A Geology of Media
By Jussi Parikka
I recently read a short precursor to this book, The Anthrobscene, after enjoying Nora Khan’s fascinating review. That book is all about the physical materiality and deep, often damaging footprint of media on the earth and its ecology. (The title is a play on the term “anthropocene”, referring to the epoch beginning when human activities started to have large-scale impact on the earth/environment.) It talks a lot about the tangible resources of media underlying much of what we abstract to things like “the cloud”, and goes into discussion of deep time and layers of both time and space that expand the context of how we think about media—and the lasting damage that results when we fail to appreciate this.
This book was just published last month; it has neither a single user review nor any extant “Look Inside” preview available on Amazon, so I’m basing what I know about the book and why it seems interesting partly on the book’s blurb, but mainly on what I read in The Anthrobscene.
And that premise is, so far as I can tell, basically the same as that of The Anthrobscene, just expanded: that media history extends deeper back in time—and deeper into the physical earth—than we tend to recognize, and that acknowledging this forces us to “confront the profound environmental and social implications of this ubiquitous, but hardly ephemeral, realm of modern-day life.” Honestly, in reading the blurb description I don’t see much that actually seems to differentiate this book from its more compact predecessor, but this book is at least five times longer, so I’m sure Parikka adds and clarifies much.
There are some books in my antilibrary that I fully expect to read someday, and others that I’m pretty sure I never will. This book falls into the latter category both because I feel like I’ve already been exposed to many of its core ideas, and I found the author’s writing style to be a bit denser in academese than I’d like (at least for extended durations!) But I still think the premise of this book is a very important one. While media theory is never the most enthralling of literary genres, I feel safe in agreeing with one reviewer that this book, with its novel synthesis of ecology, geology, history, science, and economics, “really expands what media theory can do.”