Rock Records explores the intricate entanglements between Anthropos and Geos through a wide range of writings about stone(s), from media theory and ecophilosophy to the role of stones in art and the aesthetics of viewing stones. Authors engage the activity, vitality, and relationality of lithic matter and articulate multiple modalities of 'geo-affection,' as well as forms of geo-mythology, geo-sociality, and occult lithography. As the initial issue in a new digital/intermedial series of SubStance aimed at interweaving creative and critical work, Rock Records also features digital versions of essays with photo-rich content, as well as a virtual exhibition of viewing stones and a series of speculative studies in geomedia.
The work in this issue weaves together inhuman and human rock records, examining stratigraphic mediations across a range of geologic and discursive sites. Inevitably, the Anthropocene looms, since it indicates the inscription of human history in the geologic record. But the Anthropocene doesn't signify Homo sapiens making their mark in Earth history so much as being marked and demarcated by it—it is a down-to-earth dawning realization of humanity's radical recentness, appended by a dread-hedged nascent imagination of the species' potential extinction. Though the Anthropocene seems to take a long view of human history, it is a comically myopic biopic of anthropic proportions. Depending on when its Golden Spike is planted, the Anthropocene spans agriculture, trade networks, colonization, industrialization, globalization and The Great Acceleration. It's almost ironic that its iconic trope is climate change, considering that the literal condition of the Anthropocene's possibility is a climate bubble, a blip of temperate stability on planet Earth. The darkest forecasts of rising global temperatures pale in comparison to lightning-like spikes in climate records stored in ice cores. Just 11,000 years ago, the last Ice Age ended when global temperatures jolted up 15°F in under a decade. [End Page 3]
The Anthropocene marks the fall of humanity from cosmic Big History into terrestrial Deep Time. The Big History narrative is an evolutionary epic, a bio-centric teleological tale of emergence and ascending complexity that culminates in a cosmic anthropic vision of human beings as the universe becoming conscious of itself. By contrast, Deep Time is a rocky ride, a disaster movie, a lithic-centric cyclic story of explosions and extinctions, periods of equilibrium punctuated by catastrophes, which in turn open niches in new fitness landscapes for opportunists to fill.
The 'Geologic Turn' is a return to earth, a terrestrial landing with a mission to explore a suddenly volatile planet and expose a geologic subjectivity. The spatial model of a stable planet, crust-mantle-core, has fractured and given way to a temporal account of ongoing resurfacing, sedimental stories of stratification in a bottomless well. The geologic record, the rock cycle, the movements of tectonic plates, stratigraphy: these all remind us that the earth is not a ground but a process of ungrounding and regrounding, a layered history of layers punctured by unconformities, gaps and skips in the record.
We grew up as human figures on a global ground: we thought of humans living on the earth (home, hearth, mother) and off the earth (a dependable source of resources). Now we can't get any distance on the question. We emerge from the earth, we merge with the earth, we may end up submerged in the earth: a slight stratum, a slender slice-of-life story recapitulated as 'anthroprogeny capitulates to geology.'
In recent years, media theory has played an important role in making this 'return to earth' visible. One strategy has been to unearth the materiality of our media and show how they all participate in cycles of extraction and waste that have no small role to play in anthropos' slow surrender to geologic forces (Cubitt; Parikka). Another, complementary strategy has been to expand what we mean by media and mediation. John Durham Peters reminds us that technical media are only a small subset of possible media, and that the lithosphere is also 'media' in the much older sense that biologists use the term...