Method: Media Archeological site report

MAD-P approach by Sara Perry and Colleen Morgan. MAD-P stands for Media Archaeology Drive Project is an experiment in extending archaeological method into the systematised analysis of media objects. MAD-P was conceived as a critical, creative exploration of the intersections between media archaeology and archaeology,

MAD-P Media archaeological Drive Project

“Media archaeology should not be confused with archaeology as a discipline. When media archaeologists claim that they are ‘excavating’ media—cultural phenomena, the word should be understood in a specific way. Industrial archaeology, for example, digs through the foundations of demolished factories, boarding-houses, and dumps, revealing clues about habits, lifestyles, economic and social stratifications, and possibly deadly diseases. Media archaeology rummages textual, visual, and auditory archives as well as collections of artifacts, emphasizing both the discursive and the material manifestations of culture. Its explorations move fluidly between disciplines…” (Huhtamo and Parikka 2011).

MAD-P Between archaeology and Media archaeology

As Colleen Morgan outlined at the “Archaeologies of Media and Film” conference talk, amongst many things, archaeologists bring with them:

  • a rigorous methodology based in documentation, one that encourages and hones attention to detail, to mundanities, to careful, long term and systematic study of minutiae and the everyday via embodied process
  • an emphasis on recording observations through such embodied process (including drawing); as archaeology is a destructive practice, preservation via record is a priority
  • a focus on fieldwork, situated learning, and collaborative knowledge generation through team work, including extended periods of time over multiple seasons attending to a task via collective practice; this routine and familiarity provide a distinct depth of knowledge (sensory knowledge, historical knowledge, collective knowledge); such practice also appreciates that group participation and the valuing of multiple perspectives have greater value than independent approaches
  • a well-tested, long-term focus on material culture that has generated (or incorporated) tools such as the chaîne opératoire, typological analysis, ethnographic analogy, seriation, object biographies, experimental archaeology, phenomenology, and material sciences

And, for them, media archaeology is especially notable for its:

  • explicit, unapologetic concern for the interplay between past, present, future; its concern for critique, political commentary, and social change
  • valuing of play, performance, exploration, messiness, chaos; its willingness to embrace, rather than dismiss or supress confusion
  • overt efforts to decentre and defamiliarise common interpretations
  • concern for storytelling and narrative-building about media objects and media effects/affects