This essay offers a feminist critique and correction of media archaeology. Media archaeology has developed over the last two decades as a historiographic response to increasingly advanced contemporary media technologies and, with them, changing accounts and archives of earlier analog media networks. Redressing the absence of an explicitly feminist media archaeology, the essay focuses on the medium of the gendered telephonic voice and the method of voicing. The former is inspired by the extraordinary prevalence of feminine voices deployed in media old and new, while voicing is inspired by Jacques Derrida’s turn from phonocentric presence to telephonic writing. The essay elaborates this concept of voicing by contrasting Derrida and other philosophers of voice with the desexualizing approach taken by media archaeologists, focusing on Wolfgang Ernst’s version of media archaeology as cold, timeless bachelor-machine. It concludes by turning to the digital resurrection of Thomas Edison’s phonographic female dolls by a no less gendered technology, an optical scanning system named IRENE (Image, Reconstruct, Erase Noise, Etc.). Tracking “female noise” from Homer’s Sirens to Edison’s dolls, IRENE to Apple’s Siri, it argues that media archaeology should have as one of its essential conditions feminist critique. Media archaeology would do well not to repress this critique, considering the no less gendered fantasy of a neutral thinking of objects stripped of desire, a fantasy likewise voiced by Siri and her sisters, spokeswomen of neoliberal, digital capitalism.
Paul Flaig; Yesterday’s Hadaly: On Voicing a Feminist Media Archaeology. Camera Obscura 1 September 2018; 33 (2 (98)): 105–137. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-6923130
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