Matthew. Media Ecologies. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005.
That the twenty-three quotations listed below are just the tip of the iceberg
should serve to remind me to return for a more careful reading of Fuller. Every
damn sentence in this book is like a compressed coil; in combination, they make
for an exciting if exasperating string of pithy insights into methods and
sites/objects of media ecology.
Two themes open the book (which is a "media ecology made of bits of paper"):
1.) media systems interact by interacting and so the method is
radically situated; such interactions must be lived out rather than observed
in a control sample, and 2) media systems should be understood as
materialist in their constitution (which does not lead inevitably to
instrumentalism or positivism) (1).
In the introduction, Fuller accounts for three connotations to "media
ecology": 1.) concerns the "allocation of informational roles in
organizations and in computer-supported collaborative work" (3); 2.) a kind of
answer to tech determinism that emphasizes systemic balance–media environment
equilibrium (Postman, McLuhan, Mumford, Innis, Ong, and Ellul); and 3.) concerns
"discursive storage, calculation, and transmission systems" (4) (Hayles,
Kittler, and Tabbi). Chapter summaries appear on pages 5-12.
Fuller’s method is best described as the "indexing of multiplicities"
(52) among "conjunctive media." Inventories and lists
(15, 44) play a significant part in this approach to understanding more fully
the situated interrelations of media and standard objects. Fuller makes use of
D&G’s machinic phylum–"materiality, natural or artificial, and both
simultaneously; it is matter in movement, in flux, in variation, matter as a
conveyor of singularities and traits of expression" (17)–to comb through the
amalgamation of media involved with pirate radio. In chapter two, he also
involves Gibson’s theory of affordances (44-47), noting that it is
especially adept for the study of media ecology because it hinges on "potential
or activated relations" (45). Finally, in studying these live systems,
Fuller notes that layerings (up and down scales) are neither visible nor
Hylomorphism (18): a model of the genesis of form as external to matter,
as imposed from the outside like a command on material which is thought inert or
Feedback defined (25): the property of being able to adjust future
conduct by past performance
^What would a machinic phylum of composition look like? Rel. p. 23,
machinic phylum of radio.
Note of critique for Nardi and O’Day’s Information Ecologies because its
scope is "insufficient to challenge standardizations of either [technologies or
Key terms: fabrication (2), ecology (2), media ecology (3), information
ecology (3), scale and dimensionality (10, 132), reflexive (12), zone of
experimental combination (13), lists and "infinite patchwork" (14),
hegemonic manyness (15), the aesthetic of multiplicity (15), disequilibrium
(16), permutational fields (16), technical standards (16), machinic phylum
(17), tacit knowledge (18), hylomorphism (18), hyle (20), Markov chain
(29), dub (30), crooning (33), peritextual apparatus (35), hype, redundancy and
information (36), earlid (38), translation (42), visible speech (42),
affordances (45), conjunctive media (47), clots of association
(51), indexing of multiplicities (52), technical ensembles (61), standard
object (93), relations of dimensionality (131), fleck of identity (148).
"Parts no longer exist simply as discrete bits that stay
separate; they set in play a process of mutual stimulation that exceeds
what they are as a set" (1).
"Crucial to such an approach is an understanding that an attention to
materiality is most fruitful where it is often deemed irrelevant,
in the ‘immaterial’ domain of electronic media" (2).
"How can words, concepts, quotations, footnotes, the mechanics of a book, and
the writings and accounts that evade them themselves be nailed down or glued to
a page in a way that makes them reverberate?" (11).
"Children make their way around the world by responding with a ceaseless
‘why’ to every explanation or grunt offered them. This chapter  perhaps
betrays the effect of the main methodological influences in my life at the
moment, but I hope it benefits from the rather childish insistence on
being able to take every path in a labyrinth simultaneously" (11).
"The accretion of minute elements of signification into crowds,
arrays, and clusters allows a reverberation of these cultural
particles between them and together, the connotations of one into flying off the
lick of another" (14).
"Parataxis (a sequence of this and that, ‘ands’) always involves a
virtuality that is hypotactic (concepts and things, nested, meshed, and
writhing). It puts into play a virtual syntax" (15). ^Networked image?
"Multiplicity is induced by two processes: the instantiation of
particular compositional elements and the establishment of transversal
relations between them. The media ecology is synthesized by the broke-up
combination of parts" (16).
"Pirates operate without such prescriptive demands, working instead with
their inverse: at what level of cheapness will things still run?" (16).
"Phyla are replaced or added to by other systems of reference, such as
clades, analytical tools produced by emergent tools and discourses,
such as genetic databases, which provide access to dimensions and
interpretations of evolution other than those simply available to the
interpretive eye" (17).
"Electricity scratches the vitalist itch precisely because it involves
the operation of matter on itself" (19).
"The machinic phylum of the radio in this sense is that of the
creation of flow among dense population, an expanded form of phyla that at once
multiplies the domains in which it is traced by it also produced in the
attempted or actualized imposition of hylomorphic patterning—law,
the state, or the technologies of capture employed by it" (20).
"Speech and its reception becomes Law, each syntagmatic
accretion another node solidifying along the alveoli of power" (26).
"We need now to pay close attention to the particular material qualities
of these technologies as a means to accessing such layers. If we are to
take the elements of these lists as being at one scale a whole, an
object–perceptual effects, which will be discussed throughout the following
chapters–we can also begin to take them apart. While such an element
might provide, as for Whitman’s poet detained in love, a door to a new
universe of relationality in which we can lose ourselves, each component
provides a chance to get smaller, to get molecular, to get material,
while at the same time getting more massive. Details count here"
"The advantage of [Gibson’s] work is that it takes up the possibility of
detailed exploration of the material qualities of
things-in-arrangement, rather than of their essence" (45). ^Strong
discussion of Gibson, affordances, and relationality here and on 46.
"Taking up from where he suggests Foucault leaves off–according to
Kittler, Foucault’s work, being primarily concerned with textual material,
largely cuts out at the point where modern electronic media emerge,
between 1860 and 1870–his procedure for organizing the recognition of
discursive practices makes a substantial and profoundly useful expansion of what
is understood to be constitutive of discourse" (61).
"Each of these first lists also provides a route into a specific approach to
the combination of media systems: memetics, a set of theories in
which cultural elements and processes are proposed as being recognizably
‘evolutionary’; seamlessness, the condition of an uncomplicated
confluence of media systems; and surveillance, the medial drive to
spot, name, and control" (110).
"At this point, it is useful to make clear the conjunction of the two terms
meme and fleck of identity. Under the rubric of monitorability
demanded by meme theory as an epistemology–that it requires an identifiable
isolate, the meme–we can say that the processes of constituting control
make a similar demand. They require identifiers, tags. Within the
society of control, the meme is transduced as a fleck of identity"
"All standard objects contain with them drives, propensities,
and affordances that are ‘repressed‘ by their standard uses, by
the grammar of operations within which they are fit. (This ‘repression’ should
not necessarily be construed negatively. It is likely itself to arise as the
result of a previous or immanent recombination, disassembly, or adaptation)"
"Discourse and language arise as both tabulatory,
isolatable object, the maker of lists, and as visceral
reality-forming means of escape from the grid" (170).
"To the side of every line of text is a nonrecorded chaos of life, of
deleted words, gibberish, a health improper to record among the thin lines of
carefully non-nonsensical findings and leavings" (171).
"The machinic phylum is also produced in the dynamic and nonlinear
combination of drives and capacities that, stimulating each other
to new realms of potential, produce something that is in virulent excess of the
sum of its parts. Indeed such parts can no longer be disassembled; they produce
an ecology. Not a whole, but a live torrent in time of
variegated and combinatorial energy and matter" (171).
"A media ecology is a cascade of parasites" (174).
"The book has adopted a method that works on the basis of a
relatively detailed grounding in specific media elements in order to
draw out what is, one hopes, a more accurate and hence useful account" (175).