Despite its fundamental gestures of expansiveness and openness, media archaeology might itself become a restrictive approach, if the “media” under analysis are taken to refer exclusively to artifacts related to the traditionally dominant mass media of film, radio, and television. In their introduction to a special issue of Amodern on “Network Archaeology,” Nicole Starosielski, Braxton Soderman, and Cris Cheek make a plea for expanding the field of media archaeology to include the study of networks and the “history of connection.”
As support for this argument, the editors present five main claims for establishing a field of network archaeology:
- Network archaeology can disrupt assumptions about the synchronicity, presentism, or atemporality of networks.
- Network archaeology, as opposed to media archaeology, can redirect our attention from artifacts to connections.
- Network archaeology can highlight media archaeology’s own reliance on strategies of networking, nomadism, and non-linear practices of mapping.
- Network archaeology can create an interdisciplinary field for studies of scholars of media studies, network theory, and the history of telecommunications.
- Network archaeology can serve as a reminder of the politics of networks, whether they are used for emancipation and democratization or for containment, surveillance, and control.
“We do not intend to create a new field of study or discipline under the rubric of network archaeology that differs essentially from media archaeology,” the editors admit. Still, expanding media archaeology’s typical focus on objects and artifacts to account for the history of connection is definitely a promising endeavor.
Starosielski, Nicole, Braxton Soderman, and Cris Cheek, eds. “Network Archaeology.” Special Issue, Amodern 2 (2013).