historic media stuff, my next find caused me to wonder, on the nature of chance as much as the matter of media.

Bristol tapetangle 2

What I found at a refuse collection point in north London among a strange scatter of women’s footwear was a TV treatment. My chance discovery was a pitch document for a television series based on the colourful and completely implausible adventures of fictional marine archaeologists.

What are the chances?

TV Treatment


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