“Ether and Ore: An Archaeology of Urban Intelligences” in Laura Kurgan and Dare Brawley, eds., Ways of Knowing Cities (Columbia Books on Architecture and the City, 2019): 120-30
“Urban Scanner” [interview with me] Landscape Architecture Magazine (July 2018): 38-44.
“How to Graft a City” (p. 5) in The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge 1: Grafting (Mississauga: Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto, Mississauga, June 2018)
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]
“Media Archaeology of Poetry and Sound: A Conversation with Shannon Mattern,” Interview with Christine Mitchell, Amodern 4, “The Poetry Series” Special Edition (March 2015).
“Speculative Archaeology,” Places (December 12, 2014)
on the myriad art and design projects that adopt the m.o., method, or metaphor of archaeology
“Ear to the Wire: Listening to Historic Urban Infrastructures,” Amodern 2, “Network Archaeologies” Special Issue (October 2013)
This past week I had the pleasure of participating in the “Spectacular/Ordinary/Contested Media City” conference at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Study; I’ll probably write a post summarizing my experience within the next couple of days. While there, I had the honor of delivering one of the keynotes. Preparing for my talk, which I titled “Deep Mapping the Media City,” also gave me an opportunity — and a deadline! — to map out a lot of the key theoretical and methodological issues that are central to my so-called “book project.” Because much of the text from the talk will likely reappear as the intro to the book, I’m a little reluctant to share it at this point. But I’m happy to share my abstract — and my slides (with a few of the final slides redacted, since they represent colleagues’ works in progress)!
The “media city” is typically presented as a product of modern times and modern technology — a spatial construction that came into being with the rise of photography and film and is evolving into our sentient cities of tomorrow. Yet our cities have always been mediated. Supplementing the methodologies of media archaeology with those of archaeology-proper, I aim to excavate the “deep time” of urban mediation and thereby show the entangled temporalities of our various media networks, including the continued power of “old” media in shaping our contemporary and future cities.
The “deep map,” a multimodal form of critical cartography, is one tool that can help us to appreciate the historical and spatial entanglement of urban media infrastructures. As Kittler reminds us, “A city…is not a flattenable graph. In a city, networks overlap upon other networks” — and deep maps can help to “make sensible” this layering. I’ll begin my talk by exploring my current work in theoretically mapping the deep time of the media city, a space simultaneously aural, graphic, textual, electroacoustic, digital and haptic. Then I’ll share recent praxis-based work, including that of students in my own “Urban Media Archaeology” graduate studio, that aims to map historical urban media infrastructures.
Later this week I’ll be heading to Chicago for my seventh (seriously?!) Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference, and I’m stoked to be joining a group of super-genius whippersnappers — Laine Nooney from Stony Brook, Jacob Gaboury from NYU, and Rory Solomon from Parsons — on a panel exploring “New/ Media/ Archaeologies: Extensions and Interventions in Media Archaeology” (we got extra credit for using not only the obligatory colon, but also the ever-provocative slash — not one, but two of them!). I’m grateful to Laine for bringing us all together and chairing the panel. She’s offered a nice overview on her website, and I’ll share it here, too:
Rory Solomon | Parsons the New School for Design
“Software Stratigraphy: Media Archaeology of/as the Stack”
Shannon Mattern | The New School
“Echoes and Entanglements: A Sonic Archaeology of the City”
Laine Nooney | Stony Brook University
“Materialist Methods for Mystery House(s): A Feminist Media Archaeology of Early Video Games”
Jacob Gaboury | New York University
“An Archeology of Uncomputable Numbers: Queer Media History”
Over the past 20 years, media archaeology’s emphasis on non-progressive media histories, dead and failed media, and media materialism has refreshed the theoretical domains of media studies. Scholarship in media archaeology has long been united by a methodological focus on the primacy of the technological medium itself, rather than its representational content. However, these methods, by outrightly rejecting questions of discursivity, subjectivity and political economy, produce their own academic difficulties. The anti-hermeneutic tradition of media archaeology has produced a body of scholarship that often leaves unaccounted the ghostly or immaterial components of media studies that do not leave technological registers in our material world.
This panel re-assesses the intersections of objects, subjectivities and environments that typically lie beyond media archaeology’s reach, extending media archaeological methods across disciplinary boundaries. Rory Solomon offers a programmer-oriented view, complicating the notion of a purely non-discursive technical substrate using the software model of the “stack.” The “stack” illustrates that operative layers always exist above and below any substrate; methods are best imagined as “both/and” rather than “either/or.” Shannon Mattern productively confuses the distinction between media archaeology and archaeology “proper,” in an effort to address the very literal “digging” required to write a history of urban sound. Mattern insists media archaeology should learn from actual excavation, as material practices are all the more significant when one must unearth forms of mediation that themselves have no physical instantiation. Laine Nooney continues to focus on material context, arguing that media archaeology remains deeply gendered when scholars privilege objective analyses of media objects that forgo cultural and human materiality. Nooney intersects feminist materialism with media archaeology to highlight the largely “invisible” female affective and material labor at work in video game history. Jacob Gaboury locates a queerness in media archaeology demanding further attention to identity-based critiques. Gaboury suggests that media archaeology’s attention to failed, glitched and re-occurring processes dovetails with queer theory’s turn toward a politics of failure and anti-sociality, and reads computer history against its grain to offer a queer alternative to the telos of “successful” communication.
My presentation will pick up on some ideas I explored in my “Dirty Media Archaeology” talk at the fabulous Network Archaeology conference last April, and in my “Hearing Infrastructures” public lecture at the Canadian Centre for Architecture last June. Since then, I’ve been reading a lot of classics and archaeology, and talking to some archaeologists, acousticians, and engineers — and the insights I’ve gleaned from these resources and encounters will, I hope, allow me to expand both the historical and practical dimensions of this particular talk. Plus, I hope to be able to play some “dug up” sounds, rather than simply talking about them, this time.
If my presentation shapes up decently, I’ll post it here. If not, I’ll keep working on it and perhaps share it later on as a draft book chapter. Regardless, part of this work will emerge this summer as “Ear to the Wire,” an article in the recently-launched Amodern journal.