Encountering the Anthropocene: Geology, Culture, Ethics

A podcast-article by myself published in Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture. 12(1), pp.35–37.

What does the proclamation of the Anthropocene – an epoch in which the human is said to have become a geological agent and who’s had irreversible impact upon our planet (Kolbert, 2014; Klein, 2014) – mean for media and cultural studies? ­Reflecting on the crisis of human and nonhuman life as manifested in ongoing multispecies extinction, this contribution discusses how media and cultural studies can engage with the ‘geological turn’ (Ellsworth and Kruse, 2013). It also considers whether it makes sense to practice media and cultural studies from the ­perspective of deep, i.e. geological, time. 

Zylinska argues that this ‘naturecultural’ mode of thinking can be traced back to Raymond Williams’s idea of culture as ‘transformation of substance at a biological level’ (1997). Yet the Anthropocene may open up media and cultural studies to new ways of engaging with nature and culture, by raising questions about issues of distribution, environment and the privileging of the human as the central point of ethics (Zylinska 2015). At the same time, in its attention to both matter and ­discourse, media and cultural studies can help rein in some of the rhetorical excesses of the Anthropocene debate. Through its hermeneutic tools, it can also challenge an uncritical and moralistic focus on materiality that ‘the geological turn’ at times implies.


Photomediations: A Reader on

On 11 November 2016 our Photomediations: A Reader (Open Humanities Press 2016) was 'book of the day' on the popular website., a program of the Free Ebook Foundation, offers a website that supports sustainable funding and distribution for Creative Commons and other freely licensed books. They are compiling a comprehensive catalog of these books while offering authors and publishers new ways to make their efforts sustainable. "Thanks for Ungluing" lets creators ask readers for support for free works on their download link pages and from inside the books.




Cables, cameras and other fossils: media pasts and media futures

This is a recording of my keynote address from ‘Mediating (Dis)Continuities: Contesting Pasts, Presents and Futures’: 6th European Communication Conference, organised under the auspices of European Communication Research and Education Association ECREA, Prague, 9-12.11.2016.



My talk adopts a media-ecological perspective to explore parallels between biological extinction and technical obsolescence. Its argument is anchored in the notion of “media fossils”: remnants of our media history that will continue long into a posthuman future as discarded techno-trash, materials decomposing in the air, soil and oceans, as well as cosmic debris. Through an exploration of various sites of media present and media past, I offer a mediation of, and a meditation on, our human relation to devices that we create and discard, on the desire for new products that fuels so-called innovation, and on the politics, ethics and aesthetics of waste. My method here is that of an amateur geologist-philosopher-artist, one whose process involves an affective-material excavation of the past mixed with a textual and visual speculation about the future. It differs therefore from the more brazen exploratory pursuits, in which (predominantly male) media archaeologists and geologists thrust their probes into deep time across cosmic scales, offering a God’s eye view of the universe’s geological, biological and art-historical strata. My project is much more modest in scope in that it will offer what Donna Haraway has called a “view from somewhere.” Tentatively described as “shallow media geology,” my excavatory quest leads me to several localized material and conceptual fossil sites in search of various media pasts – and media futures.

And here's a short interview about the keynote with with a student TV station at Charles University.


Photography after the Human: talk and article

WHAT IS AN IMAGE WHEN THERE'S NO ONE TO SEE IT?: PHOTOGRAPHY AFTER THE HUMAN Keynote at the What Is an Image? conference, University of Copenhagen, 2015


Plus a full article, just published in the journal photographies, and also titled "Photography after the Human". Taylor & Francis have kindly made it openly available for 6 months.

ABSTRACT: How can we visualise and subsequently reimagine the abstraction that is the extinction of human species while there is still time? The article addresses this question by considering the existence of images — and, in particular, light-induced mechanical images known as photographs — after the human. The “after the human” designation does not just refer to the material disappearance of the human in some kind of distant future, but also to the present imagining of the disappearance of the human world as a prominent trope in art and other cultural practices. Such “ruin porn” has some historical antecedents: from the sublime Romantic landscapes of ruined abbeys through to paintings such as Rotunda by Joseph Gandy, commissioned by John Soane, the architect of the Bank of England, and depicting the bank as a ruin even before it was built. Yet the visualisation of ruins has gained a new inflection in the Anthropocene, a period that is said to be suffering from a dual eco-eco crisis: the current global economic crisis and the impending — and irreversible — environmental crisis. We can think here of the seductive and haunting images of Detroit, a financially bankrupt North American city with a glorious industrial and architectural past — but also of TV series imagining our demise as a species, such as History channel’s Life after People. By extending the temporal scale beyond that of human history and introducing the horizon of extinction into the discussion, the article denaturalises our political and aesthetic frameworks through which we humans see and understand ourselves. It also takes some steps towards imagining a post-neoliberal world here and now.


Photomediations: symposium & launch of an open access book


19 February 2016, 3pm-7pm

Goldsmiths, University of London, Room PSH326


Come and join us for a half-day symposium exploring the relationship between photography and other media, and celebrating the launch of the open access book, Photomediations: A Reader (Open Humanities Press, 2016), edited by Kamila Kuc and Joanna Zylinska (free to download):

The concept of photomediations brings together the hybrid ontology of ‘light-based media’ and the fluid dynamism of ‘mediation’. The papers presented in the symposium will challenge the traditional classification of photography as suspended between art and social practice in order to capture the dynamism of the photographic medium today. They will also explore photography’s kinship with other media – and with us, humans, as media.


  • Professor Joanna Zylinska (Goldsmiths): Photography Reloaded, or What Are Photomediations?
  • Dr Kamila Kuc (Goldsmiths) and Dr Michael Wamposzyc (University of Portsmouth): Panel on Curating Open Photography
  • Dr Rob Coley (University of Lincoln): Ecological Detection
  • Professor David Bate (University of Westminster): Colour Space
  • Dr Anna Dahlgren (Stockholm University): Magazined Photographs
  • Launch of Photomediations: A Reader and wine reception

An open access pdf version of Photomediations: A Reader is freely available here:

How to get to Goldsmiths and campus maps:

NB. Due to Crossrail works there will be no London Overground service to Goldsmiths on 19.02: you’ll need to take a replacement bus, or travel one stop on the train from London Bridge to New Cross instead.

The Reader and the symposium are part of the activities of Europeana Space, a project funded by the European Union's ICT Policy Support Programme under GA n° 621037.