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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by transcript Verlag October 1, 2015

Unearthing Techno-Ecology

On the Possibility of a Technical Media Philosophy of Ecology

Tim Barker and Conor McKeown
From the journal Digital Culture & Society

Abstract

Studies of media and ecology are often reduced to questions of representation: understanding the cultural mediation of nature means looking to screen based content. However, given recent work in materialist media studies from Doug Kahn, Lisa Parks and Eugene Thacker in particular, a new possibility comes into view. We now know that before nature is mediated through culture, it is often passed through layers of technology. With that in mind, this paper offers a radical rethinking of the technological mediation of the ecological. Through a study of the technical apparatus as an active system of knowledge, two different sections of the paper will illustrate the ‘tool-kit’ that makes possible a technical study of ecology. The first looks to historical developments of hardware such as the telegraph, radio, and satellites to pinpoint examples where media technology has been used to pick up signals from the natural world. Framed by the philosophy of Peter Sloterdijk, it explores the way nature has been given form through its transduction into communication systems. The second section of this paper, addressing ecology on a different register, looks past the surface of digital media to the manner in which ecologies are mediated via computer code. In this section, by conducting a reverse-engineering of the software based eco-media videogame Mountain (O’Reilly, 2014), we encounter the ecological structure of code systems which could be applied to other data visualisation systems. These two methods of analysis suggest the possibilities of a technologically focused study of eco-media: in coming to grips with both global and internal ecologies through what Sloterdijk terms ‘air conditioning’ systems - the material processes that provide the atmosphere of everyday life - we investigate the possibilities for innovative, post-human, approaches to a natural world entwined with media and technology.

Published Online: 2015-10-1
Published in Print: 2015-9-1

© 2015 by transcript Verlag