Deep Time of the Media
Toward an Archaeology of Hearing and Seeing by Technical Means
390 pp., 7 x 9 in, 86 b&w illus.
- Published: February 15, 2008
- Publisher: The MIT Press
A quest to find something new by excavating the "deep time" of media's development—not by simply looking at new media's historic forerunners, but by connecting models, machines, technologies, and accidents that have until now remained separated.
Deep Time of the Media takes us on an archaeological quest into the hidden layers of media development—dynamic moments of intense activity in media design and construction that have been largely ignored in the historical-media archaeological record. Siegfried Zielinski argues that the history of the media does not proceed predictably from primitive tools to complex machinery; in Deep Time of the Media, he illuminates turning points of media history—fractures in the predictable—that help us see the new in the old.
Drawing on original source materials, Zielinski explores the technology of devices for hearing and seeing through two thousand years of cultural and technological history. He discovers the contributions of "dreamers and modelers" of media worlds, from the ancient Greek philosopher Empedocles and natural philosophers of the Renaissance and Baroque periods to Russian avant-gardists of the early twentieth century. "Media are spaces of action for constructed attempts to connect what is separated," Zielinski writes. He describes models and machines that make this connection: including a theater of mirrors in sixteenth-century Naples, an automaton for musical composition created by the seventeenth-century Jesuit Athanasius Kircher, and the eighteenth-century electrical tele-writing machine of Joseph Mazzolari, among others. Uncovering these moments in the media-archaeological record, Zielinski says, brings us into a new relationship with present-day moments; these discoveries in the "deep time" media history shed light on today's media landscape and may help us map our expedition to the media future.
Deep Time of Media is an extraordinary gift. Next to the canonical geniuses of the past, Siegfried Zielinski introduces us to a host of unknown philosophers, visionaries, and inventors who turn out to be great precursors to the world of modern media. His book will not only encourage the revision of received wisdom in the history of ideas and of science, but also inspire the geniuses of the future.
Zbig Rybczynski, Filmmaker
Siegfried Zielinski has combed the technical history of the media from cave painting to the World Wide Web and arrived at some surprising new insights... A brilliant study on the subtext of European history of technology and science.
Frank Hartmann Falter
We know that to understand the world, we have to understand the media. To understand the media, and our times, we have to understand the deep time of the media. We learn to hear and see our contemporary scenes by learning the archaeology of hearing and seeing. Zielinski's book uncovers this archaeology for us in the best possible way.
Peter Weibel, Director, ZKM Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, coeditor of Iconoclash: Beyond the Image Wars in Science, Religion, and Art and Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy
Deep Time of the Media is a revealing book that only Siegfried Zielinksi could have written. It is a book that doesn´t legitimize our contemporary technological culture as the logical outcome of a long cultural evolution but instead sees media history as a dynamic process shaped by the accident(al) and the imaginative. Zielinski broadens our view by transgressing different time periods and knowledge fields and exploring obscure archives where hermetics and alchemy reveal the genius of misfits and the art of unforeseen events.
Alex Adriaansens, Director, V2, Institute for the Unstable Media, Rotterdam