Columbia's Group for Experimental Methods in the Humanities
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Media become palpable in transmission, as when, for example, an audio signal is transformed from sound waves into electromagnetic pulse for digital storage. This research cluster concerns the material conditions of media production, reception, and dissemination. We are media theorists, archivists, practitioners, and historians interested in making good on the metaphor of media ‘archaeology.’ Archaeology, in its literal sense, reveals platforms and infrastructures that support cultural practice. To recover the object in its critical-theoretical figuration is to encounter it also as an epistemic thing and to recreate, experimentally, devices and techniques that brought it into existence.


» Unidentified Found Object (UFO) citizen humanities

  • Sierra Eckert
  • Kristen Gallerneaux
  • Phillip R. Polefrone
  • Dennis Yi Tenen
  • Grant Wythoff

Our first mission: to identify “Mystery Object 40.9.11” in the collections of the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit. In the summer of 1915, a wireless telegraph station in Sayville, Long Island owned by the German company Telefunken was caught sending covert commands to U-Boats patrolling the Atlantic Ocean. Precisely how the Germans cryptographically hid their communications right under everyone’s noses in the United States—and in turn, above their heads—remains a mystery.

Today, the Henry Ford Museum holds a collection of equipment originating from the “RCA Museum.” These materials were distributed to the The Henry Ford and several other institutions in between 1937-1940. Noteworthy is that the RCA Museum only ever existed on paper—items consequential to the history of technology were gathered by RCA representatives...

» Recursive Encounters w/ AI experiment

  • Jonah Bossewitch
  • Rob Garfield

While chipping away at my dissertation this summer I found myself faced with the daunting task of transcribing about a dozen hours of video. I desperately wanted to believe that, in 2014, transcription was a machine’s task, so I took a minor detour through the state of the (consumer) art in voice recognition. One of my computers runs OSX which includes Dictation (since Mavericks), the same voice recognition software that powers Siri. Following these instructions I used the Soundflower kernel extensions to send the audio output from Audacity into Dictation’s input.

Dictation did such an awful job understanding my video that I actually found it easier to transcribe the videos...

» Mobile Media and the Paleolithic article

  • Grant Wythoff

An article in progress, previously presented at the New Apparatus Theory panel at SLSA-Turin 2014, Archaeologies of Film and Media, Bradford, and the Heyman Center for the Humanities. As we begin to take up new objects of study, how do humanists—largely trained in the analysis of text—apply their expertise to the interpretation of artifacts? What are the unique forms of evidence and argumentation found in media studies and digital humanities?

In the mid-1950s, a collection of Neanderthal artifacts was unearthed in the southwest of France, kicking off one of the most famous debates over the study of cultural transmission through the archaeological...

» Plain Text book

  • Dennis Yi Tenen
▁▁▁▂▄▄▅▅▆▅▆▇▇█ 93378 words on 2016-03-10

While I write these introductory remarks, a ceiling-mounted smoke detector in my kitchen emits a loud noise every three minutes or so. A pleasant female voice announces also “low battery.” This is, I learn, a precaution stipulated by US National Fire Alarm Code 72-108 11.6.6 (2013). The clause requiring a “distinct audible signal before the battery is incapable of operating” is encoded into the device. The smoke detector literally embodies that piece of legislation in its circuitry. We thus obtain a condition where two meanings of code—as governance and machine instruction—coincide. Code equals code.

I am at home, but I also receive a notification of the alarm on my mobile phone. Along with monitoring apps that help make my home “smarter,” the phone contains most...