Jonathan Lethem and David Byrne Explain It All

Jonathan Lethem and David Byrne were both featured in Seed Magazine‘s “Seed Salon” in 2007 though not in conversation with each other: Lethem was in the March issue with Janna Levin, while Byrne was paired with Daniel Levitin in the June issue.* In his This is Your Brain on Music (Penguin, 2006), the latter writes,

David Byrne is generally known for his abstract, arty lyrics, with a touch of the cerebral. In his solo performance of ‘Lilies of the Valley’, he sings about being alone and scared. Part of our appreciation for this lyric is enhanced by knowing something about the artist, or at least the artist’s persona, as an eccentric intellectual, who rarely revealed something as raw and transparent as being afraid (p. 244).

How Music WorksIn How Music Works (McSweeney’s, 2012), Byrne reveals less fear and more fearlessness. He eschews what he calls the “crowded shelf” of aging-rock-star biographies and instead brings together a career’s worth of insight on the practice and process of music-making, from performing and using studio technology to building a business and maintaining a community. Byrne’s attention to the neglected factors that contribute to music-making (e.g., the physical context of its performance, the physical context of its reception by the listener, the available recording technology, live amplification, collaborators, producers, instruments, etc.) make this book a must-read for anyone interested in music or making it. It’s also beautifully put together, with tons of color photographs and an elaborate, cushioned cover.

Twenty-six years ago, Byrne predicted that computers would have little influence on the arts by 2007 (Long, 1987, p.94), but How Music Works more than makes up for his former oversights. It’s as comprehensive as it is constructive. As with previous books, Byrne strays in ways one wouldn’t expect, and always in ways you’ll want to follow.

Talking Heads

Byrne credits CBGB for the scene he and Talking Heads came up in. “The mere existence of CBGB facilitated the creation of the bands and songs that touched our hearts and souls,” he writes. “It was the right size, the right shape, and in the right place” (p. 253). In relation to the other New York bands of the time, James Wolcott describes Talking Heads as “deceptively light, a model airplane with a erratic flight pattern” (p. 135). NME‘s Paul Rambali wrote that their 1979 record, Fear of Music, “doesn’t sound like an album at all, just songs caught in full flight and grouped together in a pleasant combination” (quoted in Sheppard, 2008, p. 322). Jonathan Lethem, who wrote one of my favorite novels of all-time partially concerned with flight and partially set in the New York of the time (Fortress of Solitude; Vintage, 2004), triangulates his musings in Fear of Music (the book; Continuum, 2012) using Fear of Music (the record), his adolescent self (who first heard the record), and his grown-up self (who’s writing the book). Initial sketches of the album were recorded by a mobile studio van parked outside Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz’s apartment in New York. With cables running from the van up through the windows, they hashed out the basic tracks. It was art as ephemera, a provisional situation at best, and it gave them the creative constraints that both Byrne and collaborator Brian Eno crave so much.

Fear of Music

On “Mind,” David Byrne adopts the voice of a “paternal narrator without flaw or dysfunction,” as Ian Gittins (2004, p. 53) puts it. Lethem characterizes the song as decidedly liminal, a narrator arising from the negative space between identities. Much of Fear of Music (the book) emerges similarly in interludes between Lethem’s song-by-song analysis. The interstitial chapters pose such questions as “Is Fear of Music a Talking Heads Record?,” “Is Fear of Music a David Byrne Album?,” “Is Fear of Music a Text?,” “Is Fear of Music a Science Fiction Record?,” and “Is Fear of Music a New York Album?,” Lethem looks for the heart of the record from all angles. The Bottom Line is that if you love this record, you’ll love Lethem’s book — and that’s not necessarily true of all of the books in this series.

Brain Eno, who’d also produced 1978’s More Songs About Buildings and Food, joined in again as the fifth Talking Head on Fear of Music. His collaborations with Byrne and the band redefined the studio-as-instrument idea. On the funked-up “Animals,” Eno ran the bass drum signal through a synthesizer, added an echo, then filtered out the distortion (Tamm, 1995). Practices like this eventually became commonplace, but Eno and Talking Heads were pushing boundaries. All of their pushing on “Animals” landed them squarely On the One (that start-stop hallmark of Classic Funk). “A studio is a situation with literally infinite possibilities,” Eno would later say (quoted in Sheppard, 2008). Even so, as Byrne discusses at length in How Music Works, as a band Talking Heads were still very much a live act. Eno pushed them beyond that on Fear of Music, with “more overdubs and wiggly treatments,” as Byrne (2012) puts it (p. 46). Ever tying the record and book together, Lethem relates the urgency of “Animals” to “I Zimbra” and its structure to “Memories Can’t Wait.” If he didn’t find this record’s heart in this book’s pages, no one else is likely to locate it.

Most of the entries in the 33 1/3 Series show a propensity for close reading, but Lethem’s Fear of Music is exactly what these books were made for: lyrical geeking-out, unfettered fandom, great writing about great music.

A conversation between Jonathan Lethem and David Byrne would be undeniably generative, especially given their obvious overlapping areas of interest. Reading these two books together hints at a small piece of the awesomeness that such a dialogue might entail.

References:

Bly, Adam. (2010). Science is Culture: Conversations at the New Intersection of Science and Society. New York: Harper Perennial.

Byrne, David. (2012). How Music Works. San Francisco: McSweeney’s.

Gittins, Ian. (2004). Talking Heads: Once in a Lifetime: The Stories Behind Every Song. London: Carlton Books.

Lethem, Jonathan. (2004). The Fortress of Solitude: A Novel. New York: Vintage.

Lethem, Jonathan. (2012). Fear of Music. New York: Continuum.

Levitin, Daniel, J. (2006). This is Your Brain on Music. New York: Penguin.

Long, Marion. (1987, January). The Seers’ Catalog. Omni Magazine, pp. 36-40, 94-99.

Sheppard, David. (2008). On Some Faraway beach: The Life and Times of Brian Eno. Chicago: Chicago Review Press.

Tamm, Eric. (1995). Brian Eno: His Music and the Vertical Color of Sound. New York: Da Capo Press.

Wolcott, James. (2012). Lucking Out: My Life Getting Down and Semi-Dirty in the Seventies. New York: Anchor.

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Special thanks to Doug Armato for the tip on James Wolcott’s book.

* Both of these conversations are included in Adam Bly’s SEED Salon anthology, Science is Culture (Harper Perennial, 2010).

Babbage Claim: A Media Archeology Primer

Steampunk, that excitingly innovative yet alienatingly weird subculture, possesses hints of nostalgia, punk-rock attitude, and a love for self-styled, homemade gadgets. William Gibson and Bruce Sterling provided an easy touchstone with their 1990 book The Difference Engine (Bantam Spectra), a revisionist history of the world in which Charles Babbage actually finished a steam-powered calculating machine and the information age preceded the industrial revolution. Another great example is Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985). The movie’s ontology operates atop what Barry Brummett (1999) points out is a machine metaphor. He writes, “Several references within the film make it clear that the characters regard their society as if it were a machine” (p. 122). Certainly Babbage aimed at divining this universal machine or at least harnessing its hidden power (see Spufford & Uglow, 1996; as well as Babbage’s memoirs, 1864; 1994), and so it goes with steampunk as a whole.

Sam Lowry takes the promotion, disappointing his boss Mr. Kurtzmann.

This strange machinery is keeping you from seeing me.
— Ride, “Leave Them All Behind”

After applying a twisted version of media archeology in his last book, Jussi Parikka has come to explicate the approach proper. Under the playful guise of legitimizing a steampunk approach to media studies, What is Media Archeology? (Polity, 2012) introduces the field with just as much fun and fervor. It makes way more sense that it seems to at first. Steampunk, so named to contrast it with cyberpunk, looks to the past as well as the future and wonders whether certain initial conditions could change the outcome of our machinic media-madness. Digging up pieces of the past, media archeology seeks the same. So, beyond the weak tie to a sci-fi subgenre, what is media archeology? Parikka breaks it down on his website like this:

If you ask Erkki Huhtamo or Siegfried Zielinski, you might get a different answer than from asking me. For Huhtamo, it is the recurring topoi/topics of media culture; for Zielinski, a poetic exploration of deep times and variantology; and so forth. For me, it is an exciting theoretical opening to think about material media cultures in a historical perspective. However, it expands into an experimental set of questioning about time, obsolescence, and alternative histories as well. In one way, it is about analyzing the conditions of existence of media cultural objects, processes and phenomena. It picks up on some strands of ‘German media theory’, but connects that to other debates in cultural theory too. I like what Bernhard Siegert has said about the early ethos of media archaeology being that of Nietzschean gay science — experimental, exploratory, radical. Perhaps in this vein, media archaeology is one answer to the need to think transdiscplinary questions of art, science, philosophy, and technology.

Following Michel Foucault, Friedrich Kittler, Paul Virilio, Katherine Hayles, Geert Lovink and Jeffrey Sconce, among others, the field has a pedigree, and Parrika’s book is the first to align its lineage. Further afield, Media Archeology: Approaches, Applications, and Implications, edited by Parikka and his colleague Erkki Huhtamo (University of California Press, 2011), samples the many flavors of media archeology. In many ways, the field offers an alternative to simply historical views of media (see Wolfgang Ernst, this volume). It is “first and foremost a methodology,” as Geert Lovink (2004) put it, “a hermeneutic reading of the ‘new’ against the grain of the past, rather than telling the histories of technologies from past to present” (p. 11). For example, citing Howard Rheingold‘s discussions of the development of Apple’s Smalltalk (primarily by Alan Kay; see Tools for Thought, 1985), and Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language (Oxford University Press, 1977) via the germinal book Design Patterns (Addison-Wesley, 1994), Casey Alt illustrates how object-orientation pushed programmers from mere computer programming to media-making. By allowing them to see the machine as many machines, each with access to all of the machine’s resources, they could see potential past its place as one big computing device.

Also consider the indexing of dead media. Media are “dead” based on their manufacture, adoption, business viability, etc. (or lacks thereof rather), but all of these aspects vary, overlap, and waver in and out of relevance. “Radio didn’t kill newspapers, TV didn’t kill radio or movies, video and cable didn’t kill broadcast network TV;” writes Bruce Sterling, “they just all jostled around seeking a more perfect app.” From the onset of the digital and imaginary media to dead devices and the world of sound, finding these (non)lineages as such and predicting the present is what media archeology is all about. As Manuel De Landa (2000) wrote, “Human history is a narrative of contingencies, not necessities, of missed opportunities to follow different routes of development, not of a unilinear succession of ways to convert energy, matter, and information into cultural products” (p. 99). Indeed.

So, what if Charles Babbage had finished the Difference Engine? What if one cog in the universal machine were different? What happens when dead media come back to life? Outside of the speculations of steampunk and science fiction, media archeology provides a method for finding out. If you’re interested in a finding a new way to how we got to today, these two books are the place to start.

References:

Babbage, Charles. (1864; 1994). Passages from the Life of a Philosopher. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press

Brummett, Barry. (1999). Rhetoric of Machine Aesthetics. Westport, CT: Praeger.

De Landa, Manuel. (2000). A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History. New York: Zone Books.

Gardener, Mark. (1992). Leave Them All Behind [Recorded by Ride]. On Going Blank Again [Record]. United Kingdom: Creation Records.

Huhtamo, Erkki & Parikka, Jussi (Eds.). (2011). Media Archeology: Approaches, Applications, and Implications. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Lovink, Geert. (2004). My First Recession: Critical Internet Culture in Transition. Rotterdam, Netherlands: NAi/V2.

Milchan, Arnon (Producer), & Gilliam, Terry. (Writer/Director). (1985). Brazil [Motion picture]. United Kingdom: Universal Studios.

Parikka, Jussi. (2012). What is Media Archeology? Cambridge, UK: Polity.

Rheingold, Howard. (1985). Tools for Thought: The History and Future of Mind-Expanding Technology. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Spufford, Francis & Uglow, Jenny. (1996). Cultural Babbage: Technology, Time, and Invention. London: faber & faber.

Mindfulness and the Medium

Over forty years ago, media philosopher Walter Ong wrote that the “advent of newer media alters the meaning and relevance of the older. Media overlap, or, as Marshall McLuhan has put it, move through one another as do galaxies of stars, each maintaining its own basic integrity but also bearing the marks of the encounter ever after” (1971, p. 25). That is, a new technology rarely supplants its forebears outright but instead changes the relationships between existing technologies. During a visit to Georgia Tech’s Digital Media Demo Day, Professor Janet Murray told me that there are two schools of thought about the onset of digital media. One is that the computer is an entirely new medium that changes everything; the other is that it is a medium that remediates all previous media. It’s difficult to resist the knee-jerk theory that it is both an entirely new medium and remediates all previous media thereby changing everything, but none of it is quite that simple. As Ted Nelson would say, “everything is deeply intertwingled” (1987, passim).

Inventing the Medium: Principles of Interaction Design as a Cultural Practice (MIT Press, 2012), Murray’s first book since 1997’s essential Hamlet on the Holodeck (MIT Press), is a wellspring of knowledge for designers and practitioners alike. Unifying digital media under a topology of “representational affordances” (i.e., computational procedures, user participation, navigable space, and encyclopedic capacity), Murray provides applicable principles for digital design of all kinds — from databases (encyclopedic capacity) to games (the other three) and all points in between. There’s also an extensive glossary of terms in the back (a nice bonus). Drawing on the lineage of Vennevar Bush, Joseph Weizenbaum, Ted Nelson, Seymour Papert, and Donald Norman, as well as Murray’s own decades of teaching, research, and design, Inventing the Medium is as comprehensive a book as one is likely to find on digital design and use. I know I’ll be referring to it for years to come.

“Mindfulness” illustration by Anthony Weeks.

Designers can’t go far without grappling with the way a new medium not only changes but also reinforces our uses and understandings of the current ones. For example, the onset of digital media extended the reach of literacy by reinforcing the use of writing and print media. No one medium or technology stands alone. They must be considered in concert. Moreover, to be literate in the all-at-once world of digital media is to understand its systemic nature, the inherent interrelationship and interconnectedness of all technology and media. As Ong put it, “Today, it appears, we live in a culture or in cultures very much drawn to openness and in particular to open-system models for conceptual representations. This openness can be connected with our new kind of orality, the secondary orality of our electronic age…” (1977, p. 305). “Secondary orality” reminds one of the original names of certain technologies (e.g., “horseless carriage,” “cordless phone,” “wireless” technology, etc.), as if the real name for the thing is yet to come along.

These changes deserve an updated and much more nuanced consideration given how far they’ve proliferated since Ong’s time. Net Smart: How to Thrive Online (MIT Press, 2012) collects Howard Rheingold‘s thoughts about using, learning, and teaching via networks from the decades since Ong and McLuhan theorized technology’s epochal shift. Rheingold’s account is as personal as it is pragmatic. He was at Xerox PARC when Bob Taylor, Douglas Englebart, and Alan Kay were inventing the medium (see his 1985 book, Tools for Thought), and he was an integral part of the community of visionaries who helped create the networked world in which we live (he coined the term “virtual community” in 1987). In Net Smart, his decades of firsthand experience are distilled into five, easy-to-grasp literacies: attention, participation, collaboration, crap detection (critical consumption), and network smarts — all playfully illustrated by Anthony Weeks (see above). Since 1985, Rheingold has been calling our networked, digital technologies “mind amplifiers,” and it is through that lens that he shows us how to learn, live, and thrive together.

These two books are not only thoughtful, they are mindful. The deep passion of the authors for their subjects is evident in the words on every page. A bit ahead of their time, Walter Ong and Marshall McLuhan gave us a vocabulary to talk about our new media. With these two books, Janet Murray and Howard Rheingold have given us more than words: They’ve given us useful practices.

References:

McLuhan, Marshall. (1964). Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Murray, Janet. (2012). Inventing the Medium: Principles of Interaction Design as a Cultural Practice. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Nelson, Ted. (1987). Computer Lib/Dream Machines. Redmond, WA: Tempus Books.

Ong, Walter J. (1971). Rhetoric, Romance, and Technology: Studies in the Interaction of Expression and Culture. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Ong, Walter J. (1977). Interfaces of the Word: Studies in the Evolution of Consciousness and Culture. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Ong, Walter J. (1982). Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. New York: Routledge.

Rheingold, Howard. (1985). Tools for Thought: The History and Future of Mind-Expanding Technology. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Rheingold, Howard. (2012). Net Smart: How to Thrive Online. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

The Human Factor: Animals, Machines, and Us

Before we all take the nonhuman turn, perhaps we should revisit what being human means in the first place. The debate has a rich pedigree. Situating the humans among the animals, as well as among our machines, is as fraught a philosophical position as one is likely to find. What separates us? Language? Self-awareness? Consciousness? Suffering? The machines themselves? No one, from Descartes and Kant to Heidegger and Levinas, seems to have a defensible answer. Two recent books explore the animal question in very different but interesting ways.

The human is a pointless and treacherous category.
— Kodwo Eshun

Burroughs to Ginsberg: “Human, Allen, is an adjective, and its use as a noun is in itself regrettable.” — Tweeted by Steven Shaviro, November 28, 2009.

Building an elaborate three-way bridge connecting animals and humans and machines (a.k.a. “the cybernetic triangle”), Human Error: Species-Being and Media Machines by Dominic Pettman (University of Minnesota Press, 2011) is a wildly engaging exploration of what it means to be human. From the philosophies of Agamben, Deleuze and Guattari, Haraway, and Heidegger to documentaries like Grizzly Man (2006) and Zoo (2007) and from songs like Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer to God” to Aerogramme’s “A Simple Process of Elimination,” Pettman swings wide in search of the lines we draw as well as the ones we cross.

Animals came from miles around
So tired of walking so close to the ground
They needed a change, that’s what they said
“Life is better walking on two legs!”
But they were in for a big surprise
‘Cause they didn’t know the law!
— Oingo Boingo, “No Spill Blood”

Pettman writes, “In Descartes’s time, the beating of an animal was, in most cases, the beating of a machine, akin to thrashing an unreliable car that would complain by beeping its horn. Compassion for animals was seen as a misguided and extravagant anthropomorphism” (p. 114). He cites Jean Baudrillard arguing that animal cruelty, specifically the late medieval ritual practice of hanging a horse, makes us more human by equalizing the two. He continues, “Today, we have widened the circle of empathy, depending on our cultural and individual sensibilities, although not yet to the extent that we would throw our arms around a photocopier were we to witness it being assaulted by an overworked librarian” (p. 114). The argument continues, citing a sort of Turing test of suffering, as if each species must prove to us (humans) that it is in pain.

The rules are written in the stone
Break the rules and you get no bones
All you get is ridicule, laughter
And a trip to the house of pain!
— Oingo Boingo, “No Spill Blood”

Donkeys are stoic in their suffering, forever keeping their cards close to their chests. They would pass the Turing test of animal suffering in only the most extreme cases. In The Wisdom of Donkeys: Finding Tranquility in a Chaotic World (Walker & Co., 2008), Andy Merriman explores his humanity through the calm eyes of the donkey. A former academic, Merriman escaped that bookish bedlam to the south of France to roam the hills with a donkey named Gribouille. He visits the outdoor clinic of the Society for the Protection and Welfare of Donkeys and Mules in Egypt and finds it more inspiring than the Pyramids. The economy there is driven by donkeys, not camels as is widely assumed. Donkeys plow the fields, carry the equipment and supplies, and since they are being bred less and less, the few extant donkeys are more precious to the economy and subsequently evermore overworked. Head veterinarian Dr. Mohsen Hassan posits that most donkey mistreatment comes from ignorance not cruelty, and that most of the donkeys collective problems seen in the clinic could be avoided “with sensible handling practice and informed care” (p. 187). In short, respect for the donkey. The workers there don’t seem to think that donkeys feel pain. They treat them as machines.

Merriman’s book follows his travels elsewhere through the southern regions of France and through many fictional tales of humans and donkeys and donkey treatment. They do not respond well to the prodding and beating they get. Donkeys need patience and gentle encouragement. Often their circumstances do not afford them this. Saying the same about us, Merriman writes, “Global donkey inequities mimic the human world’s inequities” (p. 191). Or, as Pettman puts it, “To err is human; to forgive, equine” (p. 110).

————–

Special thanks to Ken Wark for recommending Merriman’s donkey book.

References:

Elfman, Danny. (1983). “No Spill Blood”  [Recorded by Oingo Boingo]. On Good For Your Soul [LP]. Santa Monica, CA: A&M Records.

Eshun, Kodwo. (1998). More Brilliant Than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction. London: Quartet Books.

Merriman, Andy. (2008). The Wisdom of Donkeys: Finding Tranquility in a Chaotic World. New York: Walker & Co.

Pettman, Dominic. (2011). Human Error: Species-Being and Media Machines. Minneapolis, MN: The University of Minnesota Press.

Digging in the Gates: The Digital Socratic Shift

If bricolage is the major creative form of the twenty-fist century, then the archive is its standing reserves. Socrates famously worried about the stability of our memories as we moved from an oral to a written culture, and his concerns have been echoed in the move to digital archives. The pedigree of this technological Socratic shift is deep. When Thomas Edison first recorded the human voice onto a tin foil roll on December 6, 1877, he externalized and disembodied a piece of humanity. Jonathan Sterne writes that “media are forever setting free little parts of the human body, mind, and soul” (p. 289). By the time Edison patented the phonograph in 1878, the public was familiar and comfortable with the idea of preserved foods. As a cultural practice, “canned music” in John Philip Sousa’s phrase, was ripe for mass consumption. Envisioning a world without such “canned” media is difficult to do now. We preserve everything. The problem is not so much the authenticity of our entertainment and information, but how to parse the sheer expanse of it. Andreas Huyssen (2003) mused, “Could it be that the surfeit of memory in this media-saturated culture creates such an overload that the memory system itself is in constant danger of imploding, thus triggering fear of forgetting?” (p. 17).

Condense fact from the vapor of nuance.
— Juanita Marquez in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash

Alongside library science and other information archiving skills, forensics is a contemporary growth field. If we are to use our media as a sort of technological “Funes the Memorious,” what do we do when technological change outpaces its retrieval compatibility? You likely have (or have had) mass storage containers (e.g., cassettes, VHS tapes, floppy discs, etc.) that lack a device capable of reading them, ghosts of information past trapped in a black box forever. We’re all archivists whether we notice or admit it, but the gates to our archives have expiration dates. A recent trip to UT’s Harry Ransom Center revealed stacks of media unreadable by any technology on-site. William Gibson‘s electronic work Agrippa: Book of the Dead plays on this very trope of archival decay. The piece, set for a one-time reading, consists of a 300-line poem on a 3.5″ disc encased in a box made to look like a hard drive, is set to scroll once through and erase itself forever, a textual spectre set free from the archive after its single haunting episode. The pages of the included book version were treated with photosensitive chemicals which fade with exposure to light.

According to Matthew G. Kirschenbaum’s Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination (The MIT Press, 2008; now available in paperback), There was one public performance of Agrippa. On December 9, 1992, at the Americas Society in uptown New York City, Penn Jillette read the poem aloud, which was projected on a big screen, exacerbating its scroll into oblivion. The event is fraught with rumor and lie, as the full text of the intentionally ephemeral Agrippa was posted online the next morning. The conditions of its hacking are detailed in full in Kirschenbaum’s book, and a collection of documents surrounding the work is available online. Another interesting artifact sprung from this event: Re:Agrippa, a choppy remix of videotaped footage from the single Agrippa public event, test patterns, and haunting voiceovers kludged together by the NYU students who “hacked” Agrippa‘s text for online consumption [runtime: 5:44]:

J9s3HIsWZyc

Our archive fever needs feeding. With its flickering signifiers and configurable nature, we consider the things on the screen temporary. But, as Kirschenbaum notes, in lieu of hard drives and other external devices (the main concern of his book), the visual display of the computer was originally considered a storage device. Now, crashed drives and outmoded media hide their secrets from everyone except those closest to the machine. Forensic scientists, not unlike those seen on that other screen, are more important than ever to our unstable memories. They can condense fact from the vapor of hidden nuance and open the gates to the archival entrails of dead media.

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It should be noted that my conception of the archive and the haunting thereof owes a large debt to the teachings of Josh Gunn. Oh, there’s some unacknowledged Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida, Dick Hebdige, Bruce Sterling, and Kate Hayles in there as well.

References:

Borges, Jorge Luis. (1964). Funes the Memorious. In Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings. New York: New Directions.

Huyssen, Andreas. (2003). Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Kirschenbaum, Matthew G. (2008). Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Stephenson, Neal. (1993). Snow Crash. New York: Spectra.

Sterne, J. (2003). The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.