Course Overview

“Media Archaeology Reconfigured, ” taught by Professor Lori Emerson, attempts to undertake a deep, chronological history of the “field” itself, delving into distant ancestors, both real and potential (such as Plato’s Phaedrus, the machines of Leonardo Da Vinci, the envelope poems of Emily Dickinson, and the chronophotography experiments of Étienne-Jules Marey) and more well-known roots (such as work by Walter Benjamin, Sigfried Giedeon, and Martin Heidegger). With this deep history in place, we then move on to what have become the commonly accepted, canonical works of media archaeology (by writers such as Michel Foucault, Marshall McLuhan, and Friedrich Kittler) to see if we might actually unseat their canonical status by the works that came before and perhaps even open up the possibility for later additions to the field of media archaeology.

What if, for example, we chose to insert the work of Donna Haraway (whose work was published right before and right after the German publication of Kittler’s Discourse Networks) into the late twentieth century lineage of media archaeological thinking – work that offers the in-betweenness of the cyborg and a practice of deep situatedness as a radical departure from the abstract materialism of Heidegger’s notions of nonduality in relation to technology? More, what does her feminist-materialist thinking make possible for the field in the 21st century? Moving further into the late twentieth century, what difference does it make if we insert Bruce Sterling’s proposed Dead Media Project from 1995 as a foundational concept for later works on dead media, imaginary media, and variantology? Can we ourselves think of media archaeology more imaginatively so that it includes contemporary work – much of it by women – on cities, infrastructures, and networks? Finally, and more importantly, how do we make room for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color thinkers/writers/artists and what exactly is it about the field that has made it so resolutely white male dominated?

Finally, I am happy to report that this course counts as an elective toward the Digital Humanities Graduate Certificate, an interdisciplinary nine-credit program that prepares students to implement computational or digital approaches to humanities inquiry and/or develop humanities perspectives on technology. It is open to any CU Boulder graduate student in good standing, regardless of discipline. For more information visit or email

Course Requirements and Policies
I sincerely hope you’ll feel comfortable contributing to class regularly even though, for better and for worse, we’ll be meeting over Zoom this semester and using our class website as a way to continue class conversations. If you’d like to chat with each other even more and more loosely, I’m happy to set up Slack for you all.

Other than participation, you’re also required to:

  • Post 12 blog posts reflecting on the meaning/significance of some aspect (not all) of the assigned reading. Questions you might want to answer: what’s at stake in this reading? how does it help to build the field of media archaeology and/or how does it intervene in the building of the field? what is revelatory about the reading and (only after you’ve answered the foregoing) what is problematic about the reading or what has the author overlooked? If you’re able to visit the Media Archaeology Lab in person, you’re also welcome to use any of these posts to discuss how your experiments in the lab confirmed or contradicted the reading. All posts are due by noon on Tuesday; please also comment on at least one classmate’s post as a way to create a semester-long intellectual community.
  • Give two presentations: each presentation is an opportunity for you to 1) present on the key aspects of the reading and explain what’s at stake in the reading and 2) research and present on any artistic works from your assigned time period that engage with the media discussed in the reading; you will add links to the syllabus on your assigned day so that everyone contributes to the creation of a collaborative syllabus. These presentations can be a combination of formal and informal and should last about 45 minutes as you walk us through the reading and the art works you’ve chosen to discuss. You’re also welcome to devote some part of your presentation time to class discussion.
  • Create a final project: the project can be of any scope/size you like – it can be critical or creative or some combination of the two; ideally you will find a way to undertake a project that both engages with our course material on media archaeology and develops some aspect of your current creative or critical practice.

Your final grade will be calculated as follows:

  • Weekly blog posts: 15%
  • Presentation 1: 25%
  • Presentation 2: 25%
  • Final project: 35%