Monday, 10 January 2011

The Archive

I am starting to write a new chapter for the book -- this time on the notion of the archive, while enjoying the short term fellowship with the Science Museum, London. Here follows a short summary of where I am starting -- and hopefully discuss in this chapter how the dynamics of time-criticality of software has to be taken into account when talking about memory and archive in contemporary culture (important references being the work of Chun and Ernst among others), the personalisation of software archives with social media platforms, and the ensuing implications in the context of cognitive capitalism (without going into as thorough discussion as Stiegler does in his writings), as well as such forms of medium specific techniques as in computer forensics, and their potential relation to media archaeology (hoping to discuss Matt Kirschenbaum's work a bit). Cognizant of the discussions stemming from Jacques Derrida's Archive Fever, and other writings of recent years addressing the archive as a concept for cultural theory, I however find a lack of such writings which are able to both be theoretically fresh and rigorous and pay enough attention to medium and tech-specificity.

The notion of the archive lies at the centre of media archaeology – the implicit starting point for so much of historical research that it itself as a place, and a media form has been neglected, become invisible. At least in media archaeological writings, the archive has not been much debated – although, now, more recently, Wolfgang Ernst has been flagging the need to rigorously rethink the concept and practices of the archive in the age of technical media, and media archaeologists such as Huhtamo have been demanding that scholars meticulously do their home work – but not at home; first hand view to sources, materials and collections is demanded by Huhtamo as a crucial guideline for his emphasis on media archaeology as a historically empirical enterprise.

The centrality of the archive for any cultural and media archaeology is not least due to Foucault’s expansion of the concept from the concrete physical places of storage of cultural data to the discourses that govern modes of thinking, acting and expression of cultures. More concretely, we can see how the archive has been a key node in relaying and storing data of modern culture, and hence acted as a key medium in itself – very much connected to the bureaucratic mode of control alongside registering and manipulating data e.g. in offices and through office technologies (typewriters, calculators, spreadsheets, and later databases, software based applications, etc.). However, with the emergence of such new social media “archives” as Youtube, Flickr, etc., the whole notion of the bureaucratic archive has changed (Gane & Beer 2008: 71-86). Modes of accessing and storing data have changed from centrally governed to distributed and software-based, and the whole culture of digitality has been referred to as one of databases, instead of narratives (Manovich). This chapter investigates such new notions of the archive as modes of inscription of information and culture, connected to the new modes of economy and capitalism that frame the relations to more personal and easily accessible databases. What are the implications for our notions of cultural heritage from such a shift in the practices and discourses of the archive, and how does media archaeology lend itself into discourses concerning the archival and museum in software cultures?

No comments:

Post a comment