Teaching with Objects: Individuating Media Archaeology in Digital Studies

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Journal Title

Journal of Interactive Technology & Pedagogy

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Media archaeology presents a framework for understanding the foundations of digital culture in the social histories of technological media. This essay argues that a pedagogy focused on individual, physical artifacts of technological media involves students in constructing a constellation of insights around technology’s mineral, global, and human history as well as its ecological future. By describing and reflecting on a series of assignments and exercises developed for my “Introduction to Digital Studies” class, I show how the intimacy of specific devices can connect to the exigencies of technological media through the lens of media archaeology. The core of this experience is a group project where students take apart an artifact like an old smartphone or game console, attempt to locate the origins of each component in that artifact, and present those origins in a map and timeline. The risks and rewards of this assignment sequence actively engage students in designing their own learning and encourage them to think critically and ethically about the media they consume, the devices that provide the foundation for that consumption, and the global economy of human labor that makes it all possible. In a step-by-step consideration, I consider how the practical and logistical challenges of this assignment sequence support the learning goals I identify as crucial to Digital Studies.

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