(W)Reading Week for Social Distancing

I feel like my comfortable and predictable teaching-writing-reading has been quite upset lately. First, there was spring break, now there’s this move to online teaching, and finally, there’s the uncertainty of what will come next. It’s almost certain that my early summer field plans are cancelled, my later summer plans are in limbo, and various other local fieldwork projects remain in the balance.

In light of all, this and as a deeply personal effort to seize control of my life in some way, I’ve declared this week a “reading week.” The hope is get on top of a few reading projects and set myself up to write the final chapter of the first part of slowly developing first part of a book that I’m trying to write on archaeology of contemporary American culture. This chapter will focus on three things:

1. Materiality and Media Archaeology.
2. Archaeogaming.
3. The Archaeology of Digital Archaeology. 

As you might gather from reading this blog, the second and third parts of this chapter will be rather easier to write than the first. At the same time, the first part of this chapter will allow me to segue neatly with my previous chapter on “Things, Materiality, and Agency.” (I’ll post a rough draft of this chapter later in the week). To get there, though, I need to sharpen my understanding of the major currents in media archaeology. To start, I’ll re-read the useful forum in the Journal of Contemporary Archaeology on media archaeology and make my way through Jussi Parikka’s useful survey of media archaeology as well as his A Geology of Media (2015). I’m also going to read Jennifer Gabrys’ Digital Rubbish (2013), Tarleton Gillespie, Pablo J. Boczkowski, and Kirsten A. Foot edited volume Media Technologies: Essays on Communication, Materiality, and Society (2014), Josh Lepawsky, Reassembling Rubbish: worlding electronic waste (2018) and Nick Dyer-Witheford and Greig de Peuter’s Games of Empire: Global Capitalism and Video Games (2009). I’m also going to push myself to read two novels. First, Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia: complicity with anonymous materials (2008) and, then, Thomas Pynchon’s The Bleeding Edge (2013). We’ll see how this all goes. I’ve tried to be ambitious before and it ended up a total failure.

The rest of the chapter feels – for now – a bit more straightforward. I’ll lean mightily on Andrew Reinhard’s book Archaeogaming (2018) for the middle section of the chapter and the usual suspect for a critical engagement with digital archaeology that considers both its materiality and the way in which digital media and tools have come to shape archaeological practices. 

It’s been a very long time since I’ve taken a week or so just to read and while I’m as horrified and terrified by the swelling number of coronavirus cases both in my community and around the world, I wonder whether immersion in something other than problems beyond my control will be therapeutic. It goes without saying that I will continue to work to transition my classes to online, work to revise a few papers that have re-appeared after a time in the wilderness, and keep nudging various longstanding projects forward (e.g. NDQ, various books with The Digital Press, and some curriculum initiatives). At the same, taking a break from writing and, instead, invest in something that has a more tangible conclusion like reading a book.  

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