Zombie Media – media that are living dead. This is a concept that Jussi Parikka and Garnet Hertz have developed for a while now. They recently published a mini-manifesto of a larger text, that is locked into academia unfortunately.
This is connected with the field of media archeology, which I think is a very interesting and confusing field. It feels like I should love it, but there’s something that bothers me about it. First I have to admit that I haven’t read any of the books on it, so I’ve probably misunderstood plenty of things. Let’s go through the 5 points of the mini-manifesto and see.
1. They oppose the idea of dead media, but they also talk about it. A lot. In fact, the idea of dead media seems crucial for the whole manifesto. So how does that compute? Aren’t there better ways to oppose the idea of dead media?
2. Zombie media are living dead, the authors claim. But… says who? I guess according to hi-def capitalism and its cynical idea of people-as-consumers. But what about all the people, not visible in the mainstream, who still use these media for the same reasons that others use mainstream media? Old people. Children. Poor people. Disabled. Demosceners. Me. Are we that irrelevant?
The machines are far from dead, atleast to us. So my question is: Doesn’t the zombie media concept completely surrender to planned obsolescence?
3. So there is a war on general-purpose computing, which seems highly urgent to address politically and pragmatically. The authors focus on practice, and argue for hacking the black boxes – echoing the free-and-open discourse (which deserves some scepticism). But how – and why – would the opening of technologies lead to something that we haven’t already seen?
4. The authors want to take media archeology into the art world. I don’t know, but didn’t that happen with chip/glitch in the 00’s, or the demoscene in the 90’s, or with all those Cages and Paiks of the 60’s? I agree that artists (and others, including me) need to engage more with technologies, and take it seriously. But I guess for me that means to master the tool, instead of bending it or something. Why should media archeological art build on appropriation and remixing?
5. Of course reuse is an important part of our culture. People don’t seem to be talking about much else these days. Everything is a remix and originality is a sin. But does that mean that we should promote remix culture even more? Doesn’t really seem necessary? It just seems Scandinavian. Why not just steal shit from the trash instead? Pay the guy at the recycling point to get some good machines. Why would an “open remix culture” be better than trashy hacking and computer love?
I never really liked archeology/anthropology so perhaps it’s not surprising that I don’t really get the ideas of zombie media. Why does it matter so much that it’s old? Why do we need to circuit bend and remix them, when they are amazing machines already? Why only focus on the differences?
The experts still haven’t figured out how they work. After 30 years the C64 is still not perfectly emulated. They are mysterious machines already. There is no need to hack them.
If there is a machine that should be hacked, it’s academia. If I was an academic I would do something about it before it’s 100% Google Scholar to anyone who doesn’t have leet access.
Meanwhile, the 8-bit computers work just fine. They are not the zombies. We are the zombies. We are the ones who are too lazy or busy to learn how to use them. That’s why I don’t believe that encouragement of appropriation and remixing and opening is going to amount to much. Just do your homework and stop fiddling around! :)