PhD Logistics

Garnet Hertz, 23 June 2010

Dissertation Overview

The title of my dissertation is "Methodologies of Reuse in the Media Arts: Exploring Black Boxes, Tactics and Archaeologies" and was completed in November 2009. This research investigates what motivating factors drive contemporary media artists to use obsolete information technology hardware and electronics in their work, and articulates what they accomplish by reusing and repurposing outdated communication devices. Three themes of reuse are proposed and explored through the examination of works by artists Reed Ghazala, Natalie Jeremijenko, Tom Jennings and Paul DeMarinis and through conversations with theorists Geert Lovink and Jussi Parikka. Reuse is explored as a method of uncovering the concealed mechanisms of consumer electronics, tactical reuse is developed as a tactical method for political change, and archaeological reuse is expatiated as a historiographical intervention.

To begin, foundational concepts related to the cultural significance of obsolete media technologies are established. In Chapter One, titled "Pervasive Obsolescence: Rethinking Ubiquitous Computing's Dominant Vision" the topic of obsolescence is brought forward within the framework of the computer science fields of informatics and ubiquitous computing. In Chapter Two, "Establishing Media Archaeology: Current Practices, Methodologies and Foucault," the emerging field of media archaeology is presented as a useful methodological framework to approach the study of obsolete media technologies.

In the second section of this text, three themes will be introduced with specific examples to help describe key differences in how media artists engage with contemporary reuse. In Chapter Three, "Exploring the Black Box: Reed Ghazala's Incantor" the first theme is presented: reuse motivated by an uncovering the "blackboxed" technological layer within devices that are usually concealed. Chapter Four, "Tactical Reuse: Natalie Jeremijenko's Feral Robotic Dogs" explores the second theme of reuse motivated by bringing forward social change through the challenging of civil institutions. The third and final theme is presented in Chapter Five: "Archaeological Reuse: Tom Jennings' Story Teller and Paul DeMarinis' Gray Matter" which focuses on the recycling of older materials for the purposes of rewiring history and intervening in historiography.

These categories and examples are not intended as an exhaustive categorization of how obsolete information technologies are repurposed, but are constructed to help bring articulation, understanding and discussion to a diverse, dynamic and growing field of practice.

In the third section of this text two conversations are presented that explore the topics of media obsolescence, reuse and media archaeology. In Chapter Six, media theorist and activist Geert Lovink is interviewed in "New Media Arts in Crisis" and in Chapter Seven a dialogue with Finnish media scholar Jussi Parikka entitled "Archaeologies of Media Art" is included.

This dissertation is intended to bring clarity to the topics of reuse and obsolete media in the media arts, and to articulate a language around a new body of practices in contemporary artistic production. Focusing on this topic builds a link between media arts and the phenomena of adaptation and re-invention, essential parts of human culture, technology, tool-building and artwork. Repurposing, reusing and modifying objects is a natural part of the evolution of human culture, with social practices evolving in collaboration with continually reinvented objects around us. As Marshall McLuhan stated in 1964, "we shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us."

Academic Context

PhD Reading Lists

Note: Some titles below have transcribed citations and notes that have been posted at

Peter Krapp: Media Technology in Transition


Ed Dimendberg: Media History - Cinematic & Moving Image Technologies


Mark Poster: New Media

THEME #2: MCLUHAN & NEW MEDIA - April 23rd 2007
THEME #3: POSTER & NEW MEDIA - April 30th 2007
THEME #4: NEW MEDIA THEORY - May 7th 2007

Garnet Hertz,