The relatively new discipline of “media archaeology” examines the materiality of media objects through time. Media archaeologists propose that media never die, but instead assume afterlives in society, the environment, and linguistic signification. Pioneer media archaeologists and precursors include the likes of Michel Foucault, Friedrich Kittler, and Bernard Stiegler. In recent years, newcomers to the field have approached information networks, sound environments, and image cultures as also encompassing a plethora of social and political contexts. In short, media archaeology has spawned a series of interdisciplinary, theoretical approaches to the ways in which our medias’ pasts can be identified and experienced in the historical present [Image 1].

Shannon Mattern’s recent book, Code and Clay, Data and Dirt: Five Thousand Years of Urban Media, engages this second generation of media archaeology. Using both a theoretical and practical framework, Mattern conducts an actual archaeology in the modern city, complemented by...

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