Open (the) Architectures!

In letzter Sekunde wurde ich dankenswerterweise von meinem Kollegen Nikita Braguinski auf einen Call for Applications für die Konferenz „Object Lessons and Nature Tables: Research Collaborations Between Historians of Science and University Museums“ am 23.09.2016 an der University of Reading (England) hingewiesen. Kurzerhand habe ich mich mit einem Hands-on-Vortrag beworben, der angenommen wurde.

Das Abstract:

Open (the) Architectures!
A hands-on approach to media and computer theory with operative archaeology

The Department of Musicology and Media Studies at the Berlin Humboldt University holds two collections of media-archaeological and computer-archaeological objects. The apparatuses within these collections are prepared primarily for studying them and their (material) properties. Most of them are in working condition to show their operative behaviors, too.

Both collections – which are situated in specific labs: the Media Archaological Fund and the Signal Laboratory – exist for research and teaching purposes: scholars, students and guests are invited to use the facilities and the collections to learn about media and their specificity. But the specific focus on these media is not only a technological (with questions like: What are media- technological objects built of/from?) but also a theoretical and especially an epistemological. The quality and quantitiy of signal processing, specified time(s), invisible built-in „ideas“ (mathematic, logic, diagrammatic, linguistic, …), historemes as contradictions to the „official“ media historiography, and other non-materialistic aspects can only be uncovered within operative media. In fact, only in a state of operation hardware becomes truly a „medium“.

The specific theory built on this idea (media archaeology) has become widespread within the last ten years. But its questions can only been answered when they are directed at an academic discourse but to the media apparatuses themselves. Therefore it is crucial for a true media archaeologist to literally open the devices of his interest. Since media scholars and students are rarly experienced with proper methods for such an approach (not to mention they are rarely have a STEM-background), media archaeological research and teaching has to make use of hacker-like auto-didactical practices.

My talk will explain those hands-on practices and their theoretical and epistemological consequences for both analog media and digital computers. For a practical illustration I will bring two objects from our collections to the conference to open them in front of the audience to exemplify „live“ (operational) and theoretical approaches to the medium itself from the view of a „self-taught“ technician resp. computer programmer. The excentric, auto-didactic approach will hopefully exemplify the additional benefits gained by such an amateur‘s view whose tools are media theory and epistemology besides screwdrivers, soldering irons and oscilloscopes.

Atari VCS Computer Game, VCS Emulator Stella and Game Software
„Der Kybernet“ (self driving toy car from the 1960s with cybernetical „ideas“ in it)

Über Stefan Höltgen


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