Verkabelung

This image has always bothered me. Under a network of cables so dense as to block out the sky, several Victorian passersby are frozen in mid-stride, gazing up at the infrastructural spectacle and perhaps contemplating how their world come to be wired this way. The image is centered on the telephone pole—and the trunk supporting the wires is …

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Walter Ruttmann, Wochenende (1930)

Walther Ruttmann's Weekend (Wochenende, 1930) is an early piece of musique concrète, a montage of raw sonic material. But the piece is hardly composed of "found sounds." Ruttmann recorded the sounds using an optical sound film track with the newly developed Tri-Ergon process. In Weekend, he seems to be trying do the same thing with sound as Berlin: Symphony of a City …

Hallo! Hier Welle Erdball! (1928)

Fritz Walter Bischoff's 1928 Hörspiel Hallo! Hier Welle Erdball! was one of the greatest of the Weimar Republic, and set the standard for the Neue Sachlichkeit style of reportage. Unlike most other Hörspiele, which were produced live, Hallo! Hier Welle Erdball! made use of edited material, making it a sort of forerunner of "quality" podcasts like This American Life, Radiolab, …

Ericsson’s History of Wireless Communication

Ericsson, the communications company started by that Swedish inventor who may have created one of the first car telephone systems—which, if you can believe the above image, actually tapped into existing telegraph lines, has a neat little video about the history of wireless communication. Some of the classic tropes are a little grating like the claim that wireless has been around …

Eric Kluitenberg, “The Network of Waves: Living and Acting in a Hybrid Space”

While the extent of the Internet’s impact on the conception of the public sphere remains debatable, traditional boundaries have certainly become blurred between the physical and the virtual as well as the public and the private. But if wireless technology is largely invisible, it largely eludes a politics of representation. Eric Kluitenberg, perhaps best known …

Jussi Parikka, “Critically Engineered Wireless Politics”

Media studies often assumes a naive attitude toward its objects of study, taking concepts like “communication,” “circulation,” and “access” as ideals. In “Critically Engineered Wireless Politics,” Jussi Parikka challenges this common attitude through an engagement with contemporary media theory and an extended discussion of a 2011 exhibition at the Transmediale by the Berlin-based Weise7 group. …

Nicole Starosielski, Braxton Soderman, Cris Cheek, “Network Archaeology”

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 …

Lisa Parks, “Around the Antenna Tree: The Politics of Infrastructural Visibility”

Visualizations of networks in the form of "flow diagrams" usually place more visual emphasis on the paths in these networks than on their nodes, thereby creating a representation of spatial relations without any sense of what elements the infrastructure is actually composed of. For Lisa Parks, the main consequence of this approach to network infrastructures is …

Peter Schaefer, “Dematerialized Infrastructures: On the Ethereal Origins of Local Area Networks”

Peter Schaefer’s concise take on “Dematerialized Infrastructures” is a little history of the “ether,” from its origins as a concept in nineteenth-century physics to its incorporation into the portmanteaux “Ethernet” ("Ether Network") in the 1970s. In either case, the ether functions as a material metaphor for the immaterial properties of wireless networking, thereby serving as a reminder of …

Mark Wigley, “Network Fever”

In spite of its title, Mark Wigley’s “Network Fever” bears little resemblance to Derrida’s Archive Fever. For Derrida, catching “archive fever” means having “a compulsive, repetitive, and nostalgic desire for the archive, an irrepressible desire to return to the origin, a homesickness, a nostalgia for return to the most archaic place of absolute commencement” (91). …