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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Medienwissenschaft

Archiving Presence

Archiving Presence: From Analog to Digital


"Archiving Presence: From Analog to Digital" ist ein Kooperationsprojekt der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin mit der Hebrew University of Jerusalem von 09/2013 bis 12/2015 unter der Leitung von Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Ernst (Lehrstuhl Medientheorien, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin) und Dr. Amit Pinchevski (Department of Communication and Journalism, Hebrew University of Jerusalem). Im Rahmen des zweijährigen Forschungsprojekts fand am 16-17.04.2014 im hiesigen Medientheater des Fachgebiets Medienwissenschaft, Georgenstraße 47 in 10117 Berlin, ein Workshop unter dem Titel "Techno-Trauma: From Analog to Digital statt.


Zur Projektbeschreibung "Archiving Presence: From Analog to Digital" (Link)


Workshop "Techno-Trauma: From Analog to Digital"


Zum Abstract des Workshops (Link)


16. - 17.04.2014


Medientheater des Fachgebiets Medienwissenschaft der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Georgenstr. 47, 10117 Berlin, Raum 0.01


(Please click on the lecture title to get to the corresponding abstract)




Abstracts der Redner (chronologisch geordnet):


Wolfgang Ernst:

TECHNOLOGICAL VOICING OF TRAUMATIC MEMORY. Irritations of Presence by Non-Human Storage Technologies

Audiovisual signal recording and replay - the epoque of media time - has resulted in tempor(e)alities of a new kind. It not simply affects the human sense of time but has been described by Walter Benjamin more acutely as a "choque" to sensation for individuals and extends to so-called "collective memory" as well. Although for generations such media time has become accommodated in every day practice, its sensational shock has not yet been cognitively digested and continues to irritate what I call the "cultural unconscious". Such media-induced temporal interruptions, irritations and incisions I call traumatic temporealities since they share a central feature with unhistoricizable "traumatic" memory.
An escalation of this situation is so-called media witnessing where crisis is not experienced as an exceptional eventality any more like historical revolutions or natural desasters in the past but "as a generalized and routine background condition - a persistent crisis-readiness" (Frosh / Pinchevski). In a more techno-radical reading, this background condition is no vague a priori of contemporary society as described by sociology (Beck) but is rooted in the time-critical conditions of such media technologies themselves. Let us therefore turn from the phenomenological to the media-archaeological analysis and concentrate on the time-critical element within and induced by technical media.
Media memory of traumatic experience is primarily being discussed in the contect of visual media such as the Holocaust witnesses video recordings. The following analysis rather concentrates on the audio-specific qualities of traumatic memories and its chrono-psychic implications. Whereas aura as defined by Walter Benjamin
depends on the impression of being "here and now", technological tempaurality and specifically its sonic articulations culminate in the archetype of human presence, the voice, and its media-tempaurality.
The specifity of "traumatic" media-aurality will be discussed referring to the following case studies: "Broken Presence": the Christmas 1943 Ringsendung broadcast from war fronts by German national radio; "Voice recordings from beyond the concentration camps": David Boder; "Auditive Eichmann" (referring to Pinchevski / Liebes); "Future in the past": archival storage driven by a virtual trauma; finally "Disembodied voices from analog to digital".


Amit Pinchevski:

TV AND PTSD. Notes on the Mediation of Trauma

Recent studies in psychiatry propose the notion of distant trauma as "the reaction (memory, thinking, symptoms) to a disastrous event, experienced at the time of the event, but from a remote and realistically safe distance" (Terr et al, 1999).  While the diagnosis of PTSD has traditionally been restricted to firsthand and immediate experience, it seems the condition is now spreading to include mediated experience as well.  This recent development is the launching pad for an exploration into the relation between media and trauma.  I propose that trauma, as a violent clash between inside and outside, has always been constituted by its mediation and thus can be usefully understood in terms of technical media logic.  A historical sketch of the conjunction of media and trauma includes Freud’s speculations on traumatic neurosis, psychiatric experiments with film, changes in the DSM criteria of the disorder, post-traumatic audiences after 9/11, reports on PTSD among drone operators, and VR trauma therapy.  I will consider how the screen is increasingly becoming the locus of both cause and cure of PTSD.  In this respect, television is a key factor in contemporary conception of PTSD: both as a media apparatus and as the visual register by which an event is said to have a traumatic effect from afar (i.e., tele-vision).


Marie-Luise Angerer:

SHORT-CIRCUIT. On Intervals and Time Loops

There is a conspicuous interest in motion, in the movement of the body, its small and smallest movements (reflexes, petites perceptions), as a level where human bodies and machines are supposed to meet, forging a new, intensive connection via the zone of affect. This zone of affect, Bergson’s „Empfindungszone“ (the indescernable zone), as an interval of intensive forces, responsible for delays and skips, corresponds surprisingly with today’s much cited brain’s plasticity. Bergson’s telephone switchboard (his image of the brain) has turned today into the image of a network of infinite neuronal synapses. But these synapses too „know“ an interval, producing an ongoing timing of affect.

Ido Ramati:

ARCHIVING ORIENTAL SOUNDS. Oral Jewish Tradition Meets the Phonograph

The presentation focuses on the technological transition in recording music within the modern Jewish context, from cantillation signs, the traditional Jewish system of encoding sounds, to the first Hebrew phonograph recordings at the beginning of the 20th century. Each method is a specific mechanism for archiving sounds; comparing and analyzing their underlying logic allows one to sketch the emergence of Modern Hebrew music as influenced by the traditional liturgy. The encounter between the two archiving methods occurred when Abraham Zvi Idelsohn, a German-educated ethnomusicologist and composer, immigrated to Ottoman Palestine and began recording the Jewish liturgy of eastern communities in 1909. His project was supported by the Royal Academy of Sciences in Vienna and the Phonogramm-Archiv in Berlin, as part of their efforts of documenting the Orient. Idelshon’s recordings were thus a modernist project, conducted within an orientalist framework, in which the Jewish oral traditions were recorded for the first time in history. I argue that these recordings rewrote the history of the cantillation signs, which only after the appearance of the phonograph could have been imagined as a traditional and authentic archiving method.


Hadar Levy:

RESOUNDING NEWS. Rhetorics of Sound in Television Newscasts

Television News is a well calculated and polished genre, designed to establish its authority to persuade us of its truth claims about the world. Sound acts both as an institutional mean and a subversive element in relation to this orchestrated enterprise. The reverberating, sterile acoustic architecture of the studio stresses the authority of the anchorwoman and the correspondents to "frame" the reality, while muting its chaotic sounds. However, unplanned and elusive noises wound the silence, indicating the "liveliness" of the broadcast and uncovering its backstage, due to the "phonographic" logic of the microphones. Sound "leaks" and breaks the visual frame outside the studio as well, during live reports from the scene. "Sound walls" are used conventionally in news items to produce a specific presence effect of reality. Noisy and distorted recordings signal of immoral proceeding but also convey the telephonic medium's presence effect. The most individual human sound; the voice, carries a strong presence effect even when it is technologically distorted in order to conceal sources identity. The analysis of sound in television news uncovers its institutional manifestations, used as a conventional wrapping of a reality embedded with ideology, but also reveals sound's insidious character; threatening to break the visual frame by acoustic presence effects while challenging the cultural frame as well.


Nikita Braguinski:

SPEAK AND SPELL. Speech Synthesis and the Uncanny

The once-popular "Speak and Spell" electronic device was capable of imitating human speech by means of an electronic model of the vocal tract - that is, by mimicking the acoustic properties of the glottis or the mouth. Driven by an algorithmic chain of commands and interactions, and backed by a database of utterances that have been analyzed into their smallest building blocks this device has helped to raise a generation of children able to spell correctly according to the current norm - as well as understand the often difficult-to-decipher electronic voice. In my presentation I will show how the phenomenon of electronically and algorithmically simulated speech is related to the notion of the uncanny in its disembodied, exactly repeatable, highly reduced, but still working imitation of human communication.


Sander van Maas:

EARPRINTS. Real-Time Traces of Listening Experiences

If musical experience is often thought of as being too immediate, ambiguous and complex to be captured in another medium the research project discussed in this presentation has as its aim to devise strategies to provoke this resistance and make it productive for musical listeners in classical concert situations. The research is currently conducted by the University of Amsterdam in partnership with the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. Working in close collaboration with programmers from the Tracks concert series which aims to enhance concert experience by creating a theatricalized environment according to the formula of "short concerts, long nights," the project focuses on the question how live audience members might be enabled to produce real-time traces of their listening experience. Such traces or 'earprints' would hypothetically allow listeners to archive (Ernst) their musically affected presence while creating incentives to exteriorize this presence in ways that would enrich and build it. As opposed to the current trend in classical music presentation to shift the balance between absorption and theatricality (Fried) toward the latter the project understands the position of listening as fundamentally sovereign (Derrida) and in need of instruments that would allow it to speak from that sovereignty. Here the project addresses a deeper concern with the relation between listenership, technology and cultural empowerment. In the presentation I will discuss a number of historical attempts to trace, archive and transform live musical experience before proceeding to a theory-driven discussion of formats and forms adequate to tracing in the realm of the digital.


Annette Bitsch:

The Trauma in Jacques Lacan's Concept of the Cybernetisised Unconscious Subject

The psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, well-known within the circle of cybernetic communication engineers, took in the 1950s the trace of the Freudian experience - the unconscious - and transferred it to the early age of digitization. He conceives and formalises the unconscious subject on the matrix of a digital computing machine. The unconscious subject is implemented in the real of the physic body as procession of pure signifiers or simply: as discrete elements. In the Lacanian theory a signifier does not exist for itself, not in a singularly and uniform shape, but only in-between two states. However, in order to transport and transmit these signifiers or, looking at the machine that Lacan has euphorised, the 0001100110 code of the desire in an encrypted form, the subject has to be cleaved. After doing this it is able to jell alternately two discrete conditions according to the two central moments of AC. This moment of being split or ‘geklüftet‘ is the trauma. The trauma occurs at a time of immemorial earliness, it can never be reconstructed as such. It is far ahead of any activation of the imaginary dimension - that is the range of images and ideas that work according to the principles of visual media.
In Lacan's work there is evidence to suggest that the trauma takes place as a sonic (media) happening, at least that it is in close contact - if not directly with sonic media - with the sonic: the (still inarticulated) voice, the noise, the cry, the acoustic. The presentation will attempt to discover these relationships.


Thomas Tode:

LOOKING FOR SOUND & UTOPIA. Movie & Presentation

The film presentation invites you to an entertaining journey into the early history of technical media. It deals with media history from the late 19th Century to the first television broadcast in 1936. Since 1880 there has been an intense parallel work on the development of telephone and television, sound recording and film. Artefacts from the film and sound archives can relive the magic that has been developed by technical media. Animations show lost moments of this history. They let the audience experience the network of technical media in use and compress it into a compact space of experience. The contemporaries of the 1920s, who experienced the connection of cinema, radio and gramophone records, already knew total networking and multimedia: mobilisation of dreams.
The film clips leave no doubt: Google Earth, walkman, and playback already existed in the 10s and 20s of the 20th Century. But the more modern society wanted to emancipate themselves from their natural mortality by creating more and more 'immortal' imageries, the more the technique itself became a mechanism of mastery: colonization of dreams.
It is striking that the movies always thematise the 'misuse' of any new technical medium: illusion, imitation, and surveillance of our world by colonial masters right up to the Nazis. But the archives as memory of the self-will sometimes contain images and sounds that are accrued without direct political or economical exploitation interests. It is worthwhile to pursue these utopias and to feel the wind of the future in the past.