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Media Ecologies

Remix In Media Ecologies Matthew Fuller sets up a study of media systems through an ecological looking glass, focusing on “dynamic systems in which any one part is always multiply connected, acting by virtue of those connections, and always variable, such that it can be regarded as a pattern rather than simply an object.” Making use of Deleuze and Guattari’s machinic phylum and hylomorphisim, looks at disparate technologies, media, cultural movements, governmental control, etc. that through processes of self-organization and a kind of “coming together” create new and unexpected possibilities.

Pirate Radio

Looking at pirate we see a machinic phylum that includes not just combined technologies but “a whole interrogative filed of social, juridical, legislative, political, and economic formations.” Here we find that changes in any on of these areas can cause new practices to emerge. Objects in this light are not looked at simply for materiality, but looked at for the potential they have in combination with other elements.

The Apparatus

The camera has two programs, one to allow the camera to take pictures and another to allow the photographer to play. “Beyond these are further programs – that of the photographic industry that programmed the camera; that of the industrial complex that programmed the photographic industry; that of the socio-economic system that programmed the industrial complex; and so on.” The abstraction of the object into apparatus, “a complex plaything so complex that those playing with it are not able to get to the bottom of it,” is matched by that of the systems that arrange labor into a complex mechanism that relies on a network of social arrangements.

Standard Objects

The standard object is one, which functions with “an ideally isolated system,” as exemplified by Fuller’s citations of the streetlight and shipping container. Both function in an isolated manner, which implies exchange, command, and communality. Within these objects are embedded a language that can tell us about the forces involved in their creation.

Evolutionary Media

“You put enough bits together and they start breeding.” In chapter 4 Fuller discusses the evolutionary possibilities of media through concepts of the meme, seamlessness, and surveillance. He cites some limitations with the relatively new area of study memetics; one point being the inability to observe small scale or dead memes. As well, he identifies “flecks of identity” as variables in the socioalgorithmic processes of surveillance.


Mathew Fuller’s Media Ecologies attempts to progress from flat semiological readings of objects and their symbolic power, to a look at the living ecosystems various media live within. It looks at interconnectedness, relationality, and potentiality that combinatorial arrangements of media and other elements allow. It illustrates to us what can develop end when these combinations come into alignment.

References/ Recommended Reading

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