On McLuhan

[On McLuhan] in Peter Bexte and Martina Leeker, eds., Medium / McLuhan (meson press, 2020): 52-3.


Field [in Uncertain Archives]

“Field Archives” in Nanna Bonde Thylstrup, et al., eds., Uncertain Archives: Critical Keywords for Big Data (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2021): 227-34.


Glimmer: Refracting Rock

Glimmer: Refracting Rock,” LA+ 12: GEO (University of Pennsylvania, 2020)


Bibliographic Machines

Bibliographic Machines,” in The Internal Machine, John Roach, editor and curator, The Center for Book Arts [exhibition catalog] (October – December 2017).


Code and Clay, Data and Dirt: 5000 Years of Urban Media

University of Minnesota Press, November 2017

Awards: The Society for Cinema and Media Studies’ Anne Friedberg Innovative Scholarship Award; Media Ecology Association’s Dorothy Lee Award

Interviews: Jennifer Reut, “Urban Scanner,” Landscape Architecture Magazine (July 2018): 38-44; Chris Richardson, “Shannon Mattern: Code and Clay, Data and Dirt,” This is Not a Pipe [podcas]

(May 17, 2018); Jeffrey Wood, “How Media Has [sic] Shaped the City,” Talking Headways [podcast]

(May 2018); Ian Garrick Mason, “The Intelligence of Cities,” urbanNext (November 2, 2017); “Shannon Mattern on ‘5000 Years of Urban Media,’” with Mack Hagood, Mediapolis 4:2 (November 2, 2017).

Reference point for artist Lila Fowler’s Code Clay, Data Dirt exhibition, Firstsite Gallery, Colchester, UK, 2019.


Field Archives: Ice, Sediment, and Soil as Document (2017)

“Field Archives: Ice, Sediment, and Soil as Document,” Information and Humanities Conference, Penn State Center for Humanities & Information, September 22-23, 2017

Slides here 

Mattern FieldArchives PSU by shannonmattern on Scribd


Understanding Media Studies Lecture Series: 2017

I organized the New School’s School of Media Studies’ Monday Night Lecture Series

March 6: Documentary and Difference

Genevieve Yue is an assistant professor of culture and media at Eugene Lang College, and co-editor of Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture. Her writing has appeared in October, Grey Room, Film Comment, and Film Quarterly. She is currently completing a book on feminism, materiality, and film theory.

Ephraim Asili is an African American Artist, Filmmaker, and Deejay. One of the points of focus in Asili’s work is the African Diaspora as a cultural force. His work often weaves together the near and the far as a way of revealing linkages across history and geography. Thus far Asili’s work has been filmed in locations including  Ghana, Brazil, Jamaica, and Ethiopia as well as in Philadelphia, Harlem, and Detroit. His films have screened in festivals and venues all over the world, including the New York Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Ann Arbor Film Festival, San Francisco International Film Festival, Milano Film Festival, Trinidad and Tobago International Film Festival, MOMA PS1, LAMOCA, and The Boston Museum of Fine Art.

March 27: Power Plays With Data

Zara Rahman is a researcher, writer, and linguist who is interested in the intersection of power, culture and technology. She has travelled and worked in over twenty-five countries in the field of information accessibility and data use among civil society. She was the first employee at OpenOil, looking into open data in the extractive industries, then worked for Open Knowledge, working with School of Data on data literacy for journalists and civil society. Now, she is a fellow at Data & Society Research Institute in New York City, and Research Lead at The Engine Room where she leads their Responsible Data Program, looking into the practical and ethical challenges around using data in social change and activism.

Mimi Onuoha is a Brooklyn-based artist and researcher using code and writing to explore the process, results, and implications of data collection. Recently she has been in residence at Data & Society Research Institute and the Royal College of Art. Onuoha has spoken at and exhibited at events internationally, and in 2014 was selected to be in the inaugural class of Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellows. Currently she teaches at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program and is a Research Resident at Eyebeam, where she is programmatically and interpersonally investigating data collection, missing datasets, and strategies for intervention and response.

April 17: Media and Thermodynamics

Tega Brain is an artist making eccentric engineering, work that intersects art, ecology & engineering. Eccentric engineering reimagines technologies to address their scope and politics, with a focus on externalities and unintended consequences. She has exhibited at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, the Science Gallery Dublin, Eyebeam in New York City and the Australian Centre for Design, Sydney. Tega is a fellow at Data & Society NYC and is an Assistant Professor of New Media at SUNY Purchase.

Nicole Starosielski is Assistant Professor in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. She is author of The Undersea Network (2015), which charts the development of transoceanic cable systems, beginning with the nineteenth century telegraph network and extending to today’s fiber-optic infrastructure. She is also co-editor of Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrastructure (2015), Sustainable Media: Critical Approaches to Media and Environment (2016), and the “Elements” book series at Duke University Press. Her current project, Media Hot and Cold, traces the relationship between media technologies, embodied perception, and thermal conditions.

April 24: Expanding Soundscape: Experiments in Field Recording

Kevin T. Allen is a filmmaker and sound artist who makes ethnographically imbued “sound-films” in Vietnam, Sri Lanka, India, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, the Wild West, and the migrant farm worker community of Immokalee, Florida. Recent research leads him to find culture not exclusively in human forms, but also inherent within physical landscapes and material objects. His work is featured internationally at museums and festivals and is funded through the Jerome Foundation. He is a part-time assistant professor of sound and filmmaking at The New School.

Maile Colbert is an intermedia artist and educator with a concentration on sound and video. She holds a BFA in The Studio for Interrelated Media from Massachusetts College of Art, an MFA in Integrated Media/Film and Video from the California Institute of the Arts, and is currently a Research Fellow towards a PhD in the Estudos Artísticos program in the College of Social and Human Sciences at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa. She has had multiple screenings and exhibits, and has performed and screened widely in Japan, Europe, Mexico, and the States.

May 1: Everyday Forms of Innovation: Africa Contemporary

Sean Jacobs is on the international affairs faculty of The New School. A native of Cape Town, South Africa, he studied there, at Northwestern University and the University of London. He has held fellowships at The New School, Harvard University and NYU. His writings on African politics, reality television, the internet and soccer, have appeared in/on The New York Times, Jacobin, The Guardian, Volkskrant and Chimurenga Chronic.

Clapperton Mavhunga is an associate professor of science, technology, and society at MIT. His professional interests lie in the history, theory, and practice of science, technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship in the international context, with a focus on Africa. He is the author of Transient Workspaces: Technologies of Everyday Innovation in Zimbabwe (MIT Press, 2014), and has just finished editing a volume entitled What Do Science, Technology, and Innovation Mean from Africa? which explores STI in Africa from an archaeological, historical, philosophical, anthropological, STS, engineering, development, and policymaking perspective. Mavhunga’s second monograph—on tsetse fly as a site of African knowledge production—is finally finished after extensive further research and is expected late 2017 or early 2018.


Media + Materiality

Graduate seminar elective

Ours is an existence characterized by cultural flux and political economic flows, by the virtualization of place and the acceleration of time, the disembodiment of labor, the fluidity of identity, the “conceptualization” of art, the etherealization of communication. Yet even these financial flows and digital networks rely on physical supports, on material storage devices and infrastructures, and embodied interactions with human actors. This seminar examines media as material objects, as things, as symbolically charged artifacts, as physical supports for communication. In the first third of the semester we’ll explore various theoretical frameworks and methodologies – from “thing theory” to media archaeology – that can be useful in studying the material culture of media. The second third will be dedicated to custom-designed “plug-ins” that pertain to students’ individual research interests. And in the final third, we’ll work collaboratively on the creation of (an) online exhibition(s) of material media – an endeavor we’ll approach as a form of “multimodal scholarship,” an alternative means of performing and publicizing academic work. The particular format of our project will also provide an opportunity for us to think through the central concepts of our class: what does it mean to mediate the materiality of media objects, and to create a virtual exhibition that addresses their physicality?

Spring 2012: Syllabus | Course Website

Fall 2010: Syllabus | Student-Designed Syllabus for Final Eight Weeks | Course Website | Recap of Semester + Student Projects


Mud, Media + the Metropolis (2016)

I was honored to be invited to share a chapter from my forthcoming book, Ether/Ore: Archaeologies of Cities and Media, at the University of Amsterdam in May. This particular chapter, “Of Mud, Media, and the Metropolis: Aggregating Histories of Writing and Urbanization” will also appear this fall in a special “Geology of Media” special issue of Cultural Politics, edited by Jussi Parikka. You can find my slides here.


Light and Looms and Libraries: Three Months in Galleries

The past three months have been quite a rush; they encompassed the end of the fall semester, a move to a new apartment, the holidays, another move to Germany for the first half of my Spring 2016 fellowship at the Bauhaus, a few completed articles (on information infrastructures, infrastructural aesthetics, and index cards), several public talks (on media furnishings, epistemological design, sensing infrastructure, and library design), lots of advising, and a completed book manuscript. Still, I managed to squeeze in a few hours in galleries:

First, to celebrate the submission of fall grades, I stopped by Little Sister (Is Watching You, Too), curated by my colleague Christiane Paul, @ Pratt Manhattan Gallery:




Augustine Kofie’s “Inventory” — office-supply assemblages and Charles-Sheeler-meets-the-Constructivists media-archaeological collages — @ Jonathan Levine:







Walid Raad — deconstructions of the exhibitionary complex, anti-archives, Baldessari-meets-Forensic-Architecture bullet-hole mappings, etc.– @ MoMA:












Some great “aesthetics of administration” stuff, especially from John Houck (whom I’d seen before at On Stellar Rays) and David Hartt, in MoMA’s “Oceans of Images” photography show:







Also in December: “Alternative Unknowns” (Elliott Montgomery + Chris Woebken) @ Apex Art:


Then in Berlin, in February: Anette Rose’s fantastic “Captured Motion” — the mechanical and human gestures of automated manufacturing — @ Haus am Lützowplatz:



Back in New York in February: Hiroki Tsukuda’s “Enter the O” @ Petzel:


Tauba Auerbach’s brilliant “Projective Instrument” — featuring a lovely assemblage of glass tools — @ Paula Cooper:



Lari Pittman’s “Nuevos Caprichos” @ Gladstone:



Penelope Umbrico’s excellent “Silvery Light” — which highlights both the indexical relationship between light and photography, and the derivative nature of iconic photos-of-light — at Bruce Silverstein:






Also: “From Minimalism to Algorithm” @ the Kitchen and Doug Wheeler’s “Encasements” @ David Zwirner


Then, Blooks — books that aren’t — at the Grolier Club and Gregory Crewdson’s “Cathedral of the Pines” at Gagosian:



Mark Dion’s “Library for the Birds of New York” @ Tanya Bonakdar:










The symbolism is quite obvious, but still charming. The gallery explains:

Central to the installation is an 11 foot high white oak, referencing a range of important philosophical and scientific constructs: the tree of life, the tree of knowledge, and the evolutionary tree, which serves to illuminate the phylogenic system created by man to understand the structure of the biological world. “The Library for the Birds of New York” also includes artifacts of capture such as bird cages and traps, referencing hunting for the exotic bird trade. Other imagery is symbolic of death, extinction, and the classification of birds as pests or vermin. These historical categorizations position man atop an implied hierarchy, and are juxtaposed with a subtle insistence that birds possess knowledge outside of the human experience, rendering them fundamentally unknowable by man. The birds are uninterested in these objects; thus underscoring the absurdity of a manmade library for birds, which purports to school them in subjects such as geography, navigation, and the natural world, of which they inherently have full command.

Finally, Taryn Simon’s “Paperwork and the Will of Capital” — photos of the floral centerpieces at tables of monumental negotiations and signings-of-business-deals-and-international-agreements — @ Gagosian. I love this idea of the “floral witness.”

In Paperwork and the Will of Capital, Simon examines accords, treaties, and decrees drafted to influence systems of governance and economics, from nuclear armament to oil deals and diamond trading. All involve the countries present at the 1944 United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, which addressed the globalization of economics after World War II, leading to the establishment of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. In images of the signings of these documents, powerful men flank floral centerpieces designed to underscore the importance of the parties present. Simon’s photographs of the recreated centerpieces from these signings, together with their stories, underscore how the stagecraft of political and economic power is created, performed, marketed, and maintained.

Each of Simon’s recreations of these floral arrangements represents an “impossible bouquet”—a concept that emerged in Dutch still-life painting parallel to the country’s seventeenth-century economic boom, which ushered in the development of modern capitalism. Then, the impossible bouquet was an artificial fantasy of flowers that could never bloom naturally in the same season and geographic location. Now the fantasy is made possible—both in the original signings and in Simon’s photographs—by the global consumer market.

Yet I have to wonder: how much did it cost, and how much energy was expended, to source all those flowers?!