Media devices don’t exist only as technological artifacts — as things we hold in our hands, manipulate by keyboards, or simply just listen to or stare at. They are also discursive entities that live in the cultural imagination, translated into ideas and metaphors. This lecture demonstrates how media archaeology, an emerging approach in media studies, makes sense of the media apparatus. It does so by discussing a number of case studies, such as the vicissitudes of the kaleidoscope, a familiar optical toy, that proves to have led a rich and complex cultural life, evoked by countless creators and commentators from artists and artisan to writers and politicians.
Erkki Huhtamo is a pioneering media archaeologist. He works as professor of media history and theory at the University of California Los Angeles and holds a PhD in cultural history. Professor Huhtamo’s writings span both media history and media arts. He recently published a large monograph called Illusions in Motion: Media Archaeology of the Moving Panorama and Related Spectacles (The MIT Press, 2013).