Media Archaeology-As-Such

Occasional Thoughts on (Més-)alliances with Archaeologies Proper


  • Wolfgang Ernst Humboldt University of Berlin



ahistoric time, archaeology of the present, media temporalities, non-metaphorical “excavation”, prehistoric archaeology, radical media archaeology, signal analysis, techno-mathematical strata


This essay gives an impression of what might be called radical media archaeology. Whereas academic archaeology is progressively extending its range of investigations from antiquity to the industrial age, media archaeology is not primarily about techniques of the past at all but rather an analysis of the present technological condition. Against the excavation metaphor borrowed from classical archaeology, media archaeology rather unfolds techno-mathematical sub-strata of current interface culture. The reference to Michel Foucault's Archaeology of Knowledge is ambivalent here. Media archaeology shares with its academic twin the focus on temporalities of material culture but is less about "deep" historical time; with its focus on signal analysis in operative media it rather investigates ahistoric and time-critical processuality in technological devices. This brings media archaeology close to prehistoric (rather than "classical") archaeology in its literal sense.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Wolfgang Ernst, Humboldt University of Berlin

Wolfgang Ernst is Professor for Media Theory at the Institut für Musik und Medienwissenschaft at Humboldt University, Berlin, where he co-runs the Media Archaeological Fundus.


Baudrillard, J. 2007. Pourqoui tout n’a-t-il pas déjà disparu?. Paris: Les Éditions de l’Herne.

Benjamin, W. 1999 [1955]. “Theses on the Philosophy of History.” In Illuminations, by W. Benjamin and translated by H. Zohn, 245–255. London: Pimlico.

Crowther, D. 1988. “Archaeology, Material Culture and Museums.” In Museum Studies in Material Culture, edited by S. M. Pearce, 35–46. London: Continuum.

d’Errico, F. and G. Lawson. 2006. “The Sound Paradox: How to Assess the Acoustic Significance of Archaeological Evidence?” In Archaeoacustics, edited by C. Scarre and G. Lawson, 41–58. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.

Foucault, M. 1972. The Archaeology of Knowledge. Translated by A. M. Sheridan Smith. London: Routledge.

____. 1978. “Dialogue on Power: Michel Foucault and a Group of Students.“ In Chez Foucault, edited by S. Wade, 4–22. Los Angeles, CA: Circabook.

Freeth, T. 2008. The Antikythera Mechanism: Decoding an Ancient Greek Mystery. Cambridge: Whipple Museum of the History of Science.

Frerichs, K. 1981. Begriffbildung und Begriffswandlung in der Vor- und Frühgeschichte. Zur logischen Analyse archäologischer Aussagen. Frankfurt am Main: Lang.

Giannachi, G., N. Kaye and M. Shanks, eds. 2012. Archaeologies of Presence: Art, Performance and the Persistence of Being. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

Giediron, S. 1948. Mechanization Takes Command: A Contribution to Anonymous History. New York: Oxford University Press.

Hodson, F. R., D. G. Kendall and P. Tautu, eds. 1971. Mathematics in the Archaeological and Historical Sciences. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Huhtamo, E. 2013. Illusions in Motion. Media Archaeology of the Moving Panorama and Related Spectacles. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Kittler, F. A., ed. 1989. Austreibung des Geistes aus den Geisteswissenschaften: Programme des Poststrukturalismus. Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh.

Kusch, M. 1991. Foucault’s Strata and Fields: An Investigation into Archaeological and Genealogical Science Studies. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Rosen, M., ed. 2011. A Little-Known Story about a Movement, a Magazine, and the Computer’s Arrival in Arts: New Tendencies and Bit International, 1961–1973. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Schreibman, S., R. G. Siemens and J. Unsworth, eds. 2004. A Companion to Digital Humanities. Oxford: Blackwell.

Simondon, G. 1958. Du Mode d’Existence des Objets Techniques. Paris: Aubier.

Zielinski, S. and D. Link. eds 2006. Variantology 2: On Deep Time Relations of Arts, Sciences and Technologies. Köln: Walther König.




How to Cite

Ernst, W. (2015). Media Archaeology-As-Such: Occasional Thoughts on (Més-)alliances with Archaeologies Proper. Journal of Contemporary Archaeology, 2(1), 15–23.