German media theorist Wolfgang Ernst (1959) is a member of the Berlin circle inspired by Friedrich Kittler and currently fouding the Seminar for Media Studies at Humboldt University. He is contributing to the’media archeology’ school in which new media are traced back to earlier concepts. Following this methodology one reads traces of digital technologies into history, not the other way round. The idea is that there is no teleology in which media unfold themselves in time. Against the usual chronological reading of media, from photo and radio to television and the Internet, Wolfgang Ernst utilizes the Foucaultian ‘archeological’ approach that aims to unveil active power relationships.
“Instead of media anthropology, or media sociology, he demands that aisthetis medialis is recognized through its constitutive, concrete difference from human perception. Just as with Kittler, there is not much room for humans in the media ontology of Ernst. To use Lacanian vocabulary that has been embedded partly as the post-structuralist legacy of German media theory, it is the real that is the object of the media archaeologist and his method, not the symbolic (except when interested in the algorithmic logic of digital culture) nor the imaginary – a point where he differs from the imaginary media research of another Berlin media archaeologist, Zielinski.”
no place can be more deconstructive than archives themselves, with their relational, but not coherent topology of documents which wait to be reconfigurated, again and again.
I have to confess, even when I claim to perform media-archaeological analysis, I sometimes slip back into telling media stories. The cultural burden of giving sense to data through narrative structures is not easy to overcome.
Media archeaology is driven by a certain “Berlin school of media studies” obsession with approaching media in terms of their logical structure (informatics) on the one hand and their hardware (physics) on the other – thus different from British and U.S. cultural studies, which analyze the subjective and social effects of media.